Hopes for VR compatibility through the next-gen Xbox Project Scarlett may have been dashed, after Xbox boss Phil Spencer talked down the importance of virtual reality to today’s gamers.
In an interview with Stevivor, Spencer stated that the console wasn’t created specifically with VR in mind, and that players weren’t looking for that kind of experience through the Xbox platform: “We’re responding to what our customers are asking for and… nobody’s asking for VR.
“The vast majority of our customers know if they want a VR experience, there’s places to go get those,” he added, citing PC VR rigs as a prominent example.
VR hasn’t exploded in the way that some forecasters initially thought, with issues such as high pricing, motion sickness, and the limitations of a young medium preventing wide-scale adoption of VR hardware. Spencer himself cites this as an obstacle for Xbox, saying that “nobody’s selling millions and millions” of VR headsets.
That said, the competing PlayStation platform has seen success with its PSVR headset, which acts as an add-on for the PS4 console for playing VR games, and we know the PS5 is going to see similar compatibility with VR.
A matter of competition
Xbox’s reluctance to compete in the VR space may have a lot to do with Microsoft, which has been focusing far more on AR/MR development, such as the Hololens visor or Windows Mixed Reality – with high-spec Windows PCs also becoming a home for tethered VR headsets needing sufficient processing power.
While VR games may seem at home on an Xbox entertainment system, Microsoft would essentially be drawing VR gamers away from other sections of its business.
A dedicated Xbox VR headset in the vein of PSVR is looking less and less likely, then, especially as a launch feature. We wouldn’t rule out VR support on the Scarlett console entirely, but it may take a couple more years and a stronger VR market before the Xbox team welcomes it onto the platform – either through a firmware update or a mid-cycle console refresh like the Xbox One X.