VR isn’t isolating, and it could be a perfect fit for the Xbox ecosystem

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Microsoft’s Xbox head Phil Spencer recently shared his thoughts on VR and the Xbox One. While stating that VR would not be the focus of upcoming Project Scarlett, Spencer made some comments about VR that I think show a misunderstanding of the medium. Spencer called VR isolating, and added that “nobody’s asking for VR” on the Xbox platform. These comments, especially when put into context with his comments comparing VR to tech demoes, raise several concerns.

Spencer states that “[VR is] isolating and [he thinks] of games as a communal, kind of together experience.” Gaming can be a tremendously social experience, but that’s determined largely by the player, not the platform. A PC gamer could play in a guild with his or her best friends or alone without talking to a soul. A console gamer could game all night with friends or take on a challenging solo campaign.

Similarly, a VR gamer can play a social game like Arizona Sunshine, which supports co-op multiplayer; bring Beat Saber to a party while casting their headset to a TV; or spend hours alone in a VR dojo with a lightsaber. If someone wants to be social while gaming they’ll find a way. Look at the hoops people went through to use voice chat on the Nintendo Switch.

I know that some people are passionate about their stance that VR is a gimmick or lacks a killer app. I disagree and think VR has turned a corner and that VR is trending into a viable gaming platform. I don’t know if Half-Life: Alyx will revolutionize VR, but it shows that major developers are interested.

I’d love to see Microsoft push VR onto the Xbox platform. Microsoft is already familiar with VR hardware and software and could take advantage of Project Scarlett’s processing power to make a solid VR experience. The company also has some unique IP that could be a killer app for VR.

A large factor in why Project Scarlett won’t focus on VR could be money. Spencer stated that the Xbox team is in touch with customers and that “nobody’s asking for VR” on the Xbox platform. He also added that “nobody’s selling millions and millions” of VR unit.

Spencer has a fair point, since even Playstation VR has only sold 4.2 million headsets as of March 2019, but I don’t view Xbox as a platform for just the mainstream. Xbox is the platform that supports backward compatibility going all the way back to some original Xbox games. It’s the platform that made an Elite Controller for passionate gamers and an Adaptive Controller to increase accessibility. I’ve viewed Xbox as “for the players” more than any other console for a long time.

I have doubts that “nobody” is asking for VR on the Xbox. Instead, I think it’s probably a subset of passionate gamers that want to explore a new way to experience gaming. To me, that fits in perfectly with the Xbox ecosystem.

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