Speaking at aGDC panel earlier today, Microsoft's Phil Spencer talked about his company's plans for virtual reality saying, "I think the technology's really interesting, and it's definitely something we've been playing with for quite a while."
While Spencer didn't provide any solid details on the rumored system reportedly under development, he did discuss how Microsoft's research division has helped the Xbox (and Microsoft as a whole) remain competitive. "We have this huge Microsoft research organization that is pretty important to us as a platform holder in helping us think about what might be next. It's where Kinect came from, it's where [Cortana's] voice system came from, it's where Drivatars came from. There's a bunch of stuff in our games that have been berthed out of Microsoft research; thousands of people working there in that team. Looking at things like Oculus, Morpheus--they haven't sent me one yet--but when I think about VR and its uses in gaming I think there's a real something there."
But does the VR we've seen so far from Oculus and Sony have a chance at success outside of the hardcore, tech-savvy, and early adopters? Spencer says, "I don't think it's going to be that every game requires me to put goggles on my face in order to go play it, but ... there are real, immersive games where actually being able to completely immerse the user in the experience, both in audio and visuals, can be really compelling.
"Will it ever become mainstream? You see these bifurcations; some people are playing simple touch games where you feel like you're controlling the Death Star, and then other people are putting goggles on their face where they can feel like they're living in that world 24/7. But the big area in the middle is closer to the casual side in terms of usage."
But while Microsoft didn't have any experimental, far-off tech to show at the conference, he thinks that Sony made the right choice in revealing Morpheus this week. "Sony did a good job with Morpheus and showing it here, and talking to the developer community. Bringing out things that you're talking about, whether it's Direct X12 or it's Morpheus, is why GDC exists. People can bring out technologies that they see a future for and get feedback from the development community. This is absolutely the right kind of forum for that."
Here at the GameSpot office, the tech has generated a lot heated discussion, and we'll be exploring VR technology's current implications, as well as other developers' reactions to it, in the coming weeks.