On October 17th, a new VR platform arrives, Mixed Reality headsets are coming!
It was announced today at IFA in Berlin, that the first Windows Mixed Reality headsets will start arriving for the general public on October 17th! This is when the Fall Creators Update for Windows 10 becomes available. Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Hewlett-Packard and others are all bringing out Windows "Mixed Reality" headsets during this launch. Truthfully, the whole "Mixed Reality" term is more marketing speak than anything else. These are basically just normal VR headsets. What really makes this thing special however, is the fact that we have a major new player entering the game. This player is Microsoft, one of the most powerful technology companies in the world. Microsoft has recognized that Virtual Reality isn't going anywhere. It's here to stay, and they've decided to claim their piece of the pie.
The real key with this consumer launch, is seeing what Microsoft does with their Windows 10 Store. We have Steam, Oculus Store, PSN and Viveport as the major retailers of digital VR software currently. (PlayStation VR of course also has physical software sold in brick and mortar stores, as well as online retailers). Will Microsoft have exclusive content that you can only get by signing into the Windows 10 Store? I'd expect so. The real key for them, is to try to get as many consumers as possible, to use their Windows 10 Store for their VR entertainment needs. Microsoft wants VR consumers to get used to the process of buying things from the Windows 10 Store. Microsoft would love nothing more, than to make inroads on Valve's domination of the market. Exclusive games and experiences are mandatory, because they need to have a reason to make VR consumers sit up and take notice.
Microsoft has already revealed that 343 Industries is working on multiple Halo Mixed Reality Experiences, the first of which could be arriving in the near future. Exclusive content like this will be absolutely key.
The question is, how long will it take for them to have an experience as powerful as Halo to draw VR gamers into their ecosystem? As much as we'd like to play some Halo VR this Fall, the chances of that happening are probably a bit remote. You'd think that Microsoft would want a Halo VR experience on their Xbox One X platform day and date with any Windows 10 Store version. To the best of our knowledge, Microsoft has never had an exclusive Halo experience on PC. It's always been Xbox titles that have been ported over to the PC at a later date. Microsoft is on record as saying that VR won't be coming to Xbox One X until later in 2018. Phil Spencer repeatedly stated that VR needs to incubate on Windows for awhile before coming to the living room. Our best guess, is that there won't be any VR for Xbox until November 2018. If this special Mixed Reality Halo experience is that far away, why talk about it now?
It's possible, instead, that there could be a much shorter, teaser type of Halo experience, that could actually arrive, long before VR arrives on Xbox. Lenovo, Acer, Dell and the rest of them, would be absolutely thrilled to have some content like Halo, to get consumers motivated to buy their headsets. Whether or not anything Halo actually arrives this year, we do know that Microsoft has a ton of VR games headed to their Windows 10 Store for launch. Already announced are games like Super HOT, Arizona Sunshine, REC ROOM, Ark Park, Fantastic Contraption and many others. So far, we don't know of a really big exclusive coming this fall, but Microsoft could have something under wraps that we don't know about yet. Stay tuned, because the VR market is certainly heating up and getting more interesting. This competition might be scary to the status quo, but the one thing that it does, is elevate the game for all the other players. Oculus, HTC, Sony and everybody else needs to step up their game, now that another big boy has entered the ring.