Microsoft Enters VR: Why Project Scorpio (Xbox 2) Will Use Oculus Rift

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Xbox 2 Oculus Rift

Xbox 2 (Project Scorpio) has been announced and one of the most interesting things we know about Microsoft’s new console is that it will indeed support high-fidelity virtual reality. While we don’t have an exact answer as to which headset the console will support, there’s enough evidence to support our theory that Xbox 2/Project Scorpio will work with the Oculus Rift.

Join us as we look at the various breadcrumbs Microsoft has been leaving on the internet, and how we pieced together this revelation.

Project Scorpio (Xbox Two) Will Support VR, But Microsoft Isn’t Making It

Our first chunk of evidence comes from an interview between Head of Xbox Phil Spencer and Wired magazine. In this interview, Phil Spencer took some shots at both the Xbox One and the PS4, saying that when he spoke to VR developers, they told him that 6 teraflops of processing power were needed to provide a true VR experience.

To this point he added that today’s consoles don’t have that kind of power, specifically calling out the Xbox One and PS4. He’s right, but still, you can’t help but think he said that on purpose. As he went into more detail, Spencer said that the focus was on providing a high quality VR experience:

"The truth is, a console can run a 2-D version of Doom or Fallout today, which a PS4 and Xbox One can, is not going to be able to do a stereoscopic, high-framerate version of those games. We don’t want to force VR into a middle ground between the scale that we see in mobile, and what our customers expect."

He went on to say that the “best place for VR innovation is the PC,” and that Microsoft is seeking to take that innovation and bring it to the console space. This narrows down the candidates to Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. What about a Microsoft-developed headset, I hear you ask? Spencer shot down this idea in the interview, saying:

"Right now we are not focused on a first-party VR hardware device.”

Now that we’ve narrowed down the candidates to the PC virtual reality space, let’s find out why we believe the Oculus Rift is destined for Xbox 2 (Project Scorpio).

Everybody Loves Oculus: Microsoft’s Partnership With the Rift

Everyone remembers the underdog story of the Oculus Rift’s rise to success. What began as a Kickstarter campaign is now one of pioneers of VR on the PC. Even bigger waves were made when Facebook decided to buy the company for a cool $2 billion.

This wasn’t the end of Oculus Rift’s partnerships either. The following year, Microsoft also announced a partnership with the Rift. As part of this agreement, Oculus Rift headsets were set to ship with an Xbox One wireless controller and the adapter needed to use it wirelessly on the PC.

Furthermore, Xbox One games can be streamed to the headset and playable in a 2D format. Finally, the headset is also natively compatible with Windows 10. While this deal was originally for the PC space, it would be outside the realm of reason to assume it will extend to Xbox 2 (Project Scorpio) as well.

What About Fallout 4 VR?

Hold on a second, though, didn’t Microsoft confirm that Fallout 4 VR was coming to Project Scorpio at E3 2016? They did indeed, and Todd Howard of Bethesda Games seemed excited about the prospect saying:

"We’re moving Fallout 4 to VR, and to have a console that can support that, at the resolution and speed that we really want, I think it’s gonna be magical."

I couldn’t agree more, but what throws a wrench in our gears is the fact that the VR version of the game has been, up until now, only confirmed for the HTC Vive. Bethesda was very clear about this, and it brings to mind the question of why they didn’t mention Oculus Rift in their Fallout 4 VR announcement.

The answer lies in some bad blood brewing between the two companies. In 2015, there was a lawsuit between Bethesda’s owner, ZeniMax, and Oculus Rift. As part of this lawsuit, Oculus was being sued for “illegally misappropriating ZeniMax trade secrets relating to virtual reality technology, and infringing ZeniMax copyrights and trademarks.”

The lawsuit came about when Doom’s co-creator, John Carmack, left id software to join the Oculus Rift team. He is being accused of allegedly providing technology and information to Oculus before his department from the ZeniMax-owned id Software.

This debacle could be the very reason why Fallout 4 isn’t being developed for Oculus Rift. Since we know it’s coming to Scorpio, that puts a bind on our theory. If Bethesda isn’t making the game for the Rift, but they are bringing it to Xbox 2 (Project Scorpio), then that would suggest that Microsoft is pushing the HTC Vive to the console.

That would of course require them to partner with the Vive’s creator, Valve, which is a direct competitor to Microsoft in the PC space. It’s amazing how quickly politics can muddle a perfectly good theory.

Even so, we have until Holiday 2017 before the Xbox Two (Project Scorpio) is released. Hopefully by then this whole mess can be cleared up and Microsoft can extend their partnership with Oculus to the console, nice and smooth.

Personally, I think the HTC Vive is the superior headset in terms of technology, but I also know that the Vive costs $800, so you’ll have to forgive me if I’m leaning towards the rift, though its price isn’t much better.

In the end, most of the evidence points to the Oculus Rift as Microsoft’s chosen third-party headset for Project Scorpio (Xbox 2), but legal issues and the announcement that Fallout 4 VR would be coming to the platform put a few obstacles in the way of confirming this theory.

Which VR headset would you like to see on the Xbox 2? How do you think these legal matters will play into the ultimate decision? Do you wish Microsoft was doing a first-party headset besides the HoloLens? Let us know in the comments!

Note: The thoughts expressed in this article are the opinions of the author (Bradley Ramsey) and do not yet represent facts or the opinions of Microsoft. Although it will probably be accurate, for now it is pure speculation. Thanks for reading!

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Oculus Rift

I happen to prefer the Oculus Rift because it looks better than the vive, and the "Touch" controllers that where released recently.