Until now, Microsoft has always been wary about virtual reality (VR) on Xbox. Even if the launch of the Xbox One X comes with a promise of VR compatibility, the console will ultimately not be entitled to that kind of experience. We can imagine things could change in the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, but the Xbox boss still doesn’t want to make it a priority in the current context.
Xbox stays in the program and leaves virtual reality for others
During the Wall Street Journal Tech Live Phil Spencer talked about virtual reality at the beginning of the question, and his opinion on the subject has not changed. It intends to stay out of the virtual reality ecosystem while respecting what competitors are doing in the market.
So one viewer asked Phil Spencer if Xbox was content to voluntarily leave virtual reality as a differentiation hub with PlayStation (which develops VR a lot) and if that didn’t pose a risk to the US company. Spencer’s answer has been relatively straightforward since he took the Xbox direction in the field by making it clear that despite all his admiration for manufacturers embarking on VR, that’s not the dogma of Xbox.
I think when we think of immersion, we think of mixed reality, virtual reality, I’d even go beyond “metaverse,” which seems to be the buzzword at the moment.
I think hardware innovation is a great thing and an important tool. But for now, I’ve decided to stay more on the software side. I think it will be more effective in the long run. And you know, I salute what Sony is doing, and I salute what Oculus is doing, and what Valve has been doing. I realize there are a lot of actors who have done a great job in VR. But yes, Xbox will remain in the software-focused space for now, and I think that’s a good bet.
The head of Xbox also believes that virtual reality is a relatively “isolated” specialized format, in contrast to the values and innovations that Xbox is trying to develop, developing and uniting its community. Either way, VR just isn’t in the Xbox’s plans for the near term. Let’s not forget that in February 2020, Phil Spencer nonetheless announced that if he doesn’t support Xbox VR, he hopes this area will one day become “so important that it’s clear to us”.
Think about the experience before jumping into VR on Xbox
Asked this summer about the topic of virtual reality on the Kinda Funny Gamescast podcast, Xbox head Phil Spencer explained how virtual reality hasn’t been a priority for Microsoft’s gaming arm.
We look at what is happening on the PC. When it comes to virtual reality in particular, the best experience I’ve seen is [Oculus] Quest 2 I think is easy to use and unrestricted, without having to connect to the Xbox in any way.
So when I look at a scenario like this, I think of xCloud, I think of the Xbox Live community, I think of other things about how to bring content to a screen like that.
Whether we’re doing something like this through first-party partnerships or with third parties is kind of the next step and we first have to think about the games we’re currently running on our platform that could run there.
Evoking xCloud in a virtual reality scenario, Phil Spencer here invokes Xbox Cloud Gaming, the platform that allows you to play a selection of Xbox games from your mobile phone, tablet, or internet-connected computer. Here it will be possible to reach a large group of users at once, perhaps making these experiences usually reserved for a more profitable niche audience. Anyway, for now, virtual reality on Xbox isn’t a brand priority.