Xbox chief Phil Spencer confirms virtual reality not a priority for company’s next-generation console

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox at Microsoft, at the Xbox E3 Briefing at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Microsoft Photo)

It looks like virtual reality capabilities won’t be coming to Xbox any time soon.

VR doesn’t fit with Xbox’s perspective of gaming as a communal experience, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of Gaming Phil Spencer said in an interview with New Zealand gaming site Stevivor. Customers aren’t demanding it, so it won’t be a focal point of the next-generation “Project Scarlett” console, according to the report.

“I have some issues with VR — it’s isolating and I think of games as a communal, kind of together experience,” Spencer told Stevivor. “We’re responding to what our customers are asking for and … nobody’s asking for VR,” Spencer said. “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.”

Spencer added that “nobody’s selling millions and millions” of VR headsets. The technology was all the rage a few years ago, but has since cooled off. However, a number of companies continue to make significant VR investments, including Facebook, Sony and HTC.

Microsoft has embraced virtual reality in other parts of the organization. In recent years it has worked with hardware partners on a series of low-cost VR headsets under the Windows Mixed Reality banner and built a VR version of the Windows 10 operating system.

Augmented reality — layering digital information on top of the real world, rather than constructing an entirely virtual experience — is a big priority for Microsoft. Earlier this month, Microsoft began shipping the second generation of its HoloLens AR headset, with a price tag of $3,500.

The bulk of Microsoft’s VR and AR work is focused on the business world. But it also has some important gaming initiatives, most notably the Pokemon Go-esque Minecraft Earth game. This month, the early access version of the game made its U.S. debut, following months of testing.

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