Xbox Series X, Series S VR references surface in Microsoft Flight Simulator

Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S
Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft Flight Simulator soon receives its first iteration of virtual reality (VR) support, following the launch of its latest, cloud-powered entry in August. Microsoft recently opened applications for an imminent VR closed beta, aiming to test its initial implementation among a subset of players, ahead of a broader rollout scheduled for the months ahead. However, recent PC game code changes have drawn attention to upcoming Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S versions, including references to an Xbox-compatible VR mode for the next generation.

Microsoft previously outlined plans to bring the new Microsoft Flight Simulator to Xbox consoles, although staggered beyond its PC version launch. Developer, Asobo Studio, has remained tight on its console plans, simply reaffirming development remains underway. But recent updates to the Microsoft Flight Simulator PC client now include references to that Xbox version, including calls to the Scarlett codename.

The findings come from Flight Simulator forum user Cygnifick, claiming multiple Xbox-related strings found in-game files, including references to

PC_VR

and

Scarlett_VR

. The latter suggests Microsoft has at least toyed with the concept of VR support on its upcoming consoles, although likely relates to internal tests rather than an imminent retail product. Windows Central has since verified their presence in the Microsoft Flight Simulator game files with the user.

The Scarlett moniker traditionally denotes a family of devices, which includes Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, also known as Anaconda and Lockhart, respectively. While highly suggestive of a considered VR solution for Xbox Series devices, Scarlett also doesn't refer exclusively to traditional consoles, and one could speculate a new form of standalone wireless device. We also know Microsoft once considered VR support back on Xbox One X, but dropped support before its 2017 release.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Scarlett VR

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

It once again reignites the potential for VR under the Xbox name. However, the company remains averse, with executive vice-president of Gaming at Microsoft, Phil Spencer, previously expanding on its reasoning earlier this year. "We're not going to do that," Spencer stated on the GamerTag Radio podcast. "I understand certain people would want that. We have to focus our efforts on the things we're doing right now. And the most precious resource that we have is the team and their ability. And I just have to focus on the things we're doing right now. [...] VR is not as simple as plugging your headset. You have to redo the dash[board]. There's a bunch of work that goes into it."

But plans can always change as VR adoption continues to scale, with a recent September Steam hardware survey suggesting ownership sits around 24.93% on PC. Microsoft has its own VR platform for Windows 10 PCs, Windows Mixed Reality, which the company plans to leverage for its initial round of Flight Simulator VR trials.

In the meantime, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are set to launch on November 10, 2020.

Xbox (opens in new tab)

Main

Matt Brown is Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

9 Comments
  • Given the disaster of the Kinect, I can see why they want to avoid VR. The last figure said that Sony has sold 5 million headsets. While a lot, that is still only a fraction of the PS4 userbase. Given that Microsoft already supports VR on Windows, I just don't think they see the Xbox as a VR platform.
  • Not really comparable at all. Kinect was a disaster because of lack of support paired with it being bundled as standard for everyone, whether they like it or not, on an uncompetitively priced console. And that's before even getting into the privacy concerns floating around in the years surrounding the Snowden leaks. That said, I don't think Xbox needs VR just yet. VR is outstanding at it's peak in games like Half Life Alyx but precious few games seize that potential. I think by the time the next console gen comes around, VR will have matured to the point it makes more sense on console.
  • The Kinect was an absolute godsend when it was used to enhance the experience rather than replace it, Alien Isolation and the Forza/Horizon games had the absolute best Kinect implementation I'd ever seen. And it actually made the games better. But there was too much focus on party/sport games and the absolutely dreadful first experience that was Crimson Dragon. Kinect should have been marketed as a complimentary feature, not a replacement.
  • To say Microsoft supports VR on PC is pretty generous. They don't produce any legitimate content. They basically put together the WMR platform and left the OEMs to make devices and third-parties were expected to produce content. It's more like a passing advantage of their enterprise MR efforts, such as with HoloLens. Kinect is honestly a similar story. A big part of its failure is how little Microsoft did to help it succeed. They made, like, 2 meaningful XB1 titles for the Kinect--Xbox Fitness and Kinect Sports Rivals. The latter was OK, but lacking in content and somewhat buggy on a couple of its games. They needed to give it tracking improvements or add more content for it to stay interesting. The former had some decent F2P content. The downside to that is there wasn't a major incentive to then spend on what was some very expensive DLC. Getting additional workouts could run you $50, plus a lot of them required additional workout equipment. Microsoft did a lot to make the Kinect unlikable. I think it would have been a great companion to a MR headset with Xbox VR, where the headset doesn't have external sensors (which can cause a few hiccups in tracking). If Microsoft did something other than release hardware and throw its hands in the air when it wasn't magically successful with little content, I'd be in greater agreement with your point. Kinect's failures might be a factor in the decision, but I think that's because MS did an openly poor job.
  • I might be reading too much into it but "we're not going to do that" could mean that *the Xbox team* specifically isn't working on it but maybe someone else is. It might be more practical for the WMR team to customize the existing hololens/MR shell and then hand it off to Phil rather than the Xbox team dedicating the resources to build a whole new one from scratch. It's probably easier to implement now with the new consoles running CoreOS than it was previously and that's why they didn't do it before.
  • Any VR experience on the Xbox would suffer from lack of titles and mediocrity as far as I can tell. To be successful they would need to get steam and/or oculus titles and stores on the platform. Perhaps they are looking at niche ways for Flight Simulator to be used in place of a gaming PC. Meaning only support for that title. WMR is not a great experience
  • I wonder how this will be set up. With only one HDMI port on these consoles, setup might be a bit of a chore. I wonder if MS will consider a first-party HDMI switch or something. I would imagine a lot of people being frustrated by having to pull the console from the entertainment center to swap between the headset and TV. I'd have it on a PC monitor, which is much easier to fumble with, but that's probably far from the norm.
  • Meh... Unless they are going for a wireless experience then I'm not interested. Even then, I might just try it a few times for the gimmick. The reason I play on console and not PC is that I like my gaming to be a lazy experience of sitting on my couch plopped in front my TV.
  • Hololens 3 and Hololens 3 Pro perhaps? The original Hololens project was meant for Xbox and gaming.