Xbox head on absence from VR race

Phil Spencer says Microsoft hasn't ruled it out yet, doesn't see Valve as a competitor right now

Virtual reality was one of the big trends at last week's Game Developers Conference. Valve had the HTC Vive, Sony had Morpheus, Oculus had Rift, and Microsoft had nothing of the sort.

Speaking with Eurogamer at the show, Xbox head Phil Spencer said that even though Microsoft's big play is in augmented reality with the Hololens, the company hasn't ruled out getting into the VR market as well in some form.

"I don't think we've locked ourselves out," Spencer said. "We've looked at a mixed reality space that we could do with Hololens and think about it as a unique set of features and technologies to enable, that doesn't preclude us from doing anything in the VR space either from a first-party or partnership perspective."

Spencer lauded the innovation in many of the current VR efforts, but expressed concerns about how they will actually transition into viable products for consumers.

The executive was also asked about Valve's move into the living room with Steam Machines and the Steam Link, and whether he considered them a threat to the Xbox One. Spencer talked about Microsoft's history with Valve, applauding the company's vision and work as "shepherds" of the PC ecosystem for the past 20 years while Microsoft had been "a little bit absent," but he focused more on their relationship in the present than the future.

"I think right now I see it as upside opportunity for both of us," Spencer said. "I think there's enough both innovation and modernisation in gamers - I have a Steam account, I don't think I'm deleting it tomorrow. Ori [and the Blind Forest], one of our games we're shipping this month, we're shipping on Steam. Five years from now you'll be able to buy Steam games and be able to buy games on the Windows store. The conversations we have on a regular basis with Valve - I consider them a critical ISV... er, that's independent software developer - on Windows, and very open to the feedback that they're always active to give. Are they a competitor? I see it as upside opportunity now."

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Latest comments (5)

Joe Winkler trained retail salesman, Expert4 years ago
Good point with the Holo Lens. It's quite unique in my opinion.
We shouldn't forget that Holo Lens is not a competitor to the shown VR Headsets. It's a unique way to implement the "virtual" in your home and "reality". The downsides of the shown VR Headsets like Occulus is still the Problem with Motion sickness. Some People already complained about getting headaches and sickness of some sort. The Hololens is therefore more like an everyday Gadget for everyone and not just Gamers.
That's why Microsoft isn't in a hurry to show the product and maybe wait for the E3 to show more implementation in gaming and it's posibility to extend (much like smartglass) the gaming experience and not to just replace the limited view.
The only concern beside pricing is if it can live up to it's expectations.
Good conference though.
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Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.4 years ago
From the article Phil said " I don't think - and this isn't a shot at VR in any way - I don't think it's landed yet on what it is and how it's going to go to market.."
I would agree with him in many ways. I don't see a mass market for sit down only VR and teleporting to move around feels like jumping back about 30 years. Of course, it doesn't have to be like that and I'm confident that will eventually be recognised.
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Marty Howe Director, Figurehead Studios4 years ago
Thats what I would do. Sit back, and watch how VR performs in the market, which games are good, which games are bad, which VR headset is the best, why is it the best, which games are consumers buying.

Then when the market is 'stable' and somewhat defined, enter the market with your own VR headset and games, using all the lessons learned from watching everyone else fumble out (for lack of a better expression)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Marty Howe on 15th March 2015 3:21am

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Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios4 years ago
The risk with that approach is that one of your competitors could be a clear winner and dominate the market, becoming the de facto standard. I'll grant you that when Microsoft came late to the console market they did a *superb* job on the Xbox - it was significantly better than the PS2, WAY easier to develop on, and they bought Bungie to deliver a great flagship title. But they had to spend a *fortune* to buy their market share even though their offering was superior in most departments, because the competitors were so entrenched.

They were a couple of decades late to the party though, rather than a couple of quarters :) I guess they figure it'll take a few years for the new market to settle down anyway.
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Kevin Hoque Programmer, The Creative Assembly4 years ago
It could be argued that the XB One hardware might well struggle to pump a render a rich stereoscopic environment, at an acceptable resolution and frame rate, to a VR device. This may well be an important aspect that Microsoft has considered. Along with the other points that people have made :)
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