Sony and Microsoft are set to continue their ongoing battle with video games in the next few years, with both corporations having already confirmed their next generation consoles. There were question marks regarding whether Microsoft would commit to an Xbox Two, considering the fact that the Xbox One has not been a huge success. Dogged by a negative perception from day one, the Xbox Two has trailed well behind Sony’s PlayStation 4 both in sales and positive public perception.
Yet Microsoft is willing to give the console niche at least one more try, having already publicly indicated that it will indeed produce an Xbox Two machine. And it seems ahead of the development of the Xbox Two that virtual reality will play a significant role in this console generation.
PlayStation VR set to go live
Already we are expecting to see Sony launch its PlayStation VR project before the end of the year, with analysts generally expecting the device to emerge in around June time. This hotly anticipated device, originally codenamed Project Morpheus, will be extremely critical for Sony considering that virtual reality is thought to be particularly important for the future of video gaming.
While the PlayStation 4 has been a successful machine in commercial terms, it has been faced with two particular problems. Firstly, the Balkanisation of the video games market means that the PlayStation 4 is competing for a smaller slice of pie than previous Sony releases. Secondly, it is increasingly difficult for video game manufacturers to deliver what really seems to be next generation software with existing technology. Inevitably, video game makers are working with diminishing practical increases in the quality of games.
Xbox One travails
If the PlayStation 4 was underwhelming technically, and thus not able to deliver the sort of jaw-dropping titles that gamers crave, this was even more true of Microsoft’s Xbox One. The Microsoft console struggled to achieve a positive public perception from its initial unveiling event, and ultimately this impacted massively on the commercial reception of the console. And this perception was somewhat accurate, as the Xbox One is less powerful than the PlayStation 4, meaning that it has been at times unable to deliver the same quality of gaming and visuals.
Thus, virtual reality can play a major role for the Xbox Two in two separate ways. Firstly, it can deliver the sort of next generation experience that the Xbox One has generally failed to achieve. Secondly, virtual reality can play a significant part in ensuring that the Xbox Two is afforded a positive reception from the public, and viewed as genuinely innovative when it emerges.
Already it is thought that 2016 could be the most successful year that the Xbox One has experienced thus far, with a host of exclusive titles lined up for the console. Quantum Break and Cuphead are among the titles expected to give Microsoft’s machine a welcome boost this year, and it is this sort of unique software that is essential in selling a console to a wide variety of consumers.
Similarly, virtual reality technology could play a massive role in shifting Xbox Two units in the early days of the console. If Microsoft does intend to include some sort of virtual reality technology as part of the initial Xbox Two bundle, it would mean a departure from the previous Microsoft policy, which has been based on getting in the stores first with a mass market machine. Certainly this was the way that the corporation succeeded in the Xbox 360 generation, simply by releasing its machine one year ahead of Sony.
With Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR all set to be officially launched this year, it is likely that virtual reality technology will be a significantly mainstream prospect by the time that the Xbox Two is released, in what will be probably 2018 or 2019. However, both Microsoft and Sony will naturally be closely monitoring the installed user base of these devices, and it remains to be seen whether or not virtual reality will be a viable technology for console systems.
Xbox Two – HoloLens imminent
Microsoft has been working internally on developing its HoloLens technology, and it seems possible at least that the corporation will ultimately link this to the Xbox Two. Certainly, Microsoft has made a great deal out of this technology at recent trade shows, and it is obvious that the electronics giant has high hopes for HoloLens in the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has also developed a strong relationship with Oculus, and this will see the Oculus Rift ship with an Xbox One controller once it is released. While some analysts have doubts about the ability of the existing console generation to deliver immersive virtual reality, the proof will be in the pudding in the next few months.
Naturally, Microsoft will want to see how the first wave of virtual reality and augmented reality technology is received before committing itself to integrating this technology with the Xbox Two. But it could be an excellent innovation for the corporation to include either HoloLens or Oculus Rift with the Xbox Two when launched, ensuring that the console can deliver next generation thrills out of the box.
Install base queries
It has been questioned, though, whether the PlayStation VR, HoloLens and Oculus Rift systems will be able to reach a significant audience on a console platform. Although virtual reality technology is a very exciting prospect, the problem it will tend to encounter with console systems is that the amount of money required to purchase the technology will be prohibitive.
Consoles generally tend to attract the more casual gamer, at least compared to the expensive PC platforms, and it is debatable whether such people will wish to shell out significant amounts of money for a peripheral. This will be especially true if Sony and Microsoft cannot deliver outstanding software for these virtual reality units in the early days of the systems, this is certainly possible considering the minimal installed user base that is likely in the early days of VR technology.
So the next few months will be critical for the future of virtual reality in consoles, but don’t be surprised if VR plays a significant role in the Xbox Two from the date that it is released.