Sony's E3 2017 presentation might have briefer than expected, but VR was well and truly on the menu. From Microsoft? Not one iota. Has it forgotten last year promising the Xbox One X (at the time Scorpio) would be VR-ready? Does it not remember getting Bethesda's Todd Howard to pop his head up and praise a console powerful enough to run Fallout 4 VR?
If you watched Microsoft's 2017 briefing, you'd be forgiven for thinking so. Just ahead of the show Microsoft said it wouldn't reveal an Xbox headset in LA, the reason being that it wanted to concentrate its VR efforts on the PC space right now, but we were holding out for at least a plan.
Since Sunday, things have only got more confusing. In a statement it told Wareable it has "nothing to share" on the matter right now, but that "We believe that right now a Windows PC is the best platform for mixed reality". Xbox head Phil Spencer also told the BBC that he doesn't believe there's a strong enough market for console VR right now. "I don't get many questions about consoles and mixed reality in the living room," he said. "When I do this on my PC, I'm closer to my PC - that seems to be a much more user-friendly scenario today."
And yet earlier this year, in a blog post, Microsoft committed to bring mixed reality to the Xbox One family in 2018.
Meanwhile, Sony is blazing ahead with one million plus PS VR headsets sold, and after revealing Skyrim VR will be coming to PS4 this November, I suspect it won't have trouble shifting a few more. Granted, that number pales in comparison to the PS4's 55-million strong install base, but as it indicated this is the most popular non-smartphone VR headset out there right now, it's not to be sniffed at.
Sony brought a variety of VR titles to E3, including The Inpatient
Sony dedicated a sizable chunk of its E3 press conference to VR, announcing six brand new games, including the immersive new Skyrim, four fleshed-out-looking titles and a new Final Fantasy XV add-on. Beyond the games announced at the show I got to try a small handful of other as-yet-unreleased titles that proved Sony's offering is maturing and diversifying.
These are early days for a technology that's yet to find a large market, and Microsoft's hesitance to step in is understandable, but if it's completely pulled back on VR support for Xbox it needs to express that clearly.
If so, there's a clear differentiator here. Microsoft's Mixed Reality platform may help set itself apart in the PC space, even if it's really more VR than "mixed" (another thing the messaging is a bit cloudy on) but Sony is going to have the more mainstream appeal for the near future. There's no doubting that the Xbox One X is powerful enough to run good VR, so if Microsoft has U-turned on the idea then I think it's a shame to waste that added gruntpower. Plus, with its partnerships with Acer, HP etc it has a chance to make console VR even more affordable than Sony's offering.
Whatever the case, for the people who are thinking about jumping into VR and are currently weighing up the options right now, Microsoft is going to have to set out its plan more clearly.
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