It is clear Microsoft is unsure about the possibilities of true virtual reality gaming. On one hand VR has been dreamed of for years as the ultimate immersive gaming experience, and on the other hand everything that has come out up to now has been pretty gimmicky. Sony is all in with Project Morpheus as is Valve with Vive, but Microsoft’s approach has been wait and see. Their headset HoloLens is augmented reality not virtual reality, so announcing a partnership with Oculus Rift makes a lot of sense. It means they get to do nothing while appearing to be in the game.
Facebook will get a major partner, and Microsoft will be able to say, “hey we got a VR headset too!” True the integration is just streaming of current Xbox games, so they will still be 2D, but just on what seems to be a massive screen. It will be a nice option if you pick up an Oculus Rift and have an Xbox One, and if it becomes super popular they can always further the integration and start to develop games specifically for it.
It looks like 1.6% stake Microsoft bought of Facebook is paying off. It got them on Facebook’s board, and it lets them play with Facebook’s toys. Still if VR takes off it looks like Sony is the best setup to take advantage since everyone with a PS4 has compatible hardware. Vive and Oculus Rift have some pretty steep computer requirements spec wise, so only the hardcore end of the computer gaming population will be able to run them. Though if Microsoft makes the Oculus Rift work natively with Xbox One that could level the playing field a bit.
The VR game is shaping up to be an interesting fight. It has a lot of major players involved, but there still hasn’t been a proven demand for the product. This is one of those fights that no matter who wins, everyone looses. Which given Microsoft’s limited investment would probably be alright with them.