Xbox One to Natively Support Oculus Rift?

UPDATE: Microsoft has responded to our request for clarification.

ORIGINAL: The hustle and bustle of E3 2015 has already come and gone, but there was a loose thread from the show that’s been bothering me: Paranormal Activity VR for Xbox One. How does that even work given that the Xbox One doesn’t have a virtual reality headset? Well, according to developer VRWERX, the Xbox One will natively support Oculus Rift, the preeminent virtual reality headset coming to market next year, a potentially killer feature that Microsoft hasn’t yet announced.

VRWERX’s press release stated that Paranormal Activity VR would be “released in 2016 for all major head-mounted displays including HTC Vive, Sony’s Project Morpheus, Oculus Rift; PC; mobile; and consoles, including Xbox One and PlayStation® 4.” Now, it makes sense for the game to support Vive, Oculus, Morpheus, and even mobile (Samsung and Google both have VR solutions), but as far as we know from Microsoft’s announced partnership with Oculus Rift, virtual reality gaming on the Xbox One is going to be limited to a weird fake living room where you can play your console games instead of your actual real-life living room. So we emailed VRWERX for clarification, and got this in response:

“Xbox One announced a partnership with Oculus this week, so as far as VR is concerned we will have a VR and non VR version for Xbox One and PS4. Distribution will be for HTC Vive, Oculus, Morpheus and non VR for Xbox One and PS4.”

Now, again, the partnership that Microsoft announced at Oculus’ E3 press conference was limited to that faux-living room experience, so VRWERX’s response really only raised more questions than answers. For instance, what about the “non VR” versions? Will the Xbox One version actually have a virtual reality version, or will it be strictly limited to the “non VR” version?

We will be making VR and Non VR versions. So yes, their [sic] will be an Oculus version to play on Xbox One and a non VR version for Xbox One. Also a Sony Morpheus version for PS4 and a non VR for PS4.

That’s promising, but again, that’s not what Microsoft announced. So we asked directly if the Xbox One virtual reality capabilities VRWERX was referring to were limited to the living room streaming.

“Regular VR version is playable on Xbox One. Non-VR version is traditional game play. Same game just no VR input. Does that make sense? I cannot respond to Oculus and Microsoft relationship outside of the fact that Xbox One supports Oculus.”

So according to VRWERX, the Xbox One version of Paranormal Activity VR can play the stock-standard virtual reality mode that the other versions can. But how? Is it streaming through the PC like the announced solution, or is it possible to hook the Oculus Rift up directly to the Xbox One without a PC involved at all?

“Xbox announced that the Xbox One will support the Oculus Rift. But only the retail version not the [Development Kit 2] or current versions. So to answer your question. If you purchase a retail version of the Oculus when it is shipped in 2016, you can use it on the Xbox One and play our VR version of Paranormal Activity on the Xbox One.”

Given the number of times we asked VRWERX for clarification on each new detail, it sounds like the Xbox One will indeed natively support the Oculus Rift — without streaming through a PC first. That’s not what Microsoft announced at E3 2015, though. If you read through the details of Microsoft’s press release about its partnership with Oculus, you’ll see three core tenets:

1. “The Xbox One controller will be included with every Oculus Rift.”

2. “Xbox One games will be playable on Oculus Rift.” (In the press release, this point refers to the “virtual reality cinema screen.”)

3. “Windows 10 is the best platform for playing games on the Oculus Rift.”

That third point is especially interesting in light of VRWERX’s comments. “The Rift will work natively with Windows 10,” the release explains further. Now, we also know that Microsoft will be replacing the Xbox One’s operating system with Windows 10, so if the Oculus Rift “will work natively with Windows 10,” it’s not a huge stretch then that the Oculus Rift could work natively with the Xbox One once it switches to Windows 10.

Again, this is all unconfirmed; it could be that VRWERX was somehow mistaken as to the details of the partnership, or it could be that it’s simply a bombshell feature Microsoft is saving to be announced later. After all, the Xbox One doesn’t yet have a direct response to the PlayStation 4’s Project Morpheus headset, and it’s unlikely that Microsoft would let Sony so easily take the battle for virtual reality on consoles. In that way, it makes a heck of a lot of sense for Microsoft to extend its existing partnership with Oculus to natively support the headset on Xbox One. It would also explain why Microsoft’s Xbox boss Phil Spencer was so “excited for what’s in store as this partnership continues” and why Oculus was so “thrilled” about a simple controller pack-in.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft and Oculus for comment and will report back with any response.