Normally when a hardware manufacturer gives a game developer a wad of cash it's to stop them from releasing its game anywhere else. Microsoft paid Crystal Dynamics a chunk of change to release Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One first. Sony paid Konami lots and lots of money to keep most the Metal Gear games exclusive to PlayStation. It's been that way for years.
With the launch of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive this year we've already seen games release exclusively for one headset over the over. Most recently we heard how Croteam, the makers of Serious Sam, were approached by Oculus with the offer of a development funding in return for a promise to launch on the Oculus Rift first. Kirk from the US team covered Oculus' development deals recently, so do read his article to learn more.
Seeing the news about Croteam, a member of the HTC Vive subreddit contacted Gabe Newell, head of Valve, to ask whether Valve, too, uses exclusivity deals.
It turns out Valve pays developers so they don't need to take exclusivity contracts.
“We don't think exclusives are a good idea for consumers or developers," Newell responded. "There's a separate issue which is risk. On any given project, you need to think about how much risk to take on. There are a lot of different forms of risk—financial risk, design risk, schedule risk, organizational risk, IP risk, etc... A lot of the interesting VR work is being done by new developers. That is a triple-risk whammy—a new developer creating new game mechanics on a new platform. We're in a much better position to absorb financial risk than a new VR developer, so we are happy to offset that giving developers development funds (essentially pre-paid Steam revenue). However there are no strings attached to those funds—they can develop for the Rift or PlayStation VR or whatever the developer thinks are the right target VR systems. Our hope is that by providing that funding that developers will be less likely to take on deals that require them to be exclusive."
So, it sounds like quite a different approach. Although, I imagine anyone who took money from Valve would likely develop its game for the Vive first, much as if it had made the promise to in return for funds. Though, it is good to hear that there is nothing stopping a Vive developer from immediately releasing its game on Oculus.