It can be a source of no small frustration to see Microsoft pour resources into development for their dedicated games box while their other platform – ours – sits neglected. But when Microsoft’s Phil Harrison spoke at the London Games Conference yesterday he said that the big M’s development teams were now multiformat, developing games for Windows 8 and Surface tablets.
“We are now really a multiplatform studio,” the VP of Interactive Entertainment told the LGC audience, which included GamesIndustry. “We are not just building games for Xbox 360, we’re building experiences for Smart Glass, we’re building dedicated games for Windows Phone 8 and for Windows 8.”
According to Harrison, 30 of the games launched with Windows 8 were developed in-house at Microsoft. Yeah, us neither. But most intriguingly, Harrison believes Microsoft’s competitors are no longer Sony and Nintendo, but Google, Amazon and Apple.
“We think that’s great. We think it’s good for us, we think it’s good for the industry and we think it also moves us into this network generation more aggressively and with more determination,” he continued. “And this is in turn powered by the cloud, and this is another corporate investment that Microsoft is making the future of how technology and devices interact. We think of Microsoft as now being a devices and services company.”
What can we glean from that? Perhaps that if Microsoft really are making PC games again, they won’t necessarily be Flight Sim or Age of Empires. The kind of games that Microsoft’s new London studio will make, for instance, are not “retail products”, but “products largely based on the Windows 8 platform and technologies”.
“We are trying to build a new kind of studio,” said Harrison. “We describe it as being a 21st Century studio.
“It’s more about exploring new business models and pioneering new ways to play on devices that we think are going to be powering the future of our industry over the next five or ten years. We’re hiring from the console industry, the web 2.0 industry and from the online gaming industry.”
We advised you to hold off on Surface for now, and our Tim found Microsoft-developed Windows 8 launch game Adera neither overwhelming nor underwhelming – simply whelming. But maybe the new direction of Microsoft Games Studios might see some of its more capable divisions – Forza’s Turn 10, for example – creating strange new PC games that are much more than whelming. What do you reckon?