HTC Vive goes full-on Netflix style with Viveport Infinity

VR platform giving customers unlimited access for games and apps on Viveport. Eye-tracking also introduced with new Vive Pro Eye headset, and standalone unit called Vive Cosmos teased.

HTC Vive is betting that its subscription model can help it lead the way in virtual reality. Unlike Oculus (which has been edging out the Vive in popularity on Steam lately), Vive offers a subscription to Viveport users that enables them to rotate five titles in their library for $8.99 per month. Viveport is evolving, however, and today at CES the company rebranded it Viveport Infinity while upgrading to an all-you-can-eat service. It's VR's first unlimited subscription service, and it's clearly the direction that other big companies are moving in with entertainment (e.g. Netflix, Xbox Game Pass).

Today, we’re announcing our next step in Viveport’s evolution with Viveport Infinity,” said Rikard Steiber, President, Viveport. “When we first launched our subscription service, we gave consumers the ability to try 5 titles a month. Now with Viveport Infinity, we’re offering our members the best value in VR content with 100x more choice, all at one low price.”

The Infinity upgrade officially takes place on April 5, 2019 (Vive's anniversary), when members can download and play any of the 500+ titles in the library without any restrictions. It's a great way to try out experiences that some users may feel don't justify a standalone purchase.  As HTC puts it, "This unlimited subscription model will give members the opportunity to save thousands of dollars on top-quality content while allowing them to discover new experiences. With Viveport Infinity, members will be able to try hits from indie developers or shorter experiences they were reluctant to pay for while keeping their favorites like Seeking Dawn and Torn downloaded and ready to play."

Steiber hinted at HTC Vive's stong belief in pushing forward the subscription model in GameDaily's last interview with him

"It is a very attractive value proposition. I think we’ve all seen it from how music has become, and [what] video is becoming, sort of application and streaming and subscription models, rather than buying each song or video title individually. I think the same thing is going to happen to VR experiences, so we're kind of leading the way there," he commented, adding that exclusives should make Viveport even more attractive in the future.  

“I do think what we're trying to do is, we're of course looking for our Game of Thrones... So we want to have something that we launch first with, so more people discover our subscription service. I think going forward you're going to see more of those things that are launching first in subscription as well. So we will make some sort of arrangement with the developer, and we have our own studio as well. I think that's something we're looking to do more."

Vive Pro Eye should make it possible to navigate menus just with your eyes, no controllers needed
Vive Pro Eye should make it possible to navigate menus just with your eyes, no controllers needed

Viveport Infinity was just one facet of the CES conference. HTC Vive also unveiled a new model of the Vive Pro, called Vive Pro Eye, which now includes eye-tracking capability, meaning that foveated rendering will become a possibility. That's a big deal because it should make VR processing more efficient since the number of pixels needed to be rendered in any given scene can be greatly reduced. Eye-tracking in general will open up more possibilities on the creative end, making VR more immersive, but importantly it will also give companies better user research and analytics if they can track what people are actually looking at. This, of course, is going to turn some people off, so it will be a delicate balance for VR companies to contend with. 

HTC Vive also briefly teased another standalone headset they have in the works called Vive Cosmos, built with "absolute comfort in mind" but details were thin. The company is also looking to enhance the overall user experience with a PlayStation Home-like hub called Origin. "We created a beautiful space to start your experience in VR, be with friends, and find content," HTC said. 

"Origin is an ever expanding world design for discovery. You are transported to other worlds through what we call your 'Lens'. You can summon it any time to reveal information, tools, and entire other worlds so that you can set a course from your current place to a new destination."

Importantly, all of the content that's accessible through a Viveport Infinity subscription is also accessible through the Lens in Origin. The folks at Road to VR have a good summary of the HTC Vive CES conference on their live blog, if you're looking for more details.

[Full disclosure: GameDaily parent company Greenlit Content does work with HTC Vive as a client. GameDaily's coverage remains objective.]

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Editor-at-large

James has been covering the games industry since the early 2000s and was most recently the editor of GamesIndustry.biz. He loves Zelda, Metroidvania-style games, action adventure and single-player narratives. He's also the proud father of twin boys and is obsessed with good coffee and Yankees baseball. You can reach him @bright_pixels on Twitter or you can email him at james.brightman@gamedaily.biz.

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