Within the past year, it appears that many companies have jumped on the Virtual Reality bandwagon. With the highly anticipated releases of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR quickly approaching, Microsoft has stayed relatively quiet regarding their stance on Virtual Reality. However, Xbox head Phil Spencer has recently stated that while he is very excited about the releases of these products, Microsoft will not be participating in the VR race.
Microsoft appears to be focused on integrating Windows 10 into Xbox One and adding more to the OS, rather than adding to the Xbox One system. "We’re not really focused right now on adding a VR device to Xbox One, we’re really more focused on the open ecosystem of Windows," says Spencer, who is directing his attention towards Universal Windows Platform applications instead. Although Spencer wants to give his consumers a better experience on the Xbox One, he doesn't believe implementing VR is the means to achieve this end. "Would we ever do our own VR device? We could, if we thought we had something unique to add, [but] I don't think the unique add is to plug into the Xbox One console. That's not the magic unlock to me."
Spencer's surprisingly restrained and humble comment is probably a result of the fact that Microsoft doesn't have a need to develop a VR headset of their own. Rift purchases will come with Xbox One controllers, and the platform will have full functionality with the Oculus VR headset. Since Microsoft has a pretty sweet deal here, there obviously isn't a necessity to develop a superfluous VR headset for the Xbox One. This is a particularly smart move on the electronics giant's part, considering how their ambitious goals with the Kinect immensely flopped.
Even though Microsoft has made its stance on developing VR, their highly anticipated HoloLens is still supposedly getting a release, though a date has not been given. Microsoft claims that HoloLens is a whole new type of VR, and has dubbed it "Augmented Reality," where interactive virtual elements are projected in hologram form in front of the user. Although it appears to be a bit gimmicky, Microsoft seems to be a little more on top of their business decisions than they were when the Kinect rolled into stores.
Although Phil Spencer and the rest of Microsoft are, on the surface, making a risky decision, there really isn't a more intelligent choice they could have made. With the VR market quickly becoming popular and overblown, there is really no saying how well the new releases will do. If the market ends up tanking and all of the releases are critically panned, Microsoft will come out on top of all of these companies, and their more appealing AR will become a heavily alluring replacement. If the market flourishes, Microsoft will be raking in the cash from increased Xbox One sales. There really is no true way Microsoft can lose with this decision, and this is exactly how the electronics giant has planned this to turn out. "We definitely want to be the middleman," says Spencer.
Well played, Microsoft.