Microsoft partners with Valve on VR, shows off new HoloLens version of Minecraft

Microsoft HoloLens
Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft’s E3 stage show included no shortage of tantalizing titles for the Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs, but one of the biggest surprises was the time the company dedicated to VR gaming. At Monday morning’s conference, Microsoft announced both an important new partner, and VR compatibility for one of the most popular games on the market — Minecraft.

A new partnership with Valve will make its VR headset, the Vive, compatible with the Xbox One. Microsoft announced a similar partnership with Oculus just last week, which will see the Rift shipping with an Xbox One controller, and the ability to stream Xbox One games through Windows 10 PCs.

But Microsoft’s VR announcements didn’t stop there. It will introduce a new version of Minecraft that takes advantage of Microsoft’s “mixed-reality” hardware, the HoloLens. Microsoft had previously displayed the HoloLens’ reality-augmenting features back in April, but this was the first live demo of the system’s gaming capabilities.

In an on-stage demo shown from the perspective of someone wearing the HoloLens, a Minecraft world was projected onto a table, where presenters used voice commands and gestures to manipulate the environment, peeking inside buildings by leaning into them and exposing underground caverns by lifting them up by hand. The game will also support traditional controllers, but Microsoft emphasized what would be possible through these more intuitive controls. It was an impressive display, and the world-crafting gameplay of Minecraft seems like a perfect fit for the mixed-reality system.

Microsoft’s VR partnerships and Minecraft adaptation show it’s ready to push into VR in a big way, but it won’t be alone at the show in making that thrust. The Swedish game studio Starbreeze promises to make a splash with its high-res, wide-angle StarVR, and Oculus showed off their Rift headset at a pre-E3 conference the other day. Sony has yet to show off their new Morpheus headset, so we’ll have to wait and see what comes of that.