Virtual reality is one of the hottest commodities in the gaming industry, with technologies like the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and PlayStation VR emerging on the consumer market. It seems that most signs are pointing to VR for the future of gaming, and Microsoft has taken note of that. During an interview with Gamasutra, Phil Spencer, current head of Xbox, revealed that Microsoft has a vision for VR.
The basis of Spencer's discussion with Gamasutra's Alex Wawro, which took place at Microsoft's Washington headquarters, centered around how Xbox plans to evolve in the coming years. Handheld system possibilities, design and development details on the upcoming Project Scorpio, and the shift from the Xbox 360 to the current generation of consoles were amongst the topics talked about. But later in the conversation, the subject of virtual reality was broached.
When asked where Microsoft stands with VR, Spencer candidly stated that there's a plan for it. Spencer explained that the though company is "still learning... how to pain on the VR canvas," it's keeping its ideas under wraps for the time being. "There is a plan. I'll say that. This is not a we don't know what we're doing; it's more that we aren't saying yet. I think it's an immersive experience," he said.
Spencer also touched upon this multi-faceted experience Microsoft is focusing on, stating that he doesn't think any of the current VR verticals are "really big enough yet to support a single experience." That being said, Spencer believes that Windows is the hub of opportunity for VR, the single best space to learn about its development.
"The most innovative space to go, and the most open space to go and learn about what VR is, is Windows. Because anybody can go and take their Windows PC, and we're now coming with our Windows HMDs that are lower-priced and will support a broader spec of PCs, so that any developer if they really want to go learn about VR development, can go plug one of these things and go party on it. Because that's the kind of activation we need, to figure out what's really happening in VR."
As far as what Microsoft's plans for VR entail, Spencer explained that his personal approach, at least, is to "try and take a more open and inclusive approach to VR" that will stand apart from closed ecosystem competitors. Openness is at the forefront of future plans because, according to Spencer, cross-platform support is crucial for the success of VR.
"I'm going to try and be as open as we can, definitely across the platforms that we support," said Spencer. "Because I think that right now if you're a developer, you're just looking for oxygen to go sell your game. And having to pick the winner in VR, this early, feels like a path to not having this space really take off, to me."
To Spencer, the gaming industry is right at the beginning of the VR journey, which will likely span at least a decade. And though Project Scorpio will support VR, as Xbox executives stated onstage at E3 2016, Spencer doesn't think that "we've seen the things that we need to really have VR break out." Perhaps Microsoft's approach will provide gamers the immersive experience Spencer is focused on, and kickstart something new for virtual reality as a whole.