The Oculus Rift Will Soon Only Work on Windows 10 PCs

The Oculus Rift Will Soon Only Work on Windows 10 PCs
The Oculus Rift Will Soon Only Work on Windows 10 PCs

Here’s what the company had to say:

Windows 7 and 8.1 users are still supported for the Rift features they know and love today, but they may not be able to use many new and upcoming features and apps. We encourage everyone who isn’t already running Windows 10 to upgrade now to avoid missing out on what’s next… Windows 10 is now the minimum and recommended operating system spec for Rift. With most active Rift owners (95%) running Windows 10, this ensures we’re focused on delivering the latest advancements to the highest number of people possible.

If you’re currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, we recommend that you update to Windows 10 now to take full advantage of Rift’s functionality, features, and growing content library.

Oculus isn’t exactly clear on what this lack of compatibility means for future titles, but the company calls out two features that aren’t coming to Windows 7 or 8.1: Oculus Desktop (the ability to view your desktop in VR) and the ability to use the Oculus Dash as an overlay. This last doesn’t seem like much of a loss — I can count on no hands the number of times I’ve thought “Thank God for the Steam overlay!” as opposed to “G*****, get off my screen!” when I accidentally enabled the “feature,” and the only redeeming use for Steam’s overlay in this regard is that you can use it to take screenshots. The ability to view one’s desktop while in VR could be useful, however, when your VR gaming session is interrupted and you’d like to check what’s going on outside of the application without taking your headset off.

Artist’s depiction. Or something.
Artist’s depiction. Or something.

But the implications of shifting the minimum spec to Windows 10 is also a likely message regarding any future compatibility issues or app problems. If you’re running Windows 7 or 8.1, you aren’t going to get support. That’s why companies typically kill support in the first place, less because an application has literally ceased to run, and more because they aren’t going to be bothered to support it in the first place.

Oculus claims this change will only impact 5 percent of its user base, which is a rather interesting argument for the company to make. If true, it would imply that PC VR support has indeed been stuck at the tip-top of the market, even to this day. The reason we say so is the Steam Hardware Survey’s rather different numbers.

Even before the Steam Hardware Survey data set was changed (for all purposes of comparing past and present trends) by a massive influx of Chinese users that skewed the results in various directions, there was no sign that Windows 10 enjoyed such market share. Last June, Windows 10 accounted for 49.05 percent of users on Steam, with a large minority (32.26 percent) still using Windows 7. Today, Oculus claims that 95 percent of its user base is on Windows 10.

But we know that Steam reported a much higher rate of market adoption than the entire user community. In June 2017, major reports indicated Windows 10 had just 26.78 percent market share. On June 28, 2017 Steam reported a 49.05 percent Windows 10 market share. The only way those numbers make sense is if gamers converted to Windows 10 almost twice as fast as the mainstream market. Windows 10’s introduction of DirectX 12, in turn, provides a plausible mechanism for how that might have happened. But in order for Oculus’ claim about 95 percent of its user base using Windows 10 to make sense, it means one of two things must be true. Either Oculus Store and Steam users don’t overlap very much (something I have no doubt Oculus fervently wishes were true), or only a tiny fraction of well-heeled PC users who also happen to be on the latest and greatest OS own VR gear.

Given what we know about PC VR shipments to-date, it’s the latter that seems most likely. Oculus will continue to work with Windows 7 and 8.1 for now, but don’t expect much in the way of support or bug-fixes in the future.

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