I heard back from Steam, with exactly the response I expected: Our service model (users reserve our own PC and VR headset, using our Steam software) needs to use their site license program. And even if it’s just on that one PC, we’d still have to run their site license server locally to manage it.
We did an inventory of what it would cost us to purchase a site license for our most popular games: Of our top 25 most played VR games, only 10 have site licenses available at all. Those 10 games would in total cost us slightly more than $3000 per year to license, which strikes me as ridiculous.
But Tara, thanks for pointing out Springboard VR! At a glance it looks really promising. I’m really glad to hear about another option.
We ran into the same problem last year with Steam. However, we are now working with Springboard VR. Our head VR specialist says you can test run their interface on a machine for free and that they are putting together an academic package that should be available soon! https://springboardvr.com/
Amazing timing, Laura! I was just looking into the site license program this week. I wrote up what I’ve learned so far for someone else this morning, shared below. But to sum up, it’s not very promising either from a financial or practical view of the way we use Steam currently (one PC with Steam titles that we’ve purchased under our account, with an attached HTC Vive).
I originally thought this was just a different kind of license for each game, one which allows public use in a library, cafe, etc. But I got some clarification questions answered by Steam support – it’s actually designed for users to log into one of our computers using their own Steam account. They can then check out a game we’ve purchased a site license for, and play it under their account while they’re on our computer.
This also requires running some sort of server locally to handle the checkouts.
So I don’t think this is going to work for us. The pricing is also pretty wild. One of our most popular titles is Space Pirate Trainer – currently $10 paid one time to own individually, or $30/month/seat for a site license subscription. And I’ve seen at least one title that’s free for individual ownership, but somehow costs $20/month/seat for site license.
Much of their documentation is contradictory and out of date.
Even more annoying is that you can’t even see the site license prices until you sign up for a site license account and fill out some legal forms.
Last but not least, many titles, even free ones, do not have site licenses available at all.
I have one more request into Steam support asking how they prefer we purchase things as a library. I’ll let you know what I hear.
Oh, also – you can’t convert an existing Steam account or purchases. You need to create a new one and start from scratch.
We’d also like to know if any other libraries had set up the Steam/Valve Site license, which we were just starting to look into ourselves: https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=3303-QWRC-3436 – which sounds like it solves many of these problems. Our general counsel has a few issues with the license terms but are willing to consider especially if I can find examples of other institutions utilizing it!
Associate Director Library Information Technology and Digital Strategies
Echoing what Peter said there are no good solutions right now. It would be great if Steam or HTC or Oculus offered site licenses or group accounts, but they don’t. We have 2 HTC Vives that share an account. This causes problems occasionally as it doesn’t like it if two headsets are using the same program. Going offline usually takes care of it. Our 4 Oculus Rifts also share an account but the Oculus store is less problematic than Steam since it only contacts the mother ship when doing an update. If you have the option prepaid cards and individual accounts would be the best way to go but our purchasing department said no.
In our library’s VR Studio, we have a separate library-owned Steam account for each of 7 VR workstation computers. Some have Vives, some have Oculus Rifts at them. We purchase content for each account. We also allow patrons to download free games/tools to those computers.
If a patron owns Steam content that we don’t, they may log in to their personal account and download the game to our computer. So far, this hasn’t posed a problem, except that the added game will show up in that workstation account’s game list, but will not be playable to other patrons. I occasionally delete personal games that are causing confusion to other patrons. Not too many patrons have downloaded content yet so if it gets to be too troublesome we may disallow it in the future.
For the Oculus Rift stations, there is a Steam account as mentioned above, plus the Oculus library. For Oculus, I’ve been able to use one account for all of the workstations. We purchase content once and it’s usable on all the computers from the one account. This has worked fine so far except for playing multi-player online. The single account will not support multiple instances of online play for the same game.
None of these is a perfect solution but they are mostly working as this is a continuous work in progress. Feel free to get in touch off list if you’d like more specific info, etc.
I was curious if any of your libraries have Steam from Valve installed on your public workstations to drive PC gaming and an HTC Vive? Any tips on how to set that up? Obviously the licensing issue with purchased programs/games through Steam is a problem when you are providing access for a large user base. There are multiple free games/programs available.
How do you handle providing each user with HDD/SSD space on your machines for downloaded games/programs through Steam?
Engineering and Innovation Liaison Librarian
Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering Librarian