Thinking About Xbox One X and VR/MR

Posted on June 20, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox One with 19 Comments

Thinking About Xbox One X and VR/MR

While I was expecting some major league FUD in the wake of Microsoft’s Xbox One X reveal last week, the faux outrage over VR/MR has been particularly amusing.

To recap, Microsoft said long before E3 that it would be adding virtual reality (VR) capabilities to all Xbox One consoles, including the Xbox One X, in 2018. That schedule has always meant that the Xbox One X would launch with a VR solution of any kind, but my assumption was that Microsoft would let Windows Mixed Reality headset work with the new console.

That now appears to be incorrect. Closer to E3, Microsoft clarified its stance on VR and mixed reality (MR): VR, it said, makes more sense on a console, while MR would be a PC experience.

“Microsoft is committed to delivering great mixed reality gaming experiences,” a Microsoft statement notes. “We believe that right now a Windows PC is the best platform for mixed reality as its open ecosystem and enormous installed base offer the best opportunity for developers, and Windows offers the most choices for consumers. Therefore, our primary focus is making our Windows Mixed Reality experiences a success. We have games from Microsoft Studios in development for Windows Mixed Reality, and several game developers are working closely with us to bring their titles to Windows Mixed Reality. We’ll have more to share on specific games and content experiences coming to Windows Mixed Reality later this summer, after E3. Because of the opportunity with Windows Mixed Reality, and because we believe the user experience will be best on PC right now, that is where our focus is. We have nothing to share about MR for console at this time.”

Also previous to E3, Microsoft’s Alex Kipman did say a bit about VR on the Xbox One.

“Our belief is that console VR should be wireless,” he told Polygon.

So E3 came and went. And Microsoft, as promised, did not discuss VR (or MR) on any Xbox console, including Xbox One X. As promised.

For some reason, however, the firm has come under criticism for not discussing its plans for VR (or MR) on Xbox. And this has become a rallying cry for the critics who, quite frankly, have precious little to complain about. As it turns out, the Xbox One X looks pretty incredible, and while $500 is indeed a premium price tag, the console appears to justify that cost.

So Xbox head Phil Spencer has been forced to address a topic that Microsoft had hoped to put off until next year.

“I love the work that Sony’s doing in this space, we’ve been great collaborators working and sharing,” he’s said of VR. “I think to get to real scale here, we’re in that 5- to 10-year horizon to get to untethered, things that happen that I don’t feel like I have a helmet on. But we have to go through the transitions.”

This seems to indicate that perhaps even 2018 is a bit of a stretch. But I think the realistic way of looking at this is that VR, today, or MR in the near future, has a limited appeal, among gamers, and in a more mainstream audience. And that a future in which we have tetherless and preferably headset-less mixed reality experiences is, of course, interesting. But it’s several years out.

So it’s no wonder why Microsoft never discussed this at E3. And there is absolutely no reason to beat them up over such a pointless topic. That some are doing so says a lot, I think, about the quality of Xbox One X. There just isn’t much to complain about.


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Comments (20)

20 responses to “Thinking About Xbox One X and VR/MR”

  1. nbplopes

    Who put VR and MR in Windows gamers agenda drumming it up with formidable tech marketing initiatives was MS. No one else did. People of course built expectations over it, as it was fully intended by MS.. Wether the responsibility of such expectations fall entirely on the user lap its debatable. Even though I'm in the Mindfulness bandwagon that state the responsibility of one expectations fall entirely on the person who has them even if its based tactics similar to FUD created by someone else. So in the end I agree with you Paul, still I understand people that may feel entitled to disappointment. (,_uncertainty_and_doubt).



  2. DWAnderson

    I suspect that the real issue for VR on Xbox is a business one. I suspect there would be no significant technical impediment to getting Vive or Rift hooked up to the XBOX and running existing software that runs under Windows 10.

    Rather the impediments would be issues like development of a store for VR, developing an approval process for VR games, tech support for VR issues people have, support for third party hardware (including drivers). Answering these questions steal significant business focus for a market that on PS4 is only about 1M users.

    Personally, I wish this weren't the case, as I would like to try VR and I have an Xbox in an appropriate space in our house, but no PC there. However, I understand why MS doesn't want to jump in to this now.

    But (i) I don't think the market will grow significantly unless there is more convenient hardware (e.g. wireless with inside out tracking) and (ii) it is not clear there is a significant advantage to being early in this market. At some point these will no longer be true and XBOX will support VR. Personally,

    I hope that comes sooner rather than later, but if wireless VR becomes a consumer product I'll sadly buy it for PC rather than XBOX and be annoyed when it comes out for XBOX a year later.

