For SuperData's Carter Rogers, this development is unsurprising.
In 2017, at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Valve’s chief of engineering Craig Federighi announced SteamVR for MacOS-based platforms. Now, just three years later, Valve is ending its support for SteamVR on Apple’s operating system. The news comes via a brief blog post on Steam, where Valve notes that it’s dropping MacOS updates in favor of the Windows and Linux operating systems.
For Carter Rogers, principal analyst at SuperData, this development is unsurprising, and the impact on the wider VR market should be minimal.
“It’s not too surprising this feature never caught on or that it’s being dropped,” Rogers told GameDaily. “Overall this will have a negligible impact on the VR ecosystem. Mac VR users were always a niche of a niche, and it didn’t make sense for developers to put in the effort to reach this audience.”
A recent Steam survey illustrates the truth in Rogers’ statement. According to the results, more than 85% of respondents use the Windows operating system while only 4% use MacOS. Curiously, less than 1% of users said they run Linux, which makes Steam’s continued support of that OS odd. However, Valve is currently developing Proton, an open-source software that lets Windows programs run on Linux systems.
It’s not just gamers that don’t utilize MacOS; according to Rogers, many developers have chosen to eschew Apple as well.
“Very few Steam games support both VR and Mac, and none of the major VR exclusives like Beat Saber, Superhot VR or Arizona Sunshine have Mac versions,” Rogers explained. “It’s telling that Valve didn’t launch Half-Life: Alyx on Mac even though the company has a very good track record of bringing their titles to the platform.”
By VR standards, the newest entry in Valve’s revered Half-Life series has performed fairly well, even if it may not move the needle in substantial ways, according to some analysts. In the lead-up to Alyx’s launch, some predicted that it could become the flagship VR title, that evergreen system seller that could finally propel the tech into mainstream popularity.
“We expect Half-Life: Alyx will become one of the two top-selling VR games of all time shortly after launch (when copies of the game bundled with the Index headset and controllers are counted),” Rogers told GameDaily in February.
With Valve discontinuing MacOS SteamVR support, it seems that the company is narrowing their focus a bit. Rogers said that there are several reasons that the Mac may not be an attractive platform for potential VR consumers, but Apple’s limiting gaming hardware is chief among them.
“The same issues that have long prevented Mac OSX from becoming a major game platform also limited its VR reach,” Rogers explained. “Macs rarely have the high-end GPUs needed for games that are graphically demanding, which VR games tend to be. It’s why the most popular games that do end up on Mac tend to be titles with relatively low system requirements like Fortnite, League of Legends and World of Warcraft.”
In all, VR has struggled to garner a substantial mainstream consumer base. Prohibitively expensive hardware and a lack of killer apps have made the tech largely unapproachable from an everyday gamer viewpoint. Valve dropping SteamVR support for Mac may not be the most exciting news, but it does illustrate that the tech still has a ways to go if it is ever going to break into the wider consumer consciousness.
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