Microsoft's Xbox chief says 'nobody's asking for VR' on Xbox

HP Reverb WMR
HP Reverb WMR (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Phil Spencer says that VR is not a focus of the Xbox team right now.
  • Spencer adds that he thinks VR is "isolating" and that he views games as communal.
  • Spencer also states that "nobody's asking for VR."

Xbox head Phil Spencer shared that virtual reality is not a focus of the Xbox team in a recent interview with Stevivor. In the interview, Spencer discussed how people don't associate the Xbox brand with VR and that "nobody's asking for VR" on the Xbox. The main takeaway is that Spencer indicates that Project Scarlett will not have a VR focus.

Spencer believes that gaming is communal and that VR doesn't help people game together. "I have some issues with VR — it's isolating and I think of games as a communal, kind of together experience," he said.

Spencer emphasized that the Xbox team is responding to customer feedback, which at this time doesn't seem interested in VR. "We're responding to what our customers are asking for and… nobody's asking for VR." He later added, "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."

VR isn't isolating, and it could be a perfect fit for the Xbox ecosystem

Spencer also alluded to the fact that finances are a factor, stating that "nobody's selling millions and millions" of VR units. Sony's PSVR is one of the top VR platforms, and Sony revealed that 4.2 million PSCVR headsets were sold as of March 2019.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

62 Comments
  • Damn right, I have zero interest in VR. It's a fad and a gimmick, I do not want to sit there like a **** in goggles. Keep doing what you are doing Phil dont pander to the minority. I've yet to see anything on vr that makes me want one including the new half life.
  • Why is sitting down wearing a VR headset any better or worse than sitting down alone looking at a TV screen or monitor?
  • It's not, but how comfortable is it and more importantly, where's the killer app? That's the main problem, there's nothing compelling. Everything is either a glorified tech demo or it's shoehorned in.
  • I have an Oculus Quest and think it's a major leap forward, but I understand why people don't love it. I'm more confused by the hatred I see for it on the web.
  • @Sean Endicott The hatred on display is everywhere these days. It's a sign of the times unfortunately. Everything has become polarized with compromise being seen by many as weakness.
  • Yeah but I still don't think it's mass market enough to justify resource investments in the console ecosystem which is meant for a lesser geeky group of players... Sure you have hardcore too but VR on console is more for the core of the core of the hardcore player... I can still wait a generation or more to see it come to console...
    The first time I actually tried VR gaming was in the 90's it came a long way since... But it still has a good few years before becoming mainstream imo
  • Current gen VR is only good for racers and flight sim.
    Your neck structure is the limitation when you sit and your room becomes the limitation when you stand. Basically you cannot move around much or else you hit the wall.
    And you cannot see your surroundings. Till the day we can hijack body signals, to put you static on the floor, to prevent you from hitting walls, VR is not suitable for living room or arcade center. As for now, amusement part is the only place it can work.
    AR is the only viable solution in our living room as for now. And then cables... Current gen VR hype == dreamers and businessmen hype.
  • Ha ha You guys are so predictable. You're a bit like a Richard Loveridge. You'll be here to do damage control and defend MS. Anyway, about your first statement. I'll suggest you play Super hot VR it's brilliant. But I doubt you would do that. Spencer said VR bad... So you know... LOL
  • "Nothing compelling"? I'd have to ask, then, what qualifies as "compelling"? I complete discount the concept of "killer apps" in the first place. That is a nonsensical idea. I can't help but wonder if you have ever played any VR games. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I think FPS-style games are particularly good targets for VR. Driving and flying games especially (side note: it is a mystery to me why Microsoft didn't build the latest Flight Simulator to be VR-native--should have been a no-brainer). I easily spend HOURS in VR on one of my games. It's definitely NOT a "glorified tech demo". In fact, I'm at the point now where I'm hoping that field-of-view will see some dramatic increases, because I'm craving more immersion.
