This program allows licensees to use Steam products in a public setting. That way, someone can sign up for the program, connect some games to their Steam account, and let other people enjoy those titles without having to buy them for themselves. (The end user license agreement for individual Steam accounts prevents anyone from sharing their games with other people.) Valve's hope is that this will result in more people experiencing these titles.
One of the benefits to signing up for the program is access to a list of free software. That list was previously limited to Portal Stories: VR, Chamber 19, and a handful of other games, but now it's expanding to include popular titles like Audioshield, Job Simulator, and Tilt Brush. Valve said these games will be made available individually, but they can also be downloaded as a bundle with the other titles on what it calls the Free Site Subscriptions List.
Here's how Valve describes who this program is meant for:
Any physical site where you intend to allow others access to Steam, SteamVR, Steam games or other content or services provided by Valve, whether you take money for it or not. Sites in this sense may include arcades, amusement parks, cybercafés, dorms, museums, pop-up stores or in fact any other place you can think of.
Participants in the program can also purchase titles that aren't included on the list of free software. Valve is a little more strict in this regard; most games are allowed to be played only on one device, which means someone who owns a cybercafé and wants to make a specific game available to their patrons would have to re-purchase it for every individual computer, and that can get expensive. That isn't the case for all games, but it's true for many.
That's what makes the list of free titles so important. Valve can use it to put the VR experiences it likes--Audioshield was part of the January 2016 Steam VR Developer Showcase, and Job Simulator was a launch title for the HTC Vive--in front of other people. This in turn could help more people see the benefits of VR gaming, become accustomed to the idea of using a VR HMD, and perhaps become convinced to buy into the VR market themselves.
People interested in signing up for the Steam VR Arcade Licensing Program can do so by following these steps. Valve is encouraging other VR game developers to make their titles available, either on the Free Site Subscriptions List or as a paid download, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.