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HTC Vive launches this year, but the bulk will be released in 2016

Electronics maker HTC will launch the Vive in "limited quantity" this year and follow that up with a wide launch in the first quarter of 2016.

HTC's Vive could be available in limited quantity later this year, but it won't ramp up its availability until 2016.

CNET

Taiwan-based electronics maker HTC will be launching its Vive virtual-reality headset this year, but the company is limiting the total number of units it'll initially offer, according to a report.

HTC's Vive will launch in late 2015 in "limited quantity," the company said in a statement without specifying an actual date. HTC said that the early launch will be available to parts of its "community" and developers. A wide launch "with larger quantities" will ship in the first quarter of 2016.

Virtual reality headsets are worn over the eyes and provide a full, 3D virtual environment for gamers to explore. A connected controller provides additional functionality. Gaming has been a driver for virtual reality, and most devices will launch with support for several titles. Over time, some market analysts believes that virtual reality could also prove to be a desirable option for the film industry, though only a few filmmakers have taken to the technology so far.

The jump to virtual reality is a big one for HTC. The company, which made a name for itself in smartphones, has watched its business decline in that space as competitors such as Apple and Samsung have continued to prove difficult to deal with. In an effort to boost its business, HTC is looking at other markets, including virtual reality. It isn't alone. While HTC and Valve, best known for its Steam online gaming platform and HTC's partner on the Vive, have promised to launch the Vive later this year, Facebook's Oculus Rift and Sony's Project Morpheus are slated for a 2016 launch.

It's unclear why HTC may have decided to hold off on a full-scale launch until 2016, but it may be in part due to its competition waiting until then. Indeed, while HTC has previously said it wants to get Vive into some customer hands in 2015, it's next year that will ultimately prove critical for virtual reality.

"The industry needs a successful first year," HTC's head of marketing Jeff Gattis told CNET in July. "Next year is critical." Gattis went on to say in the interview that a successful first year would see the virtual reality industry sell through 2 million to 3 million headsets.

Whenever the Vive launches, the device may prove popular. CNET Editor Scott Stein took the headset for a spin in March and called it Unlike many other other virtual reality headsets that let you move your head to view things around you, the Vive allows you to freely walk in a (limited) space, adding extra depth to the gaming experience.

HTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.