  • I'm sure you understand what "compelling" means: evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way. Yes, I've tried VR, albeit only in a MS store for a couple of hours over a few different visits and I stand by my statement: nothing compelling. It's cool, just not worth the investment, both time & money. You disagree, that's fine, but no need to be butthurt that your opinion and preferences aren't shared by the gaming community at large. Or by the head of Xbox, who has much more information than us and spends a lot more time thinking about this stuff. The bottom line is until there's an experience that generates a lot of buzz and attracts non-core console gamers'/non-VR devotees' attention, which by the way is what I mean by "killer app", VR will continue to exist as a PC gaming niche for folks like you to enjoy. I'm sure it will be mainstream someday, and I look forward to it, but it's clear it's still evolving and it's understandable why MS isn't focusing on it with Scarlett.
  • I have a simple question: What is the "benefit" of viewing first person content on a monitor in comparison with directly through a VR headset? It is pretty self-explanatory that VR isn't a good solution for non-first person content but everything made to be viewed from the latter perspective benefit from it. Arguing that "it is better to play first person games using a monitor/TV than using VR" is nothing more than technological conservatism. VR is the logical development of first person perspective gaming. The only thing that makes it "non-compelling" is conservatism.
  • Seems like I rattled a few cages by saying it's not compelling. You and others disagree, ok, but it's similar to Windows Phone: a technically superior product doesn't guarantee it will be a business success. Consoles are designed years in advance and require predicting the landscape 5 to 10 years out. MS made a business decision they think gives Scarlett the best chance to succeed. Agree or disagree, the decision is understandable and reasonable given what they knew then and where things are now. Maybe it will look different in 12 months or 3 years but c'est la vie. This is all a matter of opinion and it appears a lot of you are emotionally and/or financially invested in VR and Phil's statement was perceived as a personal indictment. Bad MS messaging isn't anything new so I get it but what's the real issue? The message or the delivery?
  • Well Imagine playing Halo 5 on a VR headset online vs people playing the traditional way. The VR person would get his arse handed to him on a plate. The movement is to slow. You'd be dead before you looked to the right or the left.
  • Well, given Microsoft has been so lazy on the software front, it's not surprising. They did the minimum for an ecosystem, then asked everyone else to figure it out. It's the same issue the XB1 Kinect had--Microsoft is a software company, and a game company, but they didn't bother making much effort to provide software or games to play. Kinect Sports Rivals was a clunky mess on XB1. With VR, Microsoft promised Xbox support and proceeded to do nothing. Forza would have been an easy selling point for a VR headset, but they didn't bother. If they made a game in the vein of Robo Recall, but built around the Halo universe, people would be excited. Instead, they gave you a static, point-and-click shooting gallery of dummies as their VR demo, and it's incredibly lame and not worth it, even as a free "game." However, if you're interested in the content, there are plenty of "killer apps." If you don't like it, then the opinion of a "killer app" is meaningless. Personally, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a really fun and funny co-op title in VR. Table tennis games are a blast. VR games built around bar games in general (like pool) are fun to me. Many have spoken well of Beat Saber, though I don't have as much interest in it because it doesn't have a "bring your own music" feature like other music games (Audiosurf comes to mind). Microsoft made a promise (VR will come to XB1X) and broke it. Part of the content issues, like with Kinect, are simply on their unwillingness to do the work.
  • Usually, I never game alone. My wife or family always watch, or sometimes participate. Being on a big screen is a social experience, not isolated.
  • True, but you chose to make it a social experience. You can cast the Oculus Quest to a TV. I'm sure if Microsoft supported VR on the Xbox they could have other people see what you're doing on the screen, probably with less lag.
  • @Asher
    There are loads of local multiplayer games on VR, maybe you'll want to check that out. Also, I don't know if you ever used VR but what you see in your headset is also displayed on the screen.
    If anything this is much a social experience than isolating because anyone can join and play.
