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.
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.”
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.