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HTC is launching its own virtual reality app store worldwide

HTC is launching its own virtual reality app store worldwide

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HTC is launching Viveport, an alternative to the Steam catalog of Vive virtual reality experiences, worldwide this fall. Viveport was announced earlier this year, and it launched in China — where Steam is a much less established platform — in the spring. Now, a global developer beta will launch soon, followed by a full rollout. Developers can register today on the Vive site.

The store is supposed to be a more general-interest alternative than the more gaming-focused Steam, and it will be available across multiple platforms: desktop; a mobile app; and an in-VR catalog connected to Vive Home, a virtual environment created by HTC. "We believe virtual reality is going to change the world," says HTC Vive senior vice president Rikard Stelber, and Viveport is supposed to make it easier to find certain categories of VR that have broad appeal, like educational experiences, shopping, and creative tools.

Steam already offers a large non-gaming catalog. Besides general-purpose desktop software and traditional films, it offers a diverse range of VR titles, like the Tilt Brush painting program and an Apollo 11 educational experience. At the same time, the platform is overwhelmingly associated with games, and with thousands of VR and non-VR titles, it’s increasingly crowded. "We're recommending developers to publish on all platforms," says Stelber, including Steam. "We don't necessarily want to compete with it, we basically want to add additional categories." Viveport will offer a new, dedicated space to showcase VR experiences.

It’s less clear why consumers would go to Viveport instead of the extremely popular Steam, which they’ll already have to launch to use the Vive. Vive Home is currently so peripheral that I initially didn’t even realize it existed, and HTC said in January that Viveport was "more of an option for people who can’t use Steam," although Stelber says it’s since seen a lot of interest that justifies a larger release. The best argument for Viveport may be that Steam is confusingly overstuffed with products and features already, and a dedicated VR store would make the Vive easier to navigate — which, for a powerful but often difficult platform, is a good thing.