    For the general public, a VR game is much easier to play than a game with controller. For me, Spencer is clearly doing some PR damage control and talking bs.
  • 1. You can set up multiple machines with VR (costly, I know, but not as much if MS had brought affordable VR to Xbox like they promised). 2. There are games that allow you to play with one person in the headset at a time and the other on a traditional PC, so you don't have to be alone or take turns. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is one example. There is another, whose name I can't recall, where you have one person making orders in a diner and another delivering them. Stuff like that works pretty well. 3. I mostly play either alone, or in a way that's fairly isolated. There are times my sister and I are both playing the same game on the Switch, but by ourselves. We talk to each other while we play and do stuff, like playing our own Pokémon games. No everyone saves gaming for playing multiplayer/co-op. If games like Breath of the Wild and The Outer Worlds and Sekiro and Fallen Order can exist, then there's clearly room in the market for "isolating" experiences. It's a stupid excuse to pretend single-player titles aren't big sellers.
  • It's worse because the gane experiences are worse. A VR game is linear on rails. And for games where it's not its very very slow to play.
  • It's about what you can do. I don't use first-person in Forza, in part, because the monitor is farther from your face and the camera doesn't look around smoothly/elegantly (it's hard to explain, but it is a normal panning in your immediate FoV, but looking behind or to the sides jumps in an unnatural way). A VR headset would offer a much better experience. In some games, the interaction changes COMPLETELY. One I tried is Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, where one player tries to defuse a bomb off of instructions from another player. It's really cool because you can physically pick up and turn the bomb with your hands, rather than point-and-click interaction from a traditional PC setup. The new Flight Simulator doesn't really interest me as-is, but I would totally be up for trying it in VR, if you got a more realistic set of interaction with VR controls and that same idea of turning your head to look around the landscape. It's really that cool, IMO. Anytime you can rework the way you interact in the game, there is value to be explored. Physically pulling your arms apart to draw a bow? Much cooler and interesting than holding a trigger. Turning your body to look around a room? Much more engaging than pushing a stick around. Have you tried VR table tennis? It's so freaking cool, and much more immersive and physically engaging than tapping a button and pushing a joystick. It's all of the stuff the original Wii and Kinect tried to do, but on steroids.
  • I find that statement humorous. While I certainly agree that VR isn't a good fit for a lot of games, for most first-person games it really is transformative. Your statement about not wanting to "sit there...in goggle" is fine for you, if you're that worried about what you look like. I buy a game to be entertained by the experience in the best possible way. And I find that, for the most part, first-person games are significantly more fun to play in VR than the traditional way. Especially flying or driving games. Perhaps there really isn't a huge demand for VR on Xbox, and that's likely because we have a lot of games on PC that support VR. I don't have a lot of respect for Phil Spencer to begin with, but if he and his team feel it's smarter to leave VR to be exploited by the PC arena and keep console gaming old-school, fine. For me, it simply adds to reasons why I don't find console gaming fun in the least. It's like going backwards.
  • @ Ian
    Great. Because Ian Rhodes is not a fan, XB shouldn't support VR.
    I guess he is an idiot for supporting Japanese games because it's probably a minority of people who wants it. Same for racing games, fighting games...
    I guess they should stop selling any game that doesn't sell millions and millions... What ever happened to provide option and diversity to your platform?
    How is it a bad thing for a customer and gamer? How is having more option bad?
    I find it weird that a real gamer wants less options.
  • That you think VR is "put on a headset and sit" suggests you don't know much of what is there. Plenty of games involve being on your feet and moving. You can get a serious workout in some of the games, even ones that are more intended to be a game than some kind of effort to make a fitness title. I've seen my cousin work up a decent sweat in GORN, where you're physically fighting people and moving around a room. Table tennis is awesome in VR, and plays totally different than using a controller. Yeah, there is a "sit and play" element with things like racing titles, but even that gives you the chance to be better immersed and engaged in the cockpit.
