No Virtual Reality for XBox, Says Microsoft – But Why?

 

Whilst 2016 was widely hailed as the year of VR, with big names clamouring for a piece of the (virtual) pie, Microsoft seems to be taking the tortoise versus the hare approach.

 

Their relative silence struck an uneasy note with gaming and tech fans, many of whom expected Microsoft to step up to the plate with their new Xbox One X console. In 2016, when the new console was announced, still under the monika ‘Project Scorpio’, Microsoft did say that the super-powerful console was VR-ready. The Xbox One X is set for release in November 2017, but – in the meantime – it’s been noticed that all mention of VR support on the console has been removed from the Xbox website. Why?

 

It seems like a risky move when Microsoft’s major competitor in the gaming space, Sony, has had their Playstation VR offering live since October. But, as Microsoft General Manager, Dave McCarthy has explained, the brand is taking a different track…

 

No ‘killer’ experience for VR has come about yet, McCarthy notes. This is part of the reason that Microsoft is actually just focusing on its PC space for now.

 

“So we look at Windows 10, we see an open ecosystem for developers,” McCarthy told GameSpot. “We see a huge installed base of half a billion monthly active devices on Windows 10. And we say that feels like the right area of focus right now [for VR/AR].”

 

He went on to say, “”We believe in it enough that we have several of our first-party studios actually working on content for our Windows 10 devices.”

 

Clearly, Microsoft have not abandoned plans for VR. They are continuing to squirrel away behind the scenes, with the aim of hitting the market at a better time.

 

Admittedly, there isn’t exactly a wealth of amazing content available for VR in the gaming space at the moment. PSVR has done relatively well, but it hasn’t exactly seen the VR explosion that many anticipated. The Oculus and HTC Vive have done okay for PC-tethered virtual reality, but the price point is still too high for mass adoption. And until some seriously kick-ass content hits the mainstream, VR is unlikely to alter the face of gaming forever.

 

That’s certainly not to say that it won’t happen. Xbox boss, Phil Spencer, predicted in November that “we’re a couple of years before we’ll really see [VR] hit mainstream”.

 

In the meantime, using Windows 10 as a platform for VR developers to get a move on with creating that all-important VR content is Microsoft’s tentative, but perhaps wise, decision. And whilst the Xbox One X won’t have access to VR initially, it has the power and capability to do so once Microsoft are ready to unleash their virtual beast.