HTC has been making big moves this week. As well as announcing the sale of part of its company to Google in a $1.1 billion deal, it also revealed a partnership that would help it introduce the world’s’ first cloud-based VR service.
HTC has joined forces with Dalian Television and Beijing Cyber Cloud to deliver a commercial trial for the service in Dalian, China, though exactly when this will happen wasn’t made clear in the Engadget report. The Taiwanese company plans to have users connect the Vive to a set-top box rather than a PC system, and give owners “full access” to the service’s dedicated store, rather than just five apps per month as with the Viveport subscription.
Reportedly, the cloud store will offer dozens of games and apps from Viveport, in addition to other 360-degree videos, with more content to follow. This will be accessible with thanks to the 60 Mbps broadband connection that comes with the subscription, which can be used for general usage also.
As this content will be rendered in the cloud, this would remove the need for downloading or installing content or drivers, providing instant access. In this way, the service would presumably act more like Spotify than Steam — content from the latter of which can often take hours to download.
As for the price structure, Engadget reports that this is yet to be decided, but said that it currently looks like there will be a refundable 3,000 yuan (~$455) deposit for the Vive system and set-top box, plus a monthly fee of about 500 yuan (~$76) for the broadband and unlimited cloud VR access. Another option would be for customers to shell out 6,688 yuan (~$1,015) to buy the Vive outright in addition to 12-month subscription.
This would be a big step for the HTC Vive as the already expensive kit (costing $599) and requires a high-end computer system in order to use it. Cutting that out of the equation could open up the product to a broader range of consumers.
That being said, there are still concerns about the performance: where there is cloud technology, there are connectivity and latency issues — hurdles which prompted Nvidia to reign in expectations for its Geforce Now cloud gaming solution back in May. That is still several years away.