Microsoft "want to treat PC like a first-class citizen" - do they mean it this time? | PCGamesN

Microsoft "want to treat PC like a first-class citizen" - do they mean it this time?

The reveal of the Xbox One X was Microsoft’s big move at this year’s E3, but they made plenty of overtures to us PC gamers as well. It’s all part of a “multi-pronged strategy,” according to director of Xbox marketing Kevin Unangst, to make their Windows 10/Xbox environment the best place to play games on PC. But we’ve heard this sort of talk before - are Microsoft ready to back it up?

Which of these classic PC games would you remaster if you could?

Windows 10

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Microsoft are determined to make Windows 10 “the best operating system for gamers,” according to Mike Ybarra, president for Windows and Xbox gaming. “We have 21:9 resolution on some of our first party games, we have SLI and AMD Crossfire support in terms of having multiple graphics and GPUs.”

Ybarra and Unangst point to the changes introduced to the OS with its recent Creators update, chiefly Game Mode, and new features in the game bar to make it easier to record and stream your gameplay.

“If you select [Game Mode], it will give the game all the resources possible,” Ybarra says. “It puts the other things the operating system is doing on a PC in suspense.” And since “more people are watching gaming now,” Microsoft have introduced “built-in broadcasting where you can be playing a game, hit the button and immediately start broadcasting it for audiences to discover.”

It’s worth noting that Dave tested Game Mode when it first launched and didn’t find it too transformative; hopefully Microsoft have improved it since.

PC Remasters

Age of Empires, looking gorgeous. Wololo.

For PC gamers - especially those of us lucky enough to have been gaming in the ‘90s - Microsoft’s real headline at E3 wasn’t the new Xbox, but the announcement that the original Age of Empires is getting a comprehensive remaster.

“We want to treat PC like a first-class citizen,” Adam Isgreen, creative director at Microsoft Studios Publishing and the man in charge of the project, says. “That’s really important to us.” The attention to detail that’s being lavished on the remaster backs his words with action: it’s getting 4K UHD visuals, new zoom levels, rebalanced gameplay (to go with the Xbox Live multiplayer), and a remastered orchestral soundtrack. They’re even fixing historical inaccuracies in the in-game encyclopedia - “there is no such thing as a Nile alligator, but there is a Nile crocodile,” Isgreen says.  

It’s very exciting for PC gamers of a certain age, and it’s all ours: “Age of Empires is a PC game. It’s not on console,” Isgreen says. “We’re not planning on putting it on console. It’s something we really want for PC players, and you might see more titles like that in the future from us.”

Indeed, Unangst says this decision is but the first step in a plan to look back at Microsoft’s portfolio and think “‘What are the things we want to play as PC gamers ourselves?’ We can modernise those. We’re going to go from here. Age of Empires is the beginning of all that… making sure the IP we build is for PC gamers.”

What other classic Microsoft titles would you like to see remastered? Some of the MechWarrior games, perhaps? Close Combat? Fury3 or Hellbender? Of course, remasters aren’t the only thing Microsoft can do to leverage its first-party games: maybe we can hope to see Halo: The Master Chief Collection come to PC. Finally.

Play Anywhere

The days of Halo's console exclusivity may be coming to an end

Microsoft’s dominance in PC operating systems and in the console space puts them in a unique position, one which, arguably, they could’ve done more to exploit in the past. However, it’s clear they’re looking to do so now with Play Anywhere, their push to release games across both PC and Xbox, allowing owners of one title to play it on the other platform.

“From a first party standpoint, I think Phil [Spencer] has said that we’re committed to having our franchises on PC and on console,” Ybarra says, and he’s confident that the opportunities of the shared audience will incentivise developers to play ball. “We have 18 Play Anywhere games at the moment, and we have 20 more on the roadmap, so developers are really embracing the fact that Xbox is giving them the widest variety of audience for them to play their games.”

One advantage Ybarra cites is combining the multiplayer pools across the PC and other console communities. Minecraft will be one of the first games to take advantage of that, as we learned in Microsoft’s E3 briefing.

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“We can be in the same world, building together,” regardless of platform, Ybarra says. “I think you’re going to see a lot of developers taking advantage of that. Consumers will get the benefit because they’ll have way more people to meet with, socialise with, and build those worlds together with.”

