Here's why Valve's 'flagship' VR project still doesn't have a release date

In April, Valve announced a "flagship" VR game coming later this year for SteamVR-compatible headsets—the HTC Vive and the Index. At a recent Digipen address reported by Valve News Network, Valve developer Kerry Davis made a point of not talking about that game, but he did reveal a little bit about the process of bringing it and other Valve games to life, and assured the crowd that this game will be released—someday.

The video gets very specific about doors in the new VR game, which Davis hopes players will appreciate more fully following his talk, and there's speculation about sound effects, NPCs, and object interactivity. He's careful to avoid saying too much about what we can expect in whatever this game proves to be, and he also states that despite the initial commitment to releasing the game this year, he doesn't know when it's coming. That's not very surprising—it's Valve, after all—but his explanation is interesting.

"We definitely try to avoid the sunk cost fallacy and say, well, we put five years into this so we have to finish it. I guess there have been things that we've worked on for, on the scale of a year or more, that we decided to set aside. We never really throw something out completely because it's a lot of good work that maybe someday we want to go back to," David said during the post-talk Q&A session.

"As far as deciding when it's good enough to go out, that's absolutely the [development] team's decision. Once we've decided we're going to ship—we're going to ship this VR game—it's really up to the people that are working on it to say, yes, we're happy with it, we're proud of this, we want people to play it. If we're not proud of it, we don't want people to play it. And we're going to make sure that we are proud of it before we let you."

Davis acknowledged that Valve's inability to commit can be frustrating for fans, but said that it's sometimes frustrating for the developers, too. "It's the benefit that we have at Valve, that we can just keep working until it's the way we want it," he said. "It's also kind of the curse of not having a producer breathing down your neck every day, telling you no, you have to ship by this date or all your money's gone. It's a mixed blessing."

When asked about the release date, David admitted that he doesn't know. "Because like I said, Valve is a very autonomous department. That is not my choice to make, and I haven't been in the meetings that are making that decision. My daily goal at Valve is to keep pushing the project forward, writing codes, fixing bugs, making it awesome, and the day will come when the word will come to the office and it's like, 'Okay, we're announcing tomorrow,' and that's when I'll know about it."

Davis' full, unedited talk is also available from VNN.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.