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
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.
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.