Microsoft and Sony are going head-to-head on virtual reality - and Sony is winning
Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox are over 10 years into a long-fought war for your attention and dollars. (Mostly your dollars).
The next battle in this war will be virtual.
On Thursday, lead Xbox exec Phil Spencer took the stage at an Oculus VR press event - the virtual reality company that Facebook purchased for $2 billion in 2014 - to announce how Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system and Xbox One game console will support the Oculus Rift.
Through a somewhat convoluted means, you'll be able to run Xbox One games in the Oculus Rift. Here's the process:
- Turn on your Xbox One, select game
- Turn on your PC running Windows 10
- Stream Xbox One game through your local WiFi network to PC running Windows 10
- Play game in a "virtual cinema" setting on your Oculus Rift VR headset
Not too complex, but certainly not as simple as Sony's PlayStation 4 Project Morpheus virtual reality headset. With Morpheus, this is how it'll work:
- Turn on PlayStation 4, select game
- Put on Morpheus headset and play said game
That's a lot more simple, right? Arguably more important is the fact that Xbox One games on Oculus Rift aren't actually virtual reality games, but normal games being played within a "virtual cinema" application.
This is what "virtual cinema" looks like on the game "Forza Motorsport," as shown during Thursday's press event:
And here's what using Project Morpheus looks like:
The difference is enormous. One experience is sitting in a virtual movie theater and playing a game in that movie theater. The other experience is, in many cases, being in the game yourself.
Look at it this way: In Microsoft's experience, you're watching "Game of Thrones." And in Sony's experience, you're actually Jon Snow fighting back the White Walkers.
That's what "real" VR provides: immersion, a sense of the immensely marketable word "presence."
What Microsoft is partnering with Oculus VR to do is crucial when it comes to other areas in VR - supporting the Rift in Windows 10 and including the Xbox One gamepad in the box with Oculus Rift. But the whole notion of streaming Xbox One games is, in the end, no real competition to what Sony is offering, despite being a neat novelty.
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