Don’t expect virtual reality to play much of a role in Microsoft’s next-generation Xbox console, Project Scarlett.
Speaking to Australian gaming website Stevivor, Xbox chief Phil Spencer noted that VR “is not where [Xbox’s] focus is” as it develops Scarlett.
According to Spencer, VR isn’t something that consumers associate with Xbox or even expect from the company.
“I have some issues with VR — it’s isolating and I think of games as a communal, kind of together experience. We’re responding to what our customers are asking for and… nobody’s asking for VR,” Spencer told Stevivor. “The vast majority of our customers know if they want a VR experience, there’s places to go get those. We see the volumes of those on PC and other places.”
The most notable of those “other places,” the PlayStation 4, prominently features VR through the PlayStation VR headset. Sony has also confirmed that the PS VR is “very important” to the PlayStation ecosystem and will be compatible with the PlayStation 5.
Shortly after Stevivor‘s interview with Spencer went live, Shuhei Yoshida — former president of Sony Worldwide Studios and recently appointed head of Sony’s new indie game division — took to Twitter to make what seems to be a response to the Xbox boss’ comments about VR.
“We oftentimes work hard hard to make things that no customers are asking for them [sic],” tweeted Yoshida.
（´-`）.｡oO（we oftentimes work hard to make things that no customers are asking for them）
— Shuhei Yoshida (@yosp) November 26, 2019
Since launching in October 2016, Sony has supported the PlayStation VR extensively through a wide library of both first- and third-party games like Blood & Truth, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR, The Inpatient, Farpoint, Beat Saber, Moss and Astro Bot Rescue Mission. Numerous bundles and price drops have also been rolled out over time.
Overall, the PlayStation VR is the best-selling premium VR headset, eclipsing sales of the HTC Vive, Oculus and Windows Mixed Reality platforms. Up-to-date sales figures are unknown, but Sony said in March that it has sold 4.2 million PS VR units to date. This number has certainly since risen.
Even with its success, though, PS VR is still a niche product, given that the PS4 has exceeded 100 million units sold. Therefore, Spencer’s comments about demand for VR are certainly not without merit.
Spencer did concede, however, that Xbox “might get there [eventually]” with respect to VR on the platform.
For now, Xbox’s focuses with Project Scarlett are more geared towards growing its first-party lineup of games while doubling down on Game Pass and upcoming xCloud streaming service. Project Scarlett will launch sometime in holiday 2020.