Xbox's Phil Spencer has admitted that Microsoft isn't developing VR for its next gen console, Project Scarlett, citing poor sales industry-wide and the lack of consumer interest as the deciding factors. Head of PlayStation, Shuhei Yoshida, appeared to respond to Spencer's statements on Twitter, critiquing his reasoning.
In an interview at X019, the Xbox head honcho expanded on his previous comments about VR, in which he said that VR would be worthwhile when it moved out of the realm of “demos and experiments,” in relation to the Xbox One X.
"I don’t love my quote there because I’m not trying to demean the work that people are doing in VR," he said at this year's event. He explained that his issue with VR in its current form is that "it’s isolating," adding, "I think of games as a communal, kind of together experience."
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Spencer said that VR isn't a feature that Xbox customers expect Microsoft to deliver with its gaming hardware, and he seems just fine with that assessment. "We’re responding to what our customers are asking for and… nobody’s asking for VR,” he observed. “The vast majority of our customers know if they want a VR experience, there’s places to go get those. We see the volumes of those on PC and other places.”
'Other places' being over on PlayStation with Sony's PS VR. Earlier this year, a patent was spotted for a brand-new PlayStation VR headset that detailed features like an integrated eye tracker, and new "foveated rendering" graphics, which basically means using eye tracking to offload some of the rendering work by reducing image quality in a player's peripheral vision.
The headset's design will be similar to the PS VR with the exception of an integrated camera at the front and the rear. The most exciting aspect is the 'Transparent Mode' that will act as an AR headset, allowing the wearer to see the environment around them as well as whatever the console is putting out.
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But next year's Xbox won't have any VR peripherals based on Spencer's appraisal. Microsoft's decision isn't just based on its customer's expectations; the install base for the growing technology is also an issue for him, as he speculated on the lack of fiscal returns overall, saying, “nobody’s selling millions and millions” of VR units.
That doesn't mean he's written VR off altogether. “I think we might get there [eventually],” he mused, “but yeah, that’s not where our focus is.”
Sony execs seem to have a different view on the matter, with President of SIE Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida, tweeting "we oftentimes work hard to make things that no customers are asking for them." While he didn't mention Spencer or his interview directly, his tweet appears to zero in on the Xbox boss's comments.
Both consoles are launching in the Holiday 2020 window, so we'll have to wait and see how Sony's second stab at a VR headset pans out, and if Phil Spencer was on the nose after all. In the meantime, you can pick up both the PS4 and Xbox One for a fraction of their normal price this Black Friday, so say tuned for more deals as we ramp up for this retail bonanza.