Phil Spencer Not Ready to Bring VR to Xbox

Head of Xbox not completely sold on new tech...yet.

The Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, is a pretty straight forward guy. He always seems ready to have a chat about what’s going on in the gaming world and is clearly passionate about Xbox. That passion showed itself at E3 2016, when Spencer declared to the world that there will be a new powerhouse joining the Xbox gaming platforms in the form of “Project Scorpio”, as it is currently known.

There are many questions surrounding Project Scorpio; cost, release date and the specifications being three big ones. It was largely assumed that the Scorpio would be virtual reality (VR) capable and this has seemingly confirmed by Spencer in an interview with Stevivor. This, however, does not mean that Project Scorpio will have VR in the near future. It seems Spencer, and Xbox, are being quietly cautious about the current flavor of the month.

In the interview with Stevivor, Spencer talks about how he is impressed with the technology in virtual reality but is not ready to bring to Scorpio until there are more, in his eyes, more substantial pieces of software for the devices:

“I don’t think the creators in the game space have yet found – well, they haven’t obviously perfected the craft of building VR games,” he said. “It’s so early, I think we’re a couple of years before we’ll really see that hit mainstream. I’ve seen great video uses of VR, like taking you to places you can never time travel, just the bottom of the Grand Canyon, or they simulate the surface of Mars, some really cool experiences users can see.”

He also speaks of his own experiences with the tech:

“I don’t know, just to be honest. I love the technology behind VR. I have a[n HTC] Vive, I have an Oculus [Rift]. I’ve used the PlayStation [VR] device a lot in demos and stuff…“What experiences do you put in people’s hands to have a long-term engagement? Most of these things I’m playing now feel like demos and experiments, which I actually think it’s absolutely the right thing to have happened. That’s not a criticism at all, but should be happening. But I think it will take time.”

He does have a point, though there are some fully fledged titles available for VR, there are a lot of titles that are standard games with a “VR exclusive level” or “VR mode”. On top of that, some games that are VR only are short on playtime (of course there’s always replay value). Whilst these may still be fully fledged, it could be the case that developers may include minimal “VR capable” titles or “Better with VR” titles. Or, they could avoid developing for VR entirely, worrying about a lack of uptake and the financial risk and extra development time needed. This is something that we saw happen with Kinect for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One and something that Phil Spencer is keen to avoid, in the interview calling the Kinect the “Dance Central box.” Of course, this is one of the reasons that all the Xbox Ones originally included a Kinect 2.0 in the box, in theory, everyone has the device then the developers of said device have a guaranteed to audience to market there “Kinect enabled/Kinect only” title to.

Of course, we know that this didn’t work, pushing the cost of the Xbox One on day one to higher prices than some were willing to pay, opting for the cheaper alternative in the PS4. So it is unlikely that Scorpio will come with a VR headset as standard (could you imagine the cost!). It does seem we will get it at some point, but when is the million dollar question, along with all the others we’d like to ask the Head of Xbox.

In the interview with Stevivor, Spencer also touched on the problems with VR being a wired device currently and that it would be more appealing to a wider audience if it were “untethered“. Again fair point, you get too into a game, you’re being chased and all of a sudden your $350 machine is broken on the floor after pulling it off the shelf in a panic. You may think this unlikely, but I would have said the same about throwing a Wii remote through a television.

Are you excited for VR on Project Scorpio? Or do you just want to know more about the new machine? Let us know in the comments below or on the RGM Forums.