A message uncovered by IGN Italy when plugging in a pair of wireless headphones into an Xbox Series X/S caused a stir in the VR community, as it seemingly alluded to some level of VR support baked into Xbox consoles. Microsoft says however that the error message was inaccurate, and that VR for Xbox is still not a happening.

The review embargoes dropped two days ago for the Xbox Wireless headset (not a VR headset, rather the audio kind), but when IGN’s Italian site ran the headset through its paces for review, a very curious message appeared when connecting it for the first time. In English, it reads:

The VR headset must be updated. An update is available for the VR headset.

Image courtesy IGN Italia

Some prognosticated that Microsoft has mistakenly leaked VR support for Xbox, something it has repeatedly rebuked in the past. Others, who probably ran the message through Google Translate, chalked it up to a simple typo tantamount to mistakenly adding the letters ‘VR’ in front of ‘headset’. It’s not a typo though.

In English, we use ‘headset’ interchangeably with VR, AR and audio, but that’s not the case in Italian. Long story short, the word visore VR can be translated to ‘VR headset’ in English, but its more literal meaning is ‘VR viewer’.

A statement obtained by VGC from an Xbox spokesperson maintains that the message was a mistake though, calling it “inaccurate due to a localization bug.” Furthermore, the company added that “VR for console is not a focus for us at this time.”

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This tracks with Microsoft’s long-term stance on VR for Xbox consoles going back to Xbox One. More recently, Xbox head Phil Spencer dismissed VR in late 2019 as something that was just too isolating to be pursued even for its Xbox Series X/S consoles.

“I have some issues with VR — it’s isolating and I think of games as a communal, kind of together experience. We’re responding to what our customers are asking for and… nobody’s asking for VR,” Spencer said.

Still, money left on the table is getting larger by the day. Sony has generated over two billion dollars in revenue with PSVR hardware and software sales. Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 has outsold every headset it’s produced, with an estimated three million units sold and over $150 million in app sales on the Quest platform.

And this is all while Xbox Game Studios is sitting on tons of VR development talent (inadvertently or otherwise), a console clearly capable of running VR games, and internal Microsoft departments working on immersive headsets. Virtual reality may prove to be too big to ignore at some point, but it seems at least for now Xbox simply isn’t ready to compete.

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  • Philippe Majerus

    1. The localisation is typically handled by external companies and the quality is sometimes very concerning, and that it is translated from the en-US version by translators that often don’t realize (or care about) the context of individual messages.
    2. I’ve literally seen French UI in Windows that required me to translate it back to English to understand it. Sometimes they picked a French word that made no sense in the context, but translated back to English showed it was just because they picked the wrong word.
    3. As you mentioned, headset in English could be either a VR headset or an audio headset. So the translator had to translate “The headset must be updated. An update is available for the headset.” and likely wrongly assumed it was in the context of VR and translated accordingly.

    So yeah, very likely to be just a localisation error.

  • ads

    “I have some issues with VR — it’s isolating and I think of games as a communal, kind of together experience. We’re responding to what our customers are asking for and… nobody’s asking for VR,” Spencer said.

    what??? lies

    • sfmike

      Not “lies” but just an opinion based on his personal prejudices and feelings that VR will not bring in the billion dollars of profit in a couple quarters that the board and investors demand. Corporations only care about profit and corporate heads live for multimillion dollar bonuses that will evaporate if they don’t show that sacred quarterly profit. It’s as simple as that. Phil Spencer is not willing to bet his multimillion dollar bonus on something he doesn’t consider a sure thing even if that puts Microsoft behind the curve in the long run. I’m sure he feels if the market shows that VR isn’t just a niche and turns into more of a mass movement then Microsoft can quickly catch up to competitors under his leadership or just leave VR for the next XBox executive as he’s not going to take any chances under his rule.

      • MosBen

        The unfortunate reality for VR enthusiasts is also that one of the primary constraints on VR right now is that devs are still working out the kinks of establishing the visual and UI language of VR. There are some very fun games out there, but nothing that’s causing tens of millions of people to take notice and drop money on a headset. MS can continue to spend money on R&D to develop better headsets while Facebook and Sony fund the development of better and better games on the software side. If/when we really start to see some killer apps come out, it won’t be hard for them to release a headset based on whatever their latest and greatest technology is at the time. And it’s not like PSVR is really driving a lot of Sony’s sales, or that the Playstation brand is developing lots of customer loyalty through PSVR. If the VR market gets to a point where MS thinks that it’s worth competing, and they end up releasing a better headset than Sony, the people who care about VR will likely buy into the MS system.

