Xbox boss Phil Spencer discusses why the console hasn't added VR. Virtual Reality has been touted as the next level of gaming for quite some time with no real traction to speak of. VR has been a staple of the sci-fi genre for decades and actual technology has begun to catch up in recent years, though we're still a long way from ease of access and affordability. Mobile giant Samsung has made the biggest market impact by making a headset that uses their mobile devices as VR screens.
Mobile seems most primed to capitalize as the entry point into the VR market, but tech enthusiasts are also looking forward to the days when gaming can be a truly immersive experience. Microsoft debuted a Hololens at E3 2015, calling the technology "mixed reality" as an all-encompassing term for all forms of augmented reality. It showcased an entirely unique way to play Minecraft, but there hasn't been much chatter about the tech at Xbox since.
At this year's E3 Conference, Spencer opened up about the console's lack of VR options. According to Road to VR, Spencer has absolutely no doubts both the Xbox One and the Scorpio are capable of handling VR, but cites the current gaming environment as not ready to make the move yet.
"Long term, I'm a big believer in the category. I believe it's immersive, I think you can deliver a feeling whether it's vertigo or a sense of new space or environment, and that's just incredible. I can't wait to see that come to mass market games to what developers and creators are able to do. My view is, in the family room environment, we're a few years away from it being something that will really work. The cords are an issue."
Microsoft (independent of Xbox in this particular case) has several VR headset options and an entire section in its online store dedicated to the technology and its accessories. So why the disconnect? Spencer goes on to say that the Xbox/Windows partnership is where more of the developer interest is at the moment, and that's where the mixed reality/virtual reality technology will continue to grow until the tech itself advances to more streamlined wireless capabilities. "As an industry," he adds, "I think it's great that we're investing, whether it's PSVR, Hololense, HTC, Oculus... This is what the games industry should be about -- investing in new technology."
When the Oculus Rift VR headset first came to market in early 2016, an Xbox One wireless controller was included in the bundle, allowing for a more complete Windows 10 gaming experience. However, in the time since the Hololens demo a few years ago, PlayStation has launched an entire VR line, and even Steam is jumping into the fray with its latest John Wick Chronicles, which is a totally immersive experience. Cnet confirms there are Hololens updates planned for 2019, but it looks like Xbox is content to skip the introductory phase and release something more universal for future consoles.
While Spencer praises competitors, specifically PlayStation VR, can Xbox really afford to let the rest of the field get too far ahead in this new area?