  3. HellcatM

    I think Microsoft is doing the right thing. VR is expensive now, also even though it may look cool its weak. Games you still need to use a controller or keyboard and mouse which in my opinion pulls you out of the "reality" of the technology. Right now VR is on par with 3D TV, kind of cool but not needed. In the future when VR games get better and control systems get better (haptic gloves and other control systems that will bring games to life)...and a price drop, VR games will look more appealing. VR is in its infancy, I think if it keeps being hyped and the more people who buy into it now it may loose traction later because people will get bored waiting for that killer thing to come. It may take 5-10 years got VR to catch on, and for people to really get hyped about it.

    VR and AR in the future also is going to be more than just games. I think there will be VR schools and people will work from VR (think Ready Player One). AR will also be a teaching tool as well. Gaming is just a small part of VR and AR.

    Right now I think AR has more traction because you can see whats in front of you and AR adds to it. Headsup displays, better mapping, teaching by someone walking you through a task in AR, and more are powerful things. The main thing holding it down is the size of the headset and that it's tethered. I think AR will catch on before VR. I could be wrong though, but its my opinion.

  4. cawoodstock

    I agree. I don't think the appeal of VR is to a big enough audience to warrant a requirement that MSFT beat others to market. In fact, if not trying to compete in this space means greater focus in core areas, I think it is smart. I'm really excited about Xbox one x, without VR, making a future announcement sufficient.

  5. Jules Wombat

    $500 for a console, that cannot do MR, (left to high end Windows PCs) has to be considered to be a major failing for Microsoft. Sony or Apple only have to deliver a tethered headset AR experience, that will make HoloLens look like a dated folly.

  6. Mark from CO


    Don't give Microsoft the benefit of doubt. They don't deserve it.

    This "...we’re in that 5- to 10-year horizon to get to untethered.." thinking is what got Microsoft in the trouble it is in today. Does anyone really believe Microsoft can wait 5-10 years to get products out? This is ludicrous. The competition will have already made the market, and reaped its benefits. And we will see competitors with untethered products well before the 5 year mark. So, Microsoft will again be the last to tepidly try to enter a market. And will experience the same results... failure.

    You might think VR/MR/AR has limited use, but you (and Mary Jo) initially thought touch screens on laptops were unnecessary. This may not be a huge market, but it is one that Microsoft could build a loyal following, which could it later build on.

    Slow in the tech world reaps failure.

    Mark from CO

    • MutualCore

      In reply to Mark from CO:

      Slow in the tech world reaps failure.

      Yes all Microsoft has to do is be magically fast as a speeding bullet because Microsoft fanboys tell them so. Never mind they are competing for engineering talent with Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and 1000 other companies. I'm amazed Microsoft have gotten this far with their toxic corporate culture and horrible image amongst geeks.

      • Waethorn

        In reply to MutualCore:

        I don't think the trendy geeks keep them in business.

      • Mark from CO

        In reply to MutualCore:

        Mutual Core:

        Not sure why you are testy about my post. I’m not a Microsoft fanboy, though we are a Microsoft house (that may change soon). In fact, I believe that Microsoft is in the fight for its life right now, in part for sure due to its culture.

        You’re absolutely right about the competitive strengths of Apple and Google. Financially, they are much stronger than Microsoft. Given the competitive landscape, Microsoft has to be relentless, fast and on target to effectively compete. In sort it needs to be faster to the gate than its competitors, something it seems unable to do.  Your point seems to back the proposition that Microsoft is only kidding itself if it believes it can wait 5-10 years.

        Mark from CO

  7. chrisrut

    BTW, when did "statements" morph into "promises?"

  8. Awhispersecho

    The issue I see here is that it's another market the MS will be late to. Even if the tech isn't quite there yet, other companies are building install bases, attracting users and establishing people being in their ecosystem even if the tech isn't really ready for another 5 years. When it is, those companies will have users who have been with them for years who will then be buying their 2nd, or 3rd gen versions. MS will be starting with scratch. Trying to become relevant and create mindshare in a market that others have already had established for years. Sound like the same broken record and another consumer fail for them simply because they can never make it to market on time with anything.

    They remind me of the person we all know who never buys anything because soon something better will be out. The difference is that MS is that way with releasing things.

  9. Stooks

    VR in its current form (low res, hard wired) is a fad and one that I see from my perspective that is already starting to wayne. I have a few friends that built some serious gaming rigs around their HTC vibes. I tried it a few times, it is fun and does kind of blow your mind but now those vibes are collecting dust.

    I am getting an X but unless it came with VR and I could not get it without it I would not add it.

  10. jrickel96

    I think this is a complex part of the market where success is hard to come by. The PS VR is probably the most successful and yet Sony didn't do much other than show off a sizzle reel at E3 while focusing mainly on normal games instead.

    MS probably prefers to do it right than to get to the market early and be forgotten.

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