Is Microsoft’s lack of an Xbox One VR headset a sign of defeat?

Gaming in 2016 has centered round one thing. Virtual reality. It’s going to be the next big thing, at least that’s what Sony and Oculus are hoping, and so far they don’t seem far wrong with pre-orders selling out just as quickly as they become available for both devices. The Oculus Rift is launching in just a few days with PlayStation VR launching on the PS4 this October. So far both the PS4 and PC gaming market have a virtual reality headset heading to their platform by the end of the year. But where are Microsoft in all of this?

For as long as I can remember, Sony and Microsoft have always watched each other closely, often copying what the other one is doing so that their products can go toe to toe against each other. That was the case up until this generation. Sony have been running away with the current-generation with the PlayStation 4 outselling the Xbox One nearly two to one. However, it seems that both consoles are now going in different directions. Sony are opting for virtual reality while Microsoft is focusing on…well…what are they focusing on? All I keep hearing from Microsoft is Windows 10.

Virtual reality has long been one of those technologies that everyone has heard of but was never possible until now. Attempts in the 90s to bring the technology to consumers flopped but now it’s different. The technology has come on leaps and bounds and people can’t wait to dive into game worlds and become immersed like never before. Sony don’t want to miss out and are therefore putting lots of resources into the PlayStation VR, and out of all the devices releasing this year, you have to say that it seems the most appealing. It’s the cheapest out of all of them for a start and you won’t need to upgrade your console, unlike your PC. Everything is done for you, all you need to do is buy the headset and the camera.

Microsoft on the other hand seem to be putting all of their focus into Windows 10 and trying to grab that slice of the PC sector. If you’re on a budget and wanting to experience virtual reality, your only option will be the PlayStation VR. Considering that the Xbox One has always been cheaper than the PS4, have Microsoft missed a trick by not offering a consumer friendly VR headset for the Xbox One?

When compared against each other, the PlayStation 4 beats the Xbox One. Not only is it the more powerful console, but it will now offer gamers a totally new experience you won’t find on the Xbox One. It will offer something the Xbox One definitely can’t and that is virtual reality. Does the fact that Microsoft aren’t developing any type of virtual reality device for the Xbox One signal defeat?

Speaking to Cnet earlier this month, Phil Spencer revealed that they would only develop a VR device for the console if they thought they can add something unique, which clearly they don’t.

“Would we ever do our own VR device? We could, if we thought we had something unique to add,” said Phil Spencer. “I don’t think the unique add is to plug into the Xbox One console. That’s not the magic unlock to me. If we didn’t think any of the device manufacturers were offering that, we’d have to go do something to help fill that gap.”

To me, the above statement says that Microsoft feel that they can’t compete with the PlayStation VR. They can’t make a VR device unique to the Xbox One and with a console market nearly half the size of the PS4s and a less powerful console to start with, the challenges to add virtual reality to the Xbox One begin to show. While technical limitations may be one reason, money will certainly be another. The fact is, developing virtual reality is not cheap and there’s a real risk that Microsoft won’t turn a profit on an Xbox One virtual reality headset. They don’t need to develop a headset for the PC as they are working closely with Oculus and making virtual reality on Windows 10 as great as possible. Therefore, any VR device Microsoft would have developed would have been solely for the Xbox One. Why enter the PC market when it is already saturated?

Microsoft’s partnership with Facebook will allow Oculus Rift owners to stream their Xbox One games to their Windows 10 PC and therefore onto their VR devices. But, what about sole Xbox One gamers? I can’t wait for virtual reality to take off and it is definitely a technology I am interested in. However, by personal preference, I had always been an Xbox gamer and had it not been for me switching to PC gaming this generation, I would have probably bought an Xbox One over a PS4. If that was the case though, I’d be very disappointed to see virtual reality coming to the PlayStation 4 while the Xbox One offers nothing. Microsoft are under no obligation to offer VR and the truth is, they don’t need to. They have already lost to the PlayStation 4. If VR does come to Xbox One, it will likely be in the form of an Xbox One compatible Oculus Rift though, but it seems tfhat’s not likely to happen anytime soon given comments made by Nate Mitchell, the vice president of product at Oculus to Polygon back in September 2015 where he revealed, “It has been a conversation, but I can say we’re not so close.”

In fact, a recent survey by Ipsos revealed that PS4 and Xbox One gamers were more interested in virtual reality than PC gamers. 63% of console gamers who were polled expressed interest in virtual reality compared to only 51% of PC gamers. With interest in virtual reality being so high amongst gamers, particularly those on console, you have to ask yourself the question, if Microsoft believed in the Xbox One and felt that it could compete with the PlayStation 4, wouldn’t a virtual reality device surely be heading to the console later this year to compete with Sony?

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