  • Damn dude you got big holes in your brain be careful someone might try to **** those things they lookin real wet and slippery ya know
  • 'Spencer believes that gaming is communal and that VR doesn't help people game together.' I have no social inclination concerning gaming, so I'm the exact opposite of what he's imagining; for that same reason, I rarely use my Xbox One X and won't be upgrading when at some point it becomes obsolete. The new Star Wars game is just up my alley, and I'll be buying it once my calendar frees up a bit...
  • I think he's wrong. In fact, I know he's wrong. Can I have VR on Xbox One? :D Seriously though, how is there anything communal about playing a console in your own home against someone who's hundreds if not thousands of miles away? It's not like they're sitting on your couch right next to you. Couch co-op used to be a thing, but it's just not with AAA titles anymore as they've all gone to online play. I think the one genre that would benefit the most from VR tech and has benefited the most is your simulators. The feeling of actually sitting in the cockpit of a race car or a space ship is not something to be taken as just a fad. And with Microsoft coming out with their new Flight Simulator game next year, that would be a prime candidate for VR. Why would you not capitalize on that?
  • I totally agree. Rocket League and some other games work for local multiplayer but many multiplayer games today require two consoles anyway. If I'm playing with someone else online anyway, why does it matter if I'm watching a TV or a headset?
  • He also says that Xbox customers aren't asking for it. I would hope the head of Xbox has some idea what his customers want.
  • I think he's exaggerating when he says "nobody." I'm a somebody, so that's one person. I know of other people in the same camp. I agree that it's probably not a large number, but Phil has been against VR for a long time and him saying definitive statements like "nobody" seems to cloudy things.
  • It's called PR. For me, he is clearly downplaying it because they aren't doing it.
    In 2016 it was a "big feature of Scorpio" and it would "enable magical experiences on Scorpio".
  • Yes, because blanket statemts like that are ALWAYS correct. 😜
  • One of the main reason i bought the XboxX was they promise that will have "high fidelity VR" and they let me down...
  • Years ago, I bought a 360 because MS said they had exclusive content for a game. It turned out to be timed exclusivity. From that day I never trusted MS when they talked of exclusives. I guess people should never believe these companies until the final product is released.
  • Out of curiosity what game was that? 360 did so well early on because it had more Exclusives than PS3. Oblivion, Mass Effect, Bioshock etc. For the first 3 years 360 dominated the games.
  • It was the DLC for GTA IV.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11qCQ-Ov-Q4 It's funny that you mentioned those games. Because they all turned out on PS3. It's ridiculous how many times they mislead gamers with their fake anti-gaming exclusive.
    And while X360, had a few of those at the start of the gen, they focused on kinect for the rest while forgetting about making their own games for almost 10 years... Yes, at the time I believed MS but I was naive. I think many people now know what MS is really all about. Cannot be trusted with exclusives or other things...
  • I certainly understand that many people game alone, and in that case, using VR isn't isolating, because you're already alone. However, I'm sure there are also a lot us who play with friends or family in the room watching. I suspect Phil has data showing how many game alone vs. how many game with others around. I'm ridiculously lucky, because my wife and kids actually like to watch me game. My preference is for first person games, but I'm not doing VR, because I'd lose that time with my family. From Phil's quote, it sounds like the data indicate that playing with friends or family around are more common than gaming alone. I care much more about an immersive story than immersive visuals. I do prefer first-person to third person, but only because I find it much easier to have tight control over the action in first person, where third person always feels awkward to me. I'm interested in the new Star Wars game, but may pass on it solely because it doesn't include a first-person viewing option. But camera controls with a controller (on Xbox) or mouse (on PC) are plenty good and fast enough that I don't need VR. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for options and a VR option would be fine with me, but I personally agree with Phil -- very low priority. Now, if we could take multiple people inside a room like a Holodeck… I would definitely go for THAT over a screen and controller.
  • I'm interested to see how xcloud can be used in VR
  • The subject and reaction by some MS "fans" always make me laugh.
