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Dev kits for Valve's first SteamVR headset, the HTC Vive, to be free for select developers

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Valve will be offering development kits for the upcoming HTC Vive virtual reality platform to developers free of charge, at least initially.

Valve spokesperson Doug Lombardi told Ars Technica that the dev kits will be free in the early stages of the hardware's life cycle, and developers of every size will be able to sign up for the kits in the near future. The development kits will ship this spring, with an expected retail release date near the end of the year.

You can read our hands-on impressions of the device if you're curious about why this is a big deal. The Vive is one of the most impressive pieces of virtual realty technology we've been able to try.

This move is interesting in a number of ways; it keeps consumers from purchasing development kits to use for recreation, and it keeps pundits from making guesses about the final price of the hardware based on the cost of development kits. It remains to be seen how many of the kits will be sent to developers, or how requests will be prioritized.

This is great news for existing virtual reality developers with promising games or demos, however, as they'll be able to work on the hardware and prepare a launch title without any additional cost for the development hardware.

We've reached out to Valve for comment and will update the post if we hear back with more details.