Valve CEO is "pretty comfortable" with VR headsets failing

Gabe Newell said if companies don't fail, they aren't doing anything interesting

Valve's boss claimed the company isn't worried if its VR headsets fail, but that the fact it has tried to make a success of them demonstrates its commitment to innovation.

Gabe Newell, whose firm makes the Vive headset with HTC, told Polygon he views virtual reality as a luxury as it stands, with no real purpose yet - just like PCs in the 1980s. Just a few years after the first was revealed, computers were on every business wishlist around the world, even though no one really undertood their purpose.

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He went on to explain the Nintendo DS's place in history. "I personally thought the DS was kind of stupid," Newell said. "I thought Sony was going to crush Nintendo in that generation of handheld devices. Clearly the DS ended up being the winner."

Newell added that playing Wii Sports changed his entire attitude to Nintendo and his mind was adjusted to embrace risk, realising that even if something doesn't seem as if it's going to work on the face of it, it may just be the thing that transforms a company.

"So even when you're doing it, even when you have a really good initial instance proof, there's a potential that there isn't as much there," he said. "Or there's a lot more there but the only way you get to it is by a bunch of people experimenting and taking risks."

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And it would seem Valve's developers and community thinks there's a place for VR in the future of gaming too, because they've contributed to making 1,300 VR apps on Steam, with monthly active users increasing 86% in the second half of last year.

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"We're optimistic. We think VR is going great. It's going in a way that's consistent with our expectations," Newell said in the interview. "We're also pretty comfortable with the idea that it will turn out to be a complete failure.

"If you don't try things that don't fail you probably aren't trying to do anything very interesting. So we hope that we'll find stuff that gamers will say is awesome and is a huge leap forward."

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