Does the Xbox Series X or Series S support virtual reality (VR)?
So, uh, why not?
Considering Microsoft has its very own VR platform in the form of Windows Mixed Reality, you'd think VR would be a no-brainer on the Xbox platform, including the next-gen Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. Sadly, it simply isn't the case for a variety of reasons.
First and foremost, Microsoft isn't convinced there's a profitable market for VR as of yet; with attach-rates on the PlayStation VR headset, perhaps the cheapest entry point for the medium remains invariably low. Here's what NPD analyst Mat Piscatella had to say on the topic recently.
The data suggest that Phil Spencer is spot on with his assessment of VR gaming. Perhaps someday this market can develop, but it's been years and the overwhelming majority of games consumers just don't care. Rounding error of rounding error for games spending, tiny niche.The data suggest that Phil Spencer is spot on with his assessment of VR gaming. Perhaps someday this market can develop, but it's been years and the overwhelming majority of games consumers just don't care. Rounding error of rounding error for games spending, tiny niche.— Mat Piscatella (@MatPiscatella) November 26, 2019November 26, 2019
Xbox head Phil Spencer elaborated further on the 1000th episode of GamerTag Radio (which is awesome by the way), offering some more details on the reasons why Microsoft isn't jumping head-first into VR for Xbox Series X.
Spencer remains optimistic about VR, however, going on to suggest that one day, perhaps it could be a "no-brainer" to bring it to Xbox.
As of May 2020, VR got a big boost thanks to Half-Life: Alyx, but month-over-month growth seems relatively low, with Steam only adding 0.1% more Steam users with VR headsets in the latest Steam survey. The appetite for VR may simply not be there, or we may need to wait for prices to drop, comfort to increase, and other ergonomic improvements before it hits the mainstream. At the very least, it looks like we're not getting VR on Xbox Series X or any other Xbox for that matter, at least in the near-term.
A glimmer of VR hope?
Despite the fact the Xbox Series X or S hasn't shipped with VR, there might be a glimmer of VR hope, data-mined from the insides of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 on PC.
Recently, we saw code references within Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, which refer to something called "Scarlett VR." The Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S are both parts of the codename family "Scarlett," which refers to the family of consoles and accessories designed for the new generation. If there are code references to something called "Scarlett VR," that, at a bit of a reach, could suggest Microsoft has been experimenting with VR devices for the "Scarlett" generation of console hardware. Of course, it could also be exactly that: an experiment, with no intent to come to the public.
Either way, it's not looking likely we'll see VR on next-gen consoles from Xbox any time soon, so your best options are PC and PlayStation VR instead.
Cheapest point of entry
If you don't already own a VR-capable PC, the PS4 is the cheapest entry point to VR gaming.
Mixed reality alternative
WMR, SteamVR, great VR
This is the most accessible headset on PC without descending into discomfort and questionable quality and has access to all Steam VR games.
Xbox Series X/S
Get the Windows Central Newsletter
All the latest news, reviews, and guides for Windows and Xbox diehards.
Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!