Fragmented inputs present an obstacle for more competitive games - like Halo - but Microsoft are hoping to solve this, too. Phil Spencer told us last year that they plan to bring keyboard and mouse support to Xbox, and Ybarra reiterated this commitment: 

“In the competitive space, if you’re on keyboard and mouse and I’m on controller, you have an advantage with the precision of that input. We want to give developers the option to support keyboard and mouse, and if they do, the option to say ‘Do you want to play with all keyboard people, or just controller people?’ So that’s something that’s on the roadmap still. We’re not announcing a date, but it’s definitely something we want to do.”

Isgreen says “if we have a Play Anywhere game, it’s on both console and PC, and the PC version will have the features that PC players want in it.” So it sounds like we can expect more than simple ports; we can expect PC games optimised for our platform, with bespoke features. 

Minecraft is one Microsoft's first games to cross multiple platforms

We’ve heard Microsoft say they’ve not forgotten about PC countless times before, but this year’s announcements are significant enough to match the rhetoric. Of course, they’re pushing the Win10/Xbox environment on a platform that’s dominated by Steam - tellingly, the Age of Empires remaster is on Windows Store only, whereas the Age of Empires II remaster is on Valve's, where it's benefitted immensely from mods and other community content.

If you’re sceptical that this conflict will resolve itself without any friction for gamers, I can’t say I blame you. Still, to the extent that Microsoft’s pitch is a better experience in the OS, and more and better games optimised for PC, their contribution is positive. 

Can you see yourself spending more time in the Xbox app at the expense of your Steam account, given this strategy? Leave us your thoughts.

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Naiboss avatarDustyGerkin avatarWhiteCrow avatarBelimawr avatartetris42 avatarShriven avatar+6
Naiboss Avatar
19
7 Months ago

I've been a PC gamer for 25 years and, as far as games go, Windows has never been a priority for Microsoft and I can't see it changing... especially with Phil "Xbox" Spencer around. Even when they try and talk about things they are doing for PC, they end up talking about things for Xbox, they just can't help themselves. I'm not sure they even understand PC gaming/gamers.

I'm a PC gamer despite Microsoft, not because of them.

8
WhiteCrow Avatar
570
7 Months ago

Spot on. The "support" they offer PC extends only as far as getting people potentially interested in the Xbox brand.

4
Shriven Avatar
3483
7 Months ago

"I'm a PC gamer despite Microsoft, not because of them."

Looks like I have my next tattoo :D

4
tetris42 Avatar
58
7 Months ago

Now that's not true, from the late 90s until about 2001, Windows gaming was a priority for Microsoft and they made a decent push forward with DirectX, publishing titles like Age of Empires, Mechwarrior 4, Freelancer, Dungeon Siege, etc.

Once they rolled out the Xbox, that all stopped and it became a period of about 15 years of acting passive aggressive towards Windows gamers.

2
Naiboss Avatar
19
7 Months ago

That's a good point, actually... those were some awesome titles. Such a shame they've forgotten their heritage

1
LunarD3ATH Avatar
7
7 Months ago

Your last sentence sums up my opinion of Microsoft and PC gaming entirely. I won't deny they're basically the best option for PC gamers, but that's not because of their amazing support, it's because no other operating system gets support from developers/publishers like Windows does. Linux has been shafted for years and only now starts to reap any rewards.

Microsoft should be careful. With SteamOS increasing Linux compatibility, I wouldn't be surprised if one day, way down the line, Linux had a proper replacement distro option at no cost. Microsoft can't compete with that $100 price tag on their precious OS.

1
Mountain_Man Avatar
731
7 Months ago

"I wouldn't be surprised if one day, way down the line, Linux had a proper replacement distro option at no cost."

That day... is today. Linux always has been, and always will be, 100% free. You can start using it today, and it won't cost you a dime.

1
Mountain_Man Avatar
731
7 Months ago

"I'm a PC gamer despite Microsoft, not because of them."

Now that Linux is a viable PC gaming platform, we can all tell Microsoft to shove it and break their monopolistic stranglehold on the market.

