Gear VR is a portable virtual reality device that is the result of a partnership between Samsung and Oculus VR. It's an amazing piece of technology, and is also something of a new idea in the gaming space. It's a console that relies on two pieces of technology to "work."
You have to have a Galaxy Note 4 from Samsung, and you have to have the headset with the touchpad and external sensors to use the phone as a virtual reality device. Gear VR is really just what happens when those two pieces of equipment are linked together. No other phone works, and there's no other headset that will provide the same experience to players.
This approach fixes one of the major issues of Android development, namely the need to optimize for a number of devices. With Gear VR developers can now aim towards a single, unified platform for their games.
It also means it's a garden that can be gated. In fact, the only way you'll be able to buy games is through Oculus' software.
"On Gear VR, there will be an Oculus store," Max Cohen, Oculus' vice-president for Mobile, told Polygon, "and that’s how you’ll get Gear VR applications."
So there's no way for developers to release games on Google Play or any existing Android store that use the hardware?
"No," Cohen said. "You’ll need to go through Oculus storefront for mobile VR ."
It makes sense, as much of the value of Gear VR for Oculus exists in the company's ability to close the platform and make sure the quality of applications remains high. This also lets them take a cut of sales from other game, just as Steam does, and recoup some of its investment that way. Cohen says the process will be as easy for developers as possible.
"We’ll have a lot more details about this later, but it’s going to be something that’s very developer friendly. Our goal is to be the platform, to provide the tools that developers need, and to bring the users in," he stated. "And that it will be as painless as we can make it."
Oculus has also hired Jason Holtman, who used to work with Steam when he was employed at Valve. "He’s learned a lot of great lessons, and he’s brought them to Oculus to make sure developers are very happy," Cohen said.
Oculus also shared a few early looks at the hardware through development, and you can see the prototypes in the image for this article. As we noted yesterday, the first wave of games and content for Gear VR will be released for free, as Oculus is still working on a viable payment system for the platform.