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Sticking to 2D: Don’t expect Xbox Scarlett to support VR

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Sony launched PlayStation VR several years ago on the PS4, giving console players a chance to experience the virtual reality craze that had been limited to PC platforms in the past. If you were expecting Microsoft to follow suit with its upcoming Xbox console Project Scarlett, however, you’re going to be in for some disappointment.

Speaking to Stevivor, head of Xbox Phil Spencer expressed his doubt that console customers would be interested in a VR headset for the Xbox platform, pointing to its success on PC. He also stressed that the sales figures for VR were still relatively low, and far from comparable to traditional console units.

“I have some issues with VR — it’s isolating and I think of games as a communal, kind of a together experience. We’re responding to what our customers are asking for and nobody’s asking for VR,” Spencer added.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

It’s a curious move by Microsoft, considering that it had been partnering with Oculus to bundle in Xbox controllers for use on the PC-connected Rift headset. Given the cross-play and cross-buy initiative at Microsoft across Xbox and PC gaming, the decision to omit VR support could be in order to guarantee cross-buy can be universal for the next generation.

The need for an external device to play VR games is also a thing of the past, thanks to systems like Oculus Quest. At a fraction of the cost of more powerful systems like HTC Vive or Valve Index, the standalone headsets support many of the same games, need no tracking cameras, and run on batteries so they can be played almost anywhere. Should Microsoft choose as an alternative to develop titles for Quest, it could create more interest in its core Xbox games and encourage VR players to also purchase a new console.

Should Microsoft change its stance on VR support for Project Scarlett, the system will certainly be powerful enough to handle it. With 8K resolution and ray tracing enabled, the console can outperform midrange PC systems, and should be future-proof for at least the next several years. The PS5 will be, as well, and will support VR just like the PS4 did before it.

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