    Their opinion will always depend on whether MS is doing.
    Initially they were all against saying that AR is the real deal. MS was hyping HoloLens at the time. It even had around 15 minutes on XB E3 stage).
    Then when Spencer announced Scorpio he talked about VR and hyped that. So the same "fans" changed their opinion saying VR will be great on Scorpio. It'll be the best VR around or whatever...
    Then MS cancelled that idea and Spencer talked about waiting for wireless VR.
    As a result, waiting for wireless was the opinion of these people. Now Spencer the God says it's isolating. The minions will repeat and also say it's "isolating" and they don't want it. This makes me laugh. :) But I also wonder, when will these people have their own opinion?
  • It also goes against MS and Spencer's own message. Provide diversity and option. Let players play the way they want to play and on the device they want to play. I think it's also bs when he says VR is isolating. If anything VR games is more communal because a lot of gamers can play them. There are a lot of party games plus whatever the gamer sees on his headset is often visible on the TV. For me, his reply is nonsense. They might as well stop distributing every single player games. They might as well stop selling Japanese games, or games that doesn't sell millions and millions of copies. For me, this is just damage controlling PR just because they aren't doing VR and the competition is.
  • MS not contradicting itself and not changing course from prior "commitments" would be newsworthy; doing it is simply par for the course. Regardless, it doesn't mean it's the wrong decision and ultimately they are doing what they think is best given their objective which unfortunately will disappoint some consumer segment. Would you feel better if he admitted they simply can't be everything to everyone and they made a calculated decision to not focus on VR based on resources, budget, how they want to position Scarlett, the next-next gen plan which I'm sure is already being worked on, and a myriad of other factors which probably went into the decision?
  • @spicypadthai
    Yes. A bit more honest. Instead of trying to trash VR and contradicting himself.
  • What you are saying about VR is actually the same things that made the Kinect, Wii and other motion games a good thing. It brought families and non-gamers into the group. I think you are totally on point about a PR statement and I really hate blanket statements like "nobody wants VR. I care little about VR myself until there is a real wireless alternative there. Real hand controls like Hololens would be great too. Maybe one day they can do a combination of Kinect and VR and have a new experience.
  • Well okay, but at the end of the day Phil is paid to make profitable decision... Not to entertain a certain hatred between gamers.. And pretty sure if they axe things or add them along the way it's because their is an actual benefit that will translate in more profitability.... Of course there is some PR in all that, but the bottom line is the same... Making $$$$... And MS and Xbox are rather good at it...
    And all the datas I have seen from Sony concerning PSVR shows that it is far from essential for MS to invest in that yet... I'd rather have them focus on 1st party games and studio aquisition..
    And it's not like VR can't be implemented on the run in a few years if things changes...
  • I'm not sure about them making $$$$.
    But why it can't be both. VR and 1st party. It's not a "OR" but rather a "AND".
    Plus when MS said they'll have VR on Scorpio they weren't planning in making their own VR headset. They wanted to have a 3rd party headset compatible for the console. Wouldn't the investment be much lower if all they focus on is to make an existing headset compatible? Scorpio/Scarlett are like VR-capable PC. Powerful enough to run any headset. And finally even if it's just about money, I would have rather wanted him to be honest and say that rather than criticise VR and say "no one want is". It's an insult to all XB owners who even have a slight interest in it.
  • Nobody is asking because xbox team already told us many times over since VR became a thing that the xbox isn't getting VR support. So those that did want VR on a console just got the PSVR instead, or jumped to PC.
    That is not the same as nobody wants xbox VR, Phil. Still I can see why they don't want VR on the xbox. If you're the xbox team and you're looking over yourshoulder at the Mixed Reality setup on Windows, you'd be like Heck No too.