1
DustyGerkin Avatar
191
7 Months ago

They need to fix the price disparity between the much cheaper physical copies Xbox owners can buy and the digital only always full price PC version.

5
Belimawr Avatar
1274
7 Months ago

it's a major problem in PC gaming in general. most games can be picked up cheaper in physical form especially if you compare the prices to Steam. the problem is in the digital market place the big players see them self as having no real competition for their market, so there is no real competition.

so the problem here isn't on digital stay at an inflated price it does on just about every store front and platform, the problem is they chose not to release a physical copy of the game that could be distributed outside of their own store.

4
LunarD3ATH Avatar
7
7 Months ago

Especially if you look at games like GTA V. That game is almost always full-priced and the discounts are rarely that good on it. If you could buy GTA V on PC physically, without Steam's DRM, you would find it CHEAP.

I know this because I managed to pick up a copy of GTA V on 360 for $3 at a garage sale. If I could do that with a PC version, I'd be on a cloud. Steam sales are only as great as the publisher who funded the game will allow.

1
D0SFreak Avatar
5
7 Months ago

21:9 yawn

SLI yawn

Crossfire yawn

Game Mode meh

Game Bar meh

Remasters meh

Play Anywhere If I can't play it without Windows Store or on any OS but Windows then it's not.

3
LunarD3ATH Avatar
7
7 Months ago

Play Anywhere*

*(on your Windows 10 PC through the Windows Store / not subject to DRM-free policies)

1
Dr0s4n Avatar
24
7 Months ago

Oh, REALLY ?

First step is, on PC Gaming Events, stop say worlds, XBOX, XBOX and XBOX.

Every 10 words that Microsoft talks about PC, 8 are related to Xbox. Do you think we're stupid? Do you think we've erased from memory, phrases like 'PC Gaming is Dead - By Microsoft'

All this Microsoft move is related that this Xbox brand is going to hole, in 4 Years Console has not even sold 30 million. As PC Gaming year after year grows more and more, today alone it surpasses with pleasure the market of Consoles represented by 3 different manufacturers!

Do not be stupid, this proximity has nothing to do with PC Gaming, but rather with Xbox and what steps they are trying to take to save the brand!

2
LunarD3ATH Avatar
7
7 Months ago

I agree. Microsoft's only concern is strengthening the Xbox userbase. I think their plan is that if PC players have access to Xbox games and servers (even in just some games), it'll make Sony's servers look like trash.

Well, I don't care how many players they have on either system. I just want to play a game and I want to do it on PC. I'm sick of consoles, I'm sick of bad ports and I'm sick of restrictive DRM. There is no way I'm going back to consoles now, I greatly prefer PC and I'll always recommend others do the same.

2
Dr0s4n Avatar
24
7 Months ago

You right, all this move is about Xbox, not PC.

Microsoft after Bill Gates shutdown, don't care about PC. The new team, and this since 2000 is only interested in using the PC as a way to keep that Xbox brand alive.

Microsoft need be attentive, since Windows 8 and now 10 (with this complicated and pathetic UI) you main product is becoming less and less relevant, Let's see how long Microsoft will survive in the marketplace, with revenue and profits of the insignificant console market.

1
Kegelcizer Avatar
1
7 Months ago

I feel like a last class citizen. 4 months and no fix for the CU update game stuttering affecting all games on all drivers on all GPU manufacturers. Close to 0 fps on 144Hz monitor is the best experience ever, thank you Microsoft

1
g.poubelle Avatar
53
7 Months ago

The less Microsoft does gaming, the better gaming does.

1
DustyGerkin Avatar
191
7 Months ago

Not sure on that. Forza Horizon 3 for example does a lot for pc gamers, more so than many pc only games. Settings are all encompassing and include lots of what you want including a pretty good auto detect. You can change controls from pad to keyboard on the fly etc.

It's occasionally a bit flaky and CS is a bit hard to contact but then that has always been the case with the Forza franchise.

Once they stop trying to ram Xbox down your throat at every opportunity and sorting out the pricing then...

1
Mountain_Man Avatar
731
7 Months ago

"We want to treat PC like a first-class citizen..."

Translation: "We want to treat our customers like second-class citizens."

1