In light of the recent Google pullout from the joint IMAX project, another VR hopeful comes to an abrupt end. Microsoft decided to discontinue plans of developing VR gaming support for its Xbox console. While the former may yet come to fruition and is perhaps only paused, Virtual Reality support for Xbox devices looks halted.
It was a trendy thing to do; making plans, offering promises, releasing dazzling VR teasers. But now pendulum swings the other side. Companies are quick to announce that their Virtual Reality offspring will remain in conception stage. Microsoft is only the latest of the bunch. The company has come out stating that ‘we don’t have any plans specific to Xbox consoles in Virtual Reality or Mixed Reality’. Terse though it may be, Chief Marketing Officer Mike Nichols’s statement is a far cry from an earlier one in which Xbox chief Phil Spencer boasted that the new console would be specifically tailored for ‘4K gaming and high-fidelity VR’. The conflicting messages leave a sour sound in ears. Meanwhile, Sony continues a successful run with its VR gaming console undisturbed on the market.
Speaking of no plans, Nichols meant both VR and all levels of AR implementation. But rather than abandoning the reality tech project altogether, Microsoft is reportedly working more on bringing Virtual Reality to PC devices. The company believes that we are still a few year behind a full-fledged VR console gaming that would satisfy its exuberant promise. An email statement from Microsoft confirmed, in an orthodoxly user-oriented manner, that ‘the user experience will be the best on PC right now’ due to the extensive Windows support. True enough. But be that as it may, those who bought Xbox One X on the promise of future VR support might not take the above words kindly.
The failure of VR gaming support from Microsoft has passed multiple stages. There were the partnerships with Oculus and Metastage. Also the 2016 merry announcement of the Project Scorpio VR support. This failing, Microsoft upped the stakes by promising a whole line of VR headsets to air in 2018. Still, none of them brought any VR or MR support to Xbox. Nor will they apparently, until the VR Gaming market proves ready for Microsoft to jump in.
It is puzzling why Microsoft decided against the new tech. The first wave of VR gaming headsets is far from perfect, but it offers an opportunity to test the technology and come back with better solutions. Instead of this approach, Microsoft decided to blame the market for being, the words of Phil Spencer, ‘years away’. In the same interview Spencer acknowledged that this was ‘no time for us to be competitive’. The companies should instead ‘share learnings’ and ‘be ready’ for the market when it finally realizes its full potential.
There is no telling when the market will bloom. It certainly shows sign of slowing down. As for Microsoft pullout from VR gaming, we can only assume that business prevailed over promise. The company is ‘moderating the temperature’, continuing to focus on PC immersive technology while keeping a watchful eye.