#128: VR isn’t a focus for Microsoft’s next Xbox

TODAY: Square Enix hard at work on the second part of Final Fantasy VII — Rare had interesting ideas for how to reload your gun in GoldenEye — EA thinks Google Stadia is the future of gaming

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VR not a focus for Project Scarlett

Microsoft is the only one of the big three console platform holders who hasn’t at least experimented with VR. Sony has been building and supporting the PlayStation VR platform for years with first-party exclusives, while Nintendo dipped its toes with the Labo VR Kit for Switch – but Microsoft has stayed clear.

Sure, Microsoft is clearly dedicated to the HoloLens augmented reality head-mounted display, but that appears to be an enterprise-grade professional tool priced way beyond what the average consumer will spend on VR gear. Apart from that, Microsoft’s VR presence is limited to streaming Xbox One games to the Oculus Rift.

That doesn’t seem likely to change in the near future: Microsoft’s VP of Gaming Phil Spencer told Stevivor that VR is a part of the Project Scarlett strategy: “I have some issues with VR — it’s isolating and I think of games as a communal, kind of together experience.” said Spencer. “We’re responding to what our customers are asking for and… nobody’s asking for VR. The vast majority of our customers know if they want a VR experience, there’s places to go get those. We see the volumes of those on PC and other places.”

Microsoft’s all about that sweet Mixed Reality

It doesn’t seem like Microsoft is convinced that virtual reality is a good business since “nobody’s selling millions and millions” of VR headsets. Spencer also explained that Xbox users don’t associate the Xbox brand with VR, and does not expect Xbox to become a VR brand. In short, the closest you’ll get to VR on a Microsoft platform is using a competitor’s software and hardware on Windows.

Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?

Which Sega character besides Sonic was playable in Super Smash Bros. on the Wii U?

  • Ryo Hazuki
  • Ulala
  • Bayonetta
  • Alex Kidd

The answer will be revealed in tomorrow’s issue of DailyBits. Join up with our community on Twitter and Facebook to discuss what the answer could be!

News Bits

Concept art of Playground Games’ Fable project appears online

Artwork from Playground Games’ unannounced (but clearly real) Fable project surfaced back in April when artist Vaigintas Pakenis posted images featuring concept art for Forza Horizon Japan and the Fable project.

Since then, Rodrigo Idalino has posted more concept art on ArtStation, but the pictures were quickly taken down after they started circulating on social media. What are you waiting for, Microsoft? Announce it already!

Second part of Final Fantasy VII Remake is already in development

While fans are still salivating in anticipation of the first part of Final Fantasy VII Remake, scheduled for launch for PlayStation 4 on March 3rd next year, director Tetsuya Nomura has just confirmed that the second part of the remake is already in development.

In a blog post, Nomura said that “When you think of Midgar’s final boss, you probably think of the M.O.T.O.R., but in this game new bosses will appear and add to the excitement of the story even more […] We’ve already begun working on the next one as well, but I’m confident that playing through this title will expand your expectations just like the world that extends beyond Midgar….Until next time.”

There is no indication of when the second part of the remake will be launched, but it’s still exciting to know that it’s well underway. If you can’t get pumped enough, the blog post also includes interviews with several members of the development team. What are you waiting for? Let’s mosey!

Daily Fact

How to reload your gun: Rare edition

Reloading can be a massive pain when you just want to shooty-shoot the baddy-bads. Fast-paced games like Doom just ditch the whole mechanic outright to maintain the relentless flow of the action, while more realistic military shooters relish in slow and detailed clip extraction and bullet chambering animations.

Yet no-one has gone quite as far as an idea Rare toyed with during the development of GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64: Removing and re-inserting the Rumble Pak to simulate reloading your gun.

While that certainly sounds like a neat idea, it also imposes some pretty serious constraints on the game design since reloading would force players to look away from the screen, change their grip on the controller, unplug a piece of hardware and then plugging it back in.

Maybe not most people’s idea of a good time, and certainly a great way to wear out the connectors on both the controller and the Rumble Pak. Perhaps it’s just as well that it remained a neat idea. Oh, speaking of neat ideas: Can we have a remaster for Switch, please?

Come and join the rest of the community and discuss today’s fact on Twitter and Facebook.

Daily News

Flight Simulator wants to do VR right

Virtual reality isn’t the new, wild and exciting technology it used to be, but it finally looks like it might be mature enough to provide the kind of experiences everyone dreamed of when the current VR wave kicked off half a decade ago.

Valve is pulling out all the stops with Half-Life: Alyx, and while it doesn’t seem Microsoft is bringing VR to Xbox anytime soon, they might be bringing their long-running Flight Simulator series to VR.

