With Valve taking a shot at the living room with their Steam Machines, Microsoft look to be mobilising themselves back on the PC front. "I think it's fair to say that we've lost our way a bit in supporting Windows games,” head of Microsoft Studio’s , Phil Spencer, told ShackNews. “But we're back."
The way Spencer tells it, the company wants to return to its place as a first-party developer for Windows machines. There is some wriggle room in what he told Shack News, though. He told Andrew Yoon that "Windows is incredibly important. The 'One Microsoft' mantra that's come out had us looking at all the devices that Microsoft builds and truly becoming a first-party gaming studio across all devices."
That would imply that a game Microsoft developed for a Windows phone and then released through the Windows 8 store on the PC would be considered a first-party game. While true, that’s not quite up there with the Combat Flight Simulators and Mechwarrior games we loved Microsoft Game Studios for.
Spencer was more reassuring when he told the site that since launching the Windows Store, filled with casual games, “we're starting to look at bigger and core gamer things. I'm excited by that."
We learned recently that Microsoft had bought platform exclusivity for EA’s Titanfall but, thankfully, that contract wasn’t only for the Xbox One console, the game would still be released on Windows PCs. This could mean that Microsoft will be making an effort to have their console exclusives released on PC, too. If so, that would mean something Spencer told Polygon could have great ramifications for we PC gamers: “I think about managing the portfolio one year, two years, three years out. Great games take a while to build. It's about making sure great franchises like Halo are there, but you're also continuing to invest in new things like Quantum Break. I feel great about our launch portfolio. As a first party, our job is to invest in new things. That's something we're committed to over the generation."
Clearly he’s talking explicitly about the lineup of games Microsoft have planned for release on the Xbox One. However, if those games are making their way to PC through Microsoft Games Studios then we should keep a close eye on everything Microsoft announce as an exclusive.
It does sound like Microsoft were spurred into action by Valve’s recent announcements of a SteamOS and Steam Machine, particularly as they’re bringing them to market so shortly after the projects were revealed. We’ll be seeing the first Steam Machines in January with their release planned within a few months.
“[Valve have] done a great job of keeping the PC ecosystem strong at a time where I don’t mind saying that we could have been more focused on what was going on in PC gaming,” Spencer told Venturebeat. “We were probably too focused purely on console, [...] we should have been building as well at Microsoft.”
“There is a difference between being a game developer, running a store, and being a platform company. That’s an evolutionary jump. [Valve] made the jump from building Half-Life to having a set of franchises to running Steam. They did a good job of learning through that. Now they’re taking the next job to become a platform company — in some sense a hardware company, but in the truest sense more of an OS company. That’s not an easy transition.”
It seems that Microsoft will not be supporting Valve’s new OS by porting their games to the Linux platform. “As far as the OS, obviously, we love Windows,” Spencer told Venturebeat. “Linux isn’t Windows. We’re focused on making Windows and Xbox and Windows Phone the best connected ecosystem we can.”
The Steam Box can run non-Linux games but it does so by streaming the game from a nearby Windows PC. To run the game natively on the machine hooked up to your PC it must be coded in Linux.
If Microsoft follow through on all these comments then we could see an excellent set of releases for the PC in the coming year and a return to excellence for Microsoft Games Studios. They’ve a lot of bad blood to undo, Games for Windows Live left a bad taste in a lot of mouths, but it’s only to our gain if they manage it.