    Seriously tho, maybe the 4.5million PSVR headsets that have been sold isn't enough for Microsoft. Maybe Microsoft is scared of their anti-kinect gamers revolting. Or, as it usually was a case of, Sony already signed up the majority of big publishers for VR titles as exclusive deals for the PSVR. It's a shame as well. With Game Pass and Play Anywhere a thing now, we could have had VR titles coming out of our ears on the PC side of things, and the Xbox one X or next gen coming along and filling in the gaps.
  • 4.5 million I doubt any studio will develope exclusively for that number it is indeed ridiculous, especially since the attach rate will be nothing close to that number.... VR is indeed not a justifiable investment for console right here right now... Especially with MS having 1st party games and studio issues to catch up first... To me it's a financially wise decision which is what really matters... And it ain't like Sony as a whole is famous for their quality profitable management over the past few decades...
  • If games were so communal, Microsoft would churn out more local co-op experiences.
  • Not that this makes your comment any less true, but the new Battletoads wont have online coop, only local. Same goes for Cuphead, though that isn't a 1st party game.
  • Well they made halo infinite local Co op a big selling point so I'm pretty sure data shows it is indeed a big selling point and a bigger one than VR... Remember Phil is here to make business decisions that are profitable at the end of the day.
  • That's because the idiots removed it from Halo 5 and got backlash.
  • @JMV
    Spencer was also there when they removed that "important" feature out of Halo 5.
    At the time, MS "fans" were defending that decision saying it was a useless feature.
    At the time the same Spencer said something like how the "vast majority" aren't using split screen. He said this:
    "I love the nostalgia of the couch co-op of what Halo did in the past, but I also know in the realities of the day with people's busy lives, it's not as easy to get everybody in the same physical place. It's one of the advantages that Xbox Live obviously offers." Which for me is as ridiculous as this VR statement, and that's just done to justify why they aren't doing it. Yes, it's a business and some people got to remember that Spencer is just there to sell his product. Profit is what matter for these people. We as gamers should have our own opinion, having opinions simply based on what this guy is saying.
  • VR sales are so pathetically bad at this point, what is the point? PSVR has sold terribly. The slowest moving peripheral add on for a console ever released. Even Mega CD for Mega Drive sold more. A few million VR sales in over 3 years is like trying to use a defibrilater on thr VR market. Don't waste money on it MS. Sony will have lost tons on R&D for PSVR. Oculus is also struggling and their VR experience is of a much higher grade the PSVR. The sales show VR is dead. If Kinect was dead at 25 million sales. VR is dead at 4 million total.
  • Well, when Microsoft releases a platform (WMR) and doesn't develop any content, then promises VR support for their console, then doesn't do it, it's not surprising sales aren't good. I've been wanting to buy a headset, and thought Forza would get VR support with the XB1X launch, but they didn't bother. Kinect and Windows Phone suffered similar fates--Microsoft didn't commit to software development and the platforms languished and died. They blame lack of interest when the lack of interest is in these half-baked efforts they don't support. Microsoft made, like, one XB1 game for Kinect. They haven't made a single ACTUAL game for WMR, that I've seen (they had that lame shooting galley on the Windows Store, but it's trash). Maybe sales would be better if Microsoft committed something more than the bare minimum to the experience. They went and rebuilt their Paint applications multiple times to support Windows Ink and the Surface experience. They developed all of these niche products for Surface, like the $3,000+ Studio and the Dial, to support the brand and the concepts behind it. They didn't give anything close to that kind of attention or love to Kinect and WMR. They didn't even do it for Band, Zune, or Windows phones either. Maybe if Microsoft tried, rather than expecting everyone else to do the dirty work, the sales would come in.
  • They made that statement when PSVR just released. By the time One X actually released VR was already dead. Since the One X has come out PSVR has just scraped past 4 million. Any company with anything worth their salt is not going to jump to bring a product very clearly the large majority of gamers don't have any interest in. It seems extremely stupid at this point to put a whole load of resources and game development teams into a product that just won't sell. And take away resources from the company to provide AAA normal gaming content. If someone can show me how VR