It seems that the first HTC Vive and Steam Lighthouse development kits could be free for both large and small developers, although Valve would be the one who would have the last word to decide who gets it and who doesn’t.
As we read in Arstechnica, some developers such as Cloudhead Games (The Gallery), Owlchemy Labs (Aaaaaaa) and several others have been the first to have development kits for SteamVR, but for the rest of those interested the wait could end very soon. Valve’s Dough Lombardi has confirmed that a specific website could be launched next week to request a development kit, and the first ones would be free. These kits would be part of an effort that Valve has already launched so that there will be finished applications when the commercial launch of Vive arrives at the end of the year. What Lombardi has not clarified are the criteria that Valve will follow when assigning the kits, and he has not said if those criteria will be revealed or not when this initiative starts.
This way of operating is very different from the one used by Oculus, and will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for enthusiastic users or even the specialized press to have a unit. However, being already at the gates of the month of April and knowing that the final product will arrive in the last quarter of this year, we do not believe that many private users decided to purchase a developer version less than eight months after its commercial launch.