Head of Microsoft Flight Simulator, Jörg Neumann talked to Der Standard (English translation courtesy of AVSIM) about Asobo Studio’s VR plans, and called it a high priority for the development team. He said: “Asobo and I have years of experience with VR. We know what a lazy and a good implementation look like. We want to bring a good solution, for example by cutting off the cockpit from the rest of the world. Then you can move freely in it.”

Flight Simulator will make a strong return in 2020

Interestingly, Neumann’s comments coincide with Microsoft’s VP of Gaming, Phil Spencer, confirming that Microsoft remains on the fence about VR, and that it will not be a focus for Project Scarlett. While Microsoft Flight Simulator is launching on both PC and Xbox One, it looks like the only way to get a truly authentic and immersive simulation experience is with a VR headset for PC.

Neumann talked about much more than just VR, including like the real-time weather simulation and the SDK for third-party developers. If all this makes you want to touch the sky, you can sign up for the next Tech Alpha on the game’s official website.

EA believes cloud gaming will “bring in another billion players”

A lot of game publishers have the hots for cloud gaming right now. While the value proposition for customers is debatable, there are clear benefits for publishers: no piracy, no fragmentation of the user base and potentially recurring payments. Google Stadia launched earlier this month, and despite teething problems there is considerable confidence that it is the shape of things to come.

EA are certainly dedicated to the idea, and EA CTO Ken Moss claims the technology has the potential to grow the market by “another billion players”. Moss goes into detail about how he sees the gaming landscape shift with the advent of cloud gaming in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz.

“With streaming, our motivations are to be where the players are so that they can play our games wherever and however they want,” said Moss. “Our actions are consistent with that. How cloud gaming evolves is uncertain right now, but it’s going to bring in another billion players into the gaming world. We say we’re at 2.6 billion or so right now. We want to make sure we’re at the forefront, but also get the early learnings so we know how to change how we build our games in that world.”

Is cloud gaming the future of the industry?

Should streamed games be sold for a flat fee like they are now, or should streaming services aim to be the Netflix of games and charge a monthly subscription fee for access to a library? One of the biggest unknowns is pricing structure, and Google Stadia has been broadly criticized for double-dipping.

Moss believes subscription will become the most popular choice for consumers, and services like Disney Plus and Spotify prove that there’s a market outside Netflix. If you think Epic Game Store sparked controversy, just wait until the PC gaming equivalent of the video streaming war kicks off, with half a dozen competing subscription services each sporting mostly exclusive content libraries all vying for your patronage. Let the hostilities begin!

News Bits

Devil May Switch: Dante goes portable

Nintendo fans can don the red trenchcoat and white wig once again as Capcom announces Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition for Switch. While Capcom has launched a Devil May Cry collection for most other platforms, they’ve decided to gouge Switch owners by releasing the three first games individually at somewhat eye-brow-raising price points.

Still, the first and third games are classics and well worth the asking price, so gouge away! Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition arrives Feburary 20th for $19.99.

Tony Hawk not too old for Pro Skating

After the disastrous Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, skating fans would be forgiven for thinking that Tony Hawk’s days as a videogame hero were numbered. But no! According to professional skateboarder Lizzie Armanto, there’s a new Tony Hawk game in the works. Speaking on The Nine Club podcast, Armanto confirmed that Hawk is indeed working on another Pro Skater game, which she is also involved in.

Since the game has yet to be announced, someone’s legal team must have rapidly descended on The Nine Club, because the podcast has been edited and all references to the game are gone – which is as good as confirmation that there’s a new Pro Skater on the way! Let’s hope Tony Hawk infuses the game with the kind of low-key existentialism he regales fans with on Twitter.

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Quiz Answer - Did You Get It Right?

What was the name of the two main robot protagonists in 1996’s RTS classic Z?

Answer: Brad and Allan!

Well done if you picked Brad and Allan, that’s correct! There was a few people that went with this answer on Facebook and Twitter, so it’s nice to see other Z fans out there among our community.

Simon and Garfunkel are an American folk-rock duo, so it wasn’t them, Robert and Joey are from a cyberpunk science-fiction point-and-click adventure game called Beneath a Steel Sky, and Bill and Ted are the famous duo from an American comedy film series that was popular in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Z was a charming real-time strategy game that was released by The Bitmap Brothers in 1996, for PC, PlayStation and Sega Saturn. You can see Brad and Allan in action during the game’s many FMV scenes, but if you want to check it out for yourself, head on over to Steam or GOG.

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