Valve, the company that spawned Steam, Team Fortress 2, Portal and Half-Life, will hand out dev kits of its Vive virtual reality headset to select developers at no cost, company spokesperson Doug Lombardi tells Ars Technica. Valve plans to launch a new site next week where developers, big and small, can sign up to potentially score an early version of the Vive. There are no firm guidelines determining which studios will actually get a dev kit, the site reports, and it's unclear how many are up for grabs in this freebie round.
Sony's Project Morpheus headset is also available to developers for the low, low cost of $0, but that's a borrowing program, not a for-keeps, free system. Oculus Rift is also available in dev kit form, but that costs $350 (and actually receiving one involves an indeterminate amount of time on a waiting list). Valve's free system is already in place -- ahead of the Vive's big reveal, Valve offered dev kits to a handful of developers, including Google, Cloudhead Games and Owlchemy Labs. Cloudhead brought its first-person fantasy puzzler The Gallery: Six Elements to Vive, while developers at Owlchemy locked themselves in a basement in Canada for a week to develop their quirky, cartoonish VR game, Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives.
The Vive is already incredibly impressive, but it's not the only VR headset that will carry Valve's name -- meaning more free dev kits may be in the future. Company founder Gabe Newell told us at GDC 2015 that there will be multiple devices from multiple hardware companies, all supported by Valve.
As for the Vive, we've reached out to Valve for more information about the free dev kit offer, and we'll update this post when (or if -- this is Valve, after all) we hear back.