In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Xbox Game Studios head Matt Booty reiterated that Xbox is not planning to embrace virtual reality (VR) anytime soon. Despite the ongoing interest and advancements in VR and augmented reality (AR) technologies within the gaming and tech industries, Xbox remains cautious, waiting for a substantial audience before considering first-party VR development.
Booty emphasized the need for significant scale and audience reach, citing the requirement for at least 10 million players to deem VR a successful venture for Xbox. He acknowledged that while Xbox has achieved this level of success with ten games, VR and AR have not yet garnered such widespread adoption. This perspective suggests that VR hardware is unlikely to be integrated into the Xbox ecosystem in the foreseeable future.
Comparing Booty’s benchmark with the sales figures of Sony’s PSVR, it becomes apparent why Xbox may be hesitant to invest further in VR. Between its release in 2016 and the last reported sales figures in 2020, the PSVR had sold five million units. While Sony confirmed that the PSVR2 outsold its predecessor in the first six weeks of release, the overall sales numbers for VR devices are not currently meeting the desired thresholds.
This cautious approach aligns with the analysis from the International Data Corporation (IDC), as reported by Bloomberg. The IDC suggests that the low unit sales of VR devices, including the PSVR2, may be attributed to the current economic climate, characterized by rising costs of living, interest rates, and layoffs. Francisco Jeronimo, the vice president of data and analytics at IDC, states that VR headsets are not a priority for most consumers given these economic factors.
These recent comments from Matt Booty are consistent with the views expressed by Xbox boss Phil Spencer at the 2021 WSJ Tech Live event. Spencer acknowledged the potential of VR technology but emphasized that Xbox is currently focused on software, believing it to have better scalability in the long run. While acknowledging the impressive VR work done by other players in the industry, Spencer emphasized that Xbox’s consumer space strategy is centered around software development.
While an Xbox VR release seems unlikely in the near future, considering their current software-focused approach and a robust lineup of upcoming games, Xbox remains attentive to consumer trends. If there is a significant shift in consumer demand for VR devices, Xbox will be prepared to respond accordingly.
However, given the existing competition in the market and Xbox’s historical reluctance to invest in VR hardware development, it is advisable not to hold one’s breath for an imminent Xbox VR release. For now, Xbox’s focus on software indicates a commitment to delivering engaging gaming experiences while observing the VR landscape from a distance.