Skyrim proves 'AAA' VR games can work, and Microsoft needs to capitalize fast

Skyrim VR was released for PlayStation VR (PSVR) mid-November 2017, and despite a lot of memes]( to do with Bethesda wringing every last drop of potential out of their hit role-playing game (RPG), Skyrim VR seems to be receiving favorable reviews mostly across the board.

I was lucky enough to spend hours inside Skyrim VR over the last week or so, and have had an enjoyable time. There's no new content as far as the story goes, it's not nearly as polished as many VR experiences we've seen, but the world realized in immersive 3D VR really is something special, especially at this enormous scale.

I've come to the conclusion that the Skyrim VR experience only bodes well for the future of the virtual platform as a whole. A lot of the best VR games max out at only a few hours of playtime, and many don't have the same draw as standard PC or console games that keep you coming back for more over and over and…

See Windows Mixed Reality at Microsoft Store

Competition helps grow VR

Skyrim VR is an enormous boon for PSVR, which can be seen as living in the shadow that the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift cast, at least in terms of raw fidelity. Another shadow-dwelling VR platform is Windows Mixed Reality (WMR). It has arrived late to the party that Oculus is hosting, and the HTC Vive is already good friends with everyone there. PSVR showed up a bit before WMR, but they're both in the same boat: they're quickly making a lot of friends, but the other two systems hog much of the spotlight.

Complete WMR and PSVR bundles cost less than complete Vive and Rift (including extra sensors) systems, and while the PSVR does have some shortcomings — those PS Move controllers are seriously god-awful — WMR is a serious contender when it comes to premier VR systems. The headsets are comfortable, the motion controllers track well and don't require extra sensors set up around your VR space, and SteamVR integration (along with tools like Revive) seemingly put the library of content at an equal size.

What does Skyrim VR have to do with Windows Mixed Reality?

As I was knee deep in bodies after clearing out yet another dungeon with my trusty two-handed battleaxe (who doesn't love playing as an Orc berserker?), I thought to myself: "Imagine if the Xbox One X was powering this, and I was in the Halo universe." Or the Gears universe. Or the Forza universe.

No matter what you read, the graphics in Skyrim VR as it's powered by my regular PS4 aren't anything attractive. When you're up close, say in a tense fight, the look of the game isn't bad, but as soon as you're looking at something at a distance more than 10 feet, everything gets blurry. Luckily, the gameplay makes up for it, but I do wish those stunning vistas that greeted me in the standard PC version of Skyrim could make a reappearance without all the popping in and artifacts.

We all know by this point how much power the Xbox One X is able to produce, and the VR experience with a WMR headset hooked up would no doubt blow away (at least graphically) what the PS4 is capable of. As of now, there's still no absolute answer to the question of whether or not WMR is coming to the Xbox One X.

Even if WMR isn't being powered by the Xbox One X, having a major title — something scaled the same as Skyrim VR — from Microsoft for PC would be a huge deal.

Microsoft is apparently working on Windows Mixed Reality content

Despite not knowing for sure whether WMR is headed to the Xbox One X anytime soon, it seems that Microsoft is working on some content of its own for its headsets. In a statement made to UploadVR, a Microsoft spokesperson said:

We have games from Microsoft Studios in development for Windows Mixed Reality, and several game developers are working closely with us to bring their titles to Windows Mixed Reality.

So, does that mean we're going to see one of Microsoft's beloved franchises head to VR? It's not impossible. We've seen a brief glimpse of this in Halo Recruit, but we're talking something full-scale. Something built from the start for VR would be preferred, even though Bethesda did a good job of porting a game built originally for 2D play.

Having a full-scale, AAA VR game set in a Microsoft-created universe would be an enormous draw and would no doubt help grow the platform by perhaps attracting an audience that wouldn't normally be interested in VR. If WMR did eventually make its way to Xbox One X, that's again making it much more attractive for those who don't want to invest in a PC.

What to do in Windows Mixed Reality for the time being

While we wait to see what Microsoft has in store for WMR, there's plenty to do. The Microsoft Store is full of games and experiences, and now that SteamVR integration has been unleashed, we have that enormous library of content to play with.

How to use SteamVR with Windows Mixed Reality

Fallout 4 VR, the sibling to Skyrim VR, is expected to launch December 12, 2017, on Steam. While it's looking like an HTC Vive exclusive — at least to start out — there will no doubt be someone smart enough to promptly get it working on Oculus Rift and WMR (if it doesn't natively work on the latter platform thanks to SteamVR integration).

Fallout 4 VR promises to bring the same scale of VR experience that Skyrim VR brought, and will no doubt offer better graphics and performance due to it running on a more powerful PC. If Fallout 4 VR does turn out to be a hit, it will also no doubt bring in a new crop of people who were hesitant to get into VR.

If you're wondering where else to look for the best games for WMR, we've tested a few SteamVR titles to ensure they're in working order, and we've also put together a list of some of our favorites available directly from the Microsoft Store.

Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt brings to Windows Central more than eight years of experience writing about laptops, PCs, accessories, games, and beyond. If it runs Windows or in some way complements the hardware, there’s a good chance he knows about it, has written about it, or is already busy testing it.