Ultra Expensive HTC Vive Pro Out Soon

It’s $1100 for a complete set with the lighthouses, controllers, and all, or $800 if you want to reuse an original Vive setup. You get higher resolution screens, a better headstrap, headphones. Kyle Orland and Sam Machkovech reviewed it for Ars:

Despite the improvements, though, the Vive Pro still includes some of the same basic design problems of the original. The eyepiece housing (which now allows for additional room for eyeglasses, toggled by an easy button press and slider) still ends up pressed up tightly against the front of your face, creating a thick seal that traps heat and puts significant pressure on the sinuses. Any decently long VR session threatens to turn your face into a sweaty, red mess that can lead to significant steam buildup on the lenses. Worse, the front-of-face foam padding feels decidedly non-Pro. HTC has been showing this off at press events with a custom leather face cushion, and for this price, we wish they’d offered the same option as a consumer default.

There’s nothing that sounds more appealing than turning into a sweaty red mess. The resolution bump is the best part of the Vive Pro, but is it really worth paying over twice the price of the base Vive if you’re starting from scratch? Read the rest of their review.

Nintendo Switch Launch Day

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Nintendo of America

Nintendo launched their new console, the Switch, today. The console plugs into a TV but can also be taken on the go with the built-in screen.

Kyle Orland at Ars has a review of the system. CNET’s Jeff “Autoplaying Video” Bakalar also has a review.

I have some concerns with the system’s a lack of games at launch, the two hardware flaws that we know about, it’s regressive online features, and the price.

The only major games available at launch are The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Dan Ryckert’s 5-star review) and the 1-2-Switch fifty dollar minigame collection that isn’t that great (Alanah Pearce’s 6.2 out of 10 review w/ autoplaying video) and should have been included with the system. 1-2-Switch seems to be the only game that makes use of the Switch’s full functionality by using the gyroscope and other sensors in the Joy-con controllers. Zelda sounds fantastic, but I’d understand why people are skeptical if they have read any of the reviews for console Zelda games in the past ten years. The reviews have been overly positive for games that aren’t that impressive.

Anyone that owns the Wii-U and is considering buying the Switch for Zelda would probably be better off just getting the Wii-U version of the game.

More games are coming, and Nintendo recently announced that a lot of independent developers have signed up to deliver their games to the Switch as it takes over the indie portable role from Sony’s now defunct Vita, but those are the only big games available today.

Those Joy-con’s have had two major issues already reported by journalists who have had the system early. One is that the left Joy-con’s wireless signal to the console isn’t great and disconnects or gets out of sync sometimes. Nintendo’s response was not very helpful. The other hardware issue is that the rails the system uses to hold the Joy-con controllers onto the system aren’t very sturdy.

When you’re holding the Switch in portable-mode, that connection rail mechanism is the only thing preventing it from falling onto the floor.

The Switch’s operating system is also woefully outdated at launch compared to its competitors. It is not possible to back-up saved games anywhere. They aren’t saved on Nintendo’s servers and Nintendo doesn’t let you carry them on an SD card to back them up. Sony and Microsoft both automatically back up saved games to their servers, though they do that with a paid subscription to their online service. Polygon’s article linked above incorrectly indicates that only Sony requires a paid subscription.

Finally, I don’t feel like the $300 price for a Switch is entirely fair when you can get an Xbox One for around $200 (on discount) or a PlayStation 4 for a little bit more.

The comparison may seem a bit more fair later this year when the Xbox One Scorpio is announced and released, I expect the Scorpio’s price to be comparable to the only PlayStation 4 anyone should be buying which is the $400 Pro model. However, even the base models of those systems have games that look better than the Switch’s whose leg-up is portability with a built-in screen and Nintendo’s exclusives like Zelda and Mario.

I wouldn’t let these caveats stop me, those games would be enough reason to own a Switch, but they may not be for many people.

Are Steam Machines a Failure After Only 7 Months?

Valve’s first foray into home computing hardware, the Steam Machine collaborations with various computer makers, have sold fewer than 500,000 units since they were released last November. A figure estimated by Ars Technica via the number of Steam Controllers sold which includes Steam Machines as a portion of that total:

Half a million might not sound like a bad sales number for a brand new hardware platform, but it starts to look pretty tepid in the context of the wider gaming market. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sold over a million consoles in their first day on the market in 2013. After just over seven months on store shelves, Microsoft was up to about 5.5 million Xbox One sales and the PS4 had racked up 10.2 million worldwide sales. That’s what a successful gaming hardware launch looks like these days.

Valve is often guilty of starting something and then just giving up on it without iterating to find success. Their cousins at Microsoft would have had the same issue if they gave up on the original Xbox which sold only 24 million consoles over its first 7 years and was another system frequently referred to as a failure.

Sales figures of hardware over the course of a few months aren’t necessarily going to make or break a company, but I believe that Valve still needs SteamOS.

Quantum Break, the remastered Gears of War: Ultimate EditionForza Motorsport 6: Apex, the upcoming games Halo Wars 2 and ReCore are all exclusive to Windows 10’s built-in app store. SteamOS and Steam Machines continue to be a hedge against Microsoft’s built-in Windows app store restrictions that Valve will need to remain competitive in the event of even more anti-competitive changes to Windows.

Liam Dawe of Gaming on Linux is right on about the lack of advertising hurting sales of the nascent Steam Machines and SteamOS/Linux games:

We are facing real issues, like a lack of bigger platform-pushing titles and performance. Valve do need to up their own advertising a bit too, not just of Steam Machines, but of new Linux releases. They give big homepage banners to plenty of new Windows releases, but only a few SteamOS releases have been graced with such advertising. Valve haven’t even managed to get their own VR device with HTC on Linux yet, they need to up their own game.