When Microsoft announced the Xbox One X, it stated that the console would be capable of “high fidelity” virtual reality gaming. The new console launches next month but Microsoft has yet to fully detail its Xbox VR gaming plans, and in a new interview the company has now explained why it has kept so quiet.
Albert Penello, the senior director of product management and planning at Microsoft, says there is “still a tonne of experimentation in VR.” Virtual reality headsets are a “viable” consumer product “for a certain size of an audience,” says Penello, but Microsoft “learned with Kinect and the Wii that just translating a typical game experience to VR is not a winning strategy.” Penello explains that “it’s the oddball VR-specific stuff that makes it sing,” and Microsoft didn’t want to distract developers with that this year.
On the one hand, Penello’s comments make sense. One of the key complaints that Xbox One players have had is that there is a lack of ‘true’ exclusives and the cancellation of Scalebound and the delay of Crackdown 3have only amplified those concerns. Microsoft has said that it is working on several, big unannounced exclusives and the company may argue that these would take longer to develop or may not happen at all if the company was to encourage its creators to make quirky VR titles alongside that.
But on the other hand, Penello’s comments also arrive right as Microsoft has unveiled a mixed reality Halo experience that resembles a traditional shooter in VR. While Halo: Recruit is being seen as a small slice of arcade fun rather than a large-scale project, some may disagree that stranger titles are the only way for VR to make an impact. Many may also point to the popularity of Resident Evil 7‘s VR and Star Wars Battlefront‘s VR missions as a counterpoint.
Disappointing as it may be that Microsoft isn’t looking to talk about Xbox VR right now, there’s nothing to suggest that the console won’t make an investment in future. Not only has the company gotten involved on PC, with its line of Windows VR headsets, but its HoloLens mixed reality headset is poised to make a splash too. The sales success of the PlayStation VR headset may also encourage Microsoft to get involved with console VR sooner, so fans hoping for an Xbox One VR headset don’t need to give up hope just yet.