Why has Microsoft not launched an X-Box VR yet?
They say that good things come to those who wait, so we can only assume that X-Box VR will be very good indeed, because Microsoft have kept us waiting for a very long time. The company has been flirting with VR on and off for many years, with many people expecting a system to be launched with the X-Box One X, and yet still we wait. So what exactly is the delay and when might we see a fully integrated X-Box VR headset?
The rise of VR
It is just seven years ago that the now dominant Oculus Rift was nothing more than a Kickstarter project. Of course, you were very lucky if you jumped on board in those early days, as the $2.4million Kickstarter funded a company that was purchased by Facebook for $3billion just two years later, making many of those early investors very rich. Since then, Oculus Rift has sold in large numbers, with Sony’s PlayStation VR also selling over 3million units.
Many companies, including the gaming industry, see virtual reality as the future and Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg says he thinks VR will change the way we use computers. In a lengthy email explaining his thoughts on VR shortly after purchasing Oculus, Zuckerberg wrote, “Our vision is that VR/AR will be the next major computing platform after mobile in about ten years. It can even be more ubiquitous than mobile...” So, if VR really is the future that Zuckerberg claims, why are the X-Box team so reluctant to take part?
Mark Zuckerberg is investing heavily in VR, so why isn’t Microsoft?
Why the delay?
Despite hinting strongly in 2016 that the new X-Box One X would support VR, when it actually appeared in 2017 VR was not only nowhere to be seen, but no one was talking about it either. It was quietly dropped and Microsoft actively avoided the subject. The bottom line appears to be that they just don’t think that the technology is ready. As one industry expert stated at the time, “Virtual reality may yet become a massive mainstream hit, but it's not going to happen with this generation of tech.”
Microsoft is apparently holding back until the tech improves, including the introduction of wireless headsets. Executive Vice President of Gaming at Microsoft, Phil Spencer, explained that he wanted X-Box VR to bring something unique to the industry, in the form of wireless systems. "I don't think the unique add is to plug (a headset) into the Xbox One console."
Another factor in Microsoft’s reluctance could also be the relatively weak demand for VR games. Industry analyst, Brian Blau, says that gamers just don’t seem to be that keen. "I haven't seen the gamer community rally around VR like they have other things,” he says. Perhaps the tech giant is waiting for the market to mature and VR games to become the norm before they commit to the system.
Building for the future
Microsoft may, by its own admission, have put its VR plans on hold until better technology comes along, but that does not mean that it’s out of the race. In fact, if you look at their recent acquisitions, it is gearing up to be a major player. The company has bought two major VR games developers, Ninja Theory and inXile Entertainment, in the last couple of years, in a clear attempt to hit the ground running when it finally does take the VR plunge.
In many ways, it could all be worth the wait. Instead of rushing to market with clumsy, hard wired technology, the team behind X-Box are waiting until VR matures into a fully-fledged, wireless system that delivers on the true potential of the virtual world. Whether they will drop in at the forefront of the industry, leaving their early adopter competitors behind, or find themselves too far off the pace of those early starters, remains to be seen.
It is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ Microsoft will bring out an X-Box VR console. It will happen at some point, and chances are it will be well worth the wait. Meanwhile, we will just have to put up with the latency, and the wiring, that comes with using other VR headsets with our current X-Box One X."