Why VR was a conspicuous no-show at Microsoft’s Xbox One X launch

After originally touting the powerful new Xbox One X (formerly Project Scorpio) as a VR-capable console last year, Microsoft backed way off during its formal E3 2017 launch—not even mentioning virtual reality.

To be fair, Microsoft previously signaled that virtual reality was not going to be a priority for the Xbox One X at first. Microsoft already said that it would add VR capabilities to Windows 10 PCs and the Xbox One X in 2018, and then revealed to Polygon that it would not be showing off VR technology at E3. 

But while Microsoft representatives said that the company is committed to delivering great mixed reality gaming experiences, they added that they have nothing to say as far as virtual reality goes for the Xbox One X. Instead, the company is throwing its weight behind the PC. 

“Microsoft is committed to delivering great mixed reality gaming experiences,” a company representative said in an emailed statement. “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.”

forza Motorsport 7 Xbox One X YouTube / Microsoft

Instead of virtual reality, Microsoft is aligning the Xbox One X’s 4K capabilities with games like Forza Motorsport 7.

Why this matters: Virtual or mixed reality may eventually arrive on the Xbox One X console, and sales figures from Oculus and HTC suggest that consumers aren’t snapping up VR as much as vendors might like. But with the HoloLens, Windows mixed reality devices and some sort of expected Xbox VR peripheral waiting in the wings, the omission looks a bit suspicious. 

Wait a second…wasn’t Xbox One X a VR console?

You’d be forgiven, though, if you at thought that Microsoft would at least mention the technology. A year ago, Xbox chief Phil Spencer told The Verge that both 4K and VR were the two key focal points for Scorpio: “As we saw 4K gaming and really high-end VR taking off in the PC space, we wanted to be able to bring that to console,” he said. 

 

But when it came time to reveal the Xbox One X’s hardware, Microsoft began focusing more on the 4K capabilities of the new Xbox console than its VR capabilities. Publications became suspicious when the Xbox One X only appeared to have a single HDMI port.

[Further reading: Microsoft at E3: Meet the Xbox One X’s legion of games (that are coming to PC, too) ]

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