        Personally, I’m waiting until we hear more about the PSVR2 from Sony. That’s the only event in the near-medium term that I could see causing MS to jump in with a “but wait until you see what we’ve got” announcement. To the extent that they have anything in the works for VR on Xbox, they’re probably waiting for Sony to show their cards and seeing if what they’ve been developing could steal Sony’s thunder without giving Sony enough time to retool their product.

        • silvaring

          You just got your wish about wanting to hear more about the PSVR2 : )

          • MosBen

            I do wish that like the Index controllers you were able to let go of them without dropping them, but otherwise they look nice indeed!.

            But as for Xbox, I don’t think that showing controllers will do anything. To the extent that MS does anything in VR for the Series X, my guess is that they would want to see what the FOV, resolution, refresh rate, weight, etc. of the PSVR2 is first.

      • silvaring

        Well said mate.

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    I’m pretty sure Microsoft had VR headsets running on the Xbox One. I’m also sure they have them running on the Xbox Series X and S. There most likely have the Azure Kinect, the PC only/professional use case only successor to the Kinect, running on the Xbox too. They probably have the Xbox Series X running with a HP Reverb G2 running VR apps while the Azure Kinect provides skeleton data for full body tracking. And they have thousands of other experiments as well.

    None of which means that they will actually release VR support for the Xbox. Which makes interpreting an error message not particular useful. Does Google still work on VR and has a stand-alone device based on the XR2? Yes. Has Apple been working on VR for a decade? Yes. Has Sony created a VR headset that works wirelessly and also connects to a PC? Yes. Will you ever see the results? Maybe, but most likely not.

    Large companies create a lot of internal projects to test concepts, gain knowledge or check if ideas are viable. But every time some small hint pops up, a lot of people assume that this inevitable means a product will launch soon. Or that e.g. the release of the Quest 2 suddenly forced others to now try to catch up. Facebook, Google, Sony, Apple and Microsoft invest billions into research every year, so it is very unlikely that they are completely surprised by any product someone else releases.

    But for research to turn into a real product, there also has to be an expected market. Microsoft most likely could release VR support for Xbox Series X/S tomorrow. But they will only do so if they come to the conclusion that enough customers will want to buy it, it doesn’t mess with their product vision and matches their long term goals. This cannot be derived from error messages or leaked prototypes. You’ll have to wait for them to announce it, and even then it might never happen, like the announced VR support for Project Scorpio/Xbox One X.

  • Nothing to see here

    Bethesda is one of the biggest supporters of VR in its games. Microsoft purchased Bethesda so does that mean that:
    A: Microsoft will soon support VR on Xbox?
    B: Bethesda will stop supporting VR in its games?
    C: Microsoft will be embarrassed when its games play in VR on the Playstation but not the Xbox?

    • sfmike

      I’ll go with B. Microsoft is not interested in anything that doesn’t have the possibility of making a quarterly profit to insure that quarterly bonus management lives for.

  • MosBen

    What I don’t understand is that “definitely not” attitude in their responses. It would make sense to me if they said that VR was something that they have internal teams working on at a research level, they don’t have any VR accessories in the pipeline right now, but if that changes they’ll announce it.

    Another thing that kind of seems like a weird wrinkle here is that due to silicon shortages they can’t make enough Xboxes to meet demand. But if they had a tethered headset as an accessory that would be a product that their users could by that wouldn’t require a ton of silicon to produce. It just seems like when your main product is supply constrained it would make sense to have another product which wouldn’t have the same constraints that at least your existing customers could buy.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      I don’t think they will bring out their own headset, but I do think they will support something like a new generation of WMR headsets (or the original WMR headsets too).

      • MosBen

        If it’s going to be on the Xbox, it will almost certainly need to be a first-party accessory. MS may support a more open ecosystem on the PC side, but that’s never been the case for consoles. Now, maybe they’ll partner with another company to produce it, like how Valve partnered with HTC on the Vive, but there won’t be a series of different VR Headsets for Xbox. Either MS will put out an official VR headset on Xbox, or there won’t be a VR headset on Xbox.

  • TechPassion

    Microsoft first needs to get rid of anti-VR pest-guy. You know who I am writing about.

    • Jonathan Winters III

      This.

  • NotMikeD

    “I have some issues with VR — it’s isolating and I think of games as a communal, kind of together experience.” – Visionary Phil Spencer

    Wow, Phil, that comment sure aged like milk in 2020 and 2021..

    Meanwhile I get together with 3 of my buddies spread across the country every Wednesday night for mini-golf, zero-G frisbee, and digital board games in VR–we have a blast and feel almost as though we’re physically present in the same space, without venturing into the dangers of the outside world.

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