With Half-Life: Alyx announced as a VR-exclusive title on Steam, everyone is again considering whether VR will truly take off. It seemed that the discussion had died down for a while, but with Half-Life: Alyx's announcement selling out Valve's Index VR headset, it's become relevant again. And it begs the question of whether VR will finally become widespread. Further, on the console side of things, and given the success of the PSVR headset, when will Microsoft finally give in and join the VR competition?
Recently, it had been projected that Sony has made about $2 billion in revenue from the PSVR headset and its software. Of course, not all of these profits go to Sony, as some of it goes to distributors, developers, and other involved entities. However, the point is that the PSVR has been a massive success and is part of the reason why Sony has been winning this generation, compared to the closer competition in the previous generation.
However, despite the fact that PSVR may be part of why Sony is dominating in this generation of consoles, Microsoft gaming executive VP Phil Spencer said that there is no demand by anyone for VR. Furthermore, he indicated that there are other venues for VR devices and that VR isn't profitable enough.
These are fairly solid reasons to stay out of the VR game. Ultimately, it comes down to a question of cost versus benefit. As it is now, the cost of producing VR units and software may outweigh their benefit. Of course, the projected $2 billion in revenue from PSVR suggests that virtual reality might have been a worthwhile expenditure on Sony's part. However, Microsoft is in a different situation this generation, having sold far fewer Xbox Ones than Sony did PS4s and, therefore, not attracting as large an audience. It's a matter of whether VR would help attract more people to the Xbox platform.
So, the question remains: Does the Xbox need VR? Technically, no. The Xbox One could finish off this generation without any VR device and all will seem to have gone okay. However, Microsoft's overall performance this generation has been lackluster compared to the last one. It could be due to software, streaming options, indie games, or other reasons, but the Xbox One still doesn't really need a VR device. It's not too late; it's just unnecessary.
Going forward, it's a different situation. Leaks show that Sony might eventually release the PSVR 2 but not for a while. While PSVR likely wasn't as successful as Sony would have hoped for, the option of using a VR device likely helped steer some gamers on the fence toward it, and the same would seemingly go for the PSVR 2. As such, if Microsoft wants Project Scarlett to beat PS5, then perhaps it's time to enter the VR arena.
It's harder and more costly than it sounds, but Microsoft might do well to go VR in the next generation of consoles. Simply having the option of VR is an understated advantage that the PlayStation 4 has over the Xbox One currently. If Project Scarlett had a VR option, things might look a little different come the holiday season of 2020 and beyond.