Xbox boss Phil Spencer has reiterated that Xbox has no interest in developing virtual reality hardware.
During a discussion as part of the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech Live event (paywalled and transcribed by VGC), Spencer was asked by a viewer whether Xbox was content to leave VR as a “differentiator” between it and PlayStation, and whether there were risks to doing do.
Spencer replied by stating that while he admired the work going on in the immersive technology sphere, there’s still no interest in making a VR headset for Xbox, and software remains its focus.
“I think that when we think about immersion, we think about mixed reality, virtual reality, I’ll even take it to ‘metaverse’, which seems to be the buzzword of the day now,” Spencer replied.
“We’re big believers in that software platform and the devices that will enable that. Absolutely. [But] we’re focused a lot more on the software side of that right now. When I think about immersive worlds and I think about the connection of a player and community, that’s something that’s very high on our investment list.
“I think the devices that are out there now, we stay connected with a lot of the players that are out there. [With] people building hardware, a lot of that happens on Windows and we experiment and talk to a lot of the partners that are there.
“I think that the hardware innovation that’s happening is great and it’s an important enabler, [but] right now I’m deciding to stay more in the software side of that enablement. I believe it will scale better in the long run.
“And you know, I applaud what Sony’s doing, I applaud what Oculus is doing, what Valve has done. I mean, there’s a lot of good players out there that have done some amazing VR work.
“But yeah, we’re gonna stay as a company right now in the consumer space focused on software, and I think that’s a good bet.”
Spencer attracted criticism in November 2019 with comments he made about virtual reality, which some perceived as being dismissive of the technology.
He called VR a relatively niche and “isolating” format that doesn’t fit with his vision of gaming as a “communal” pastime, adding that when it came to Xbox customer feedback, “nobody’s asking for VR”.
The Xbox head later clarified his comments, stating that he ‘loves’ that the games industry is pioneering in different fields, but that VR “is just not our focus.”
He then stated in February 2020 that while Xbox was not supporting VR, he hoped that one day the space would become “so important that it would be a no-brainer for us”.