Why Microsoft ignores PC at E3: Phil Spencer dispenses his unique brand of wisdom

Microsoft PC

Did you catch Microsoft’s conference on the first day of E3? You may have not known it if you did, because Microsoft called it the Xbox conference, and the Xbox One was the only thing they talked about. 

Sure, they showed off games coming to PC, but they did this while acting like they were Xbox One exclusives. Our platform has always got the short shrift at E3, but Microsoft’s Phil Spencer is here to tell us why. 

E3 isn’t the right place for PC games. 

Sorry, Phil, buddy, what was that? E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo isn’t for PC? The trade show where quite a few big developers and publishers run their multiplatform demos on PC because that’s where they are at their best? That show, you mean?

“I’m head of gaming at Microsoft,” Spencer reminded us. “When we’re doing gaming strategy, gaming focus inside the company, that’s my job. I think in a lot of ways, you could argue gaming on Windows has never been more healthy in that the biggest of the big franchises, League of Legends, World of Tanks, those things dwarf a lot of what we’re doing in this console space in terms of users and monetization. They’re all on PC.”

There’s no argument. PC gaming is where the industry is evolving the most. New business models, new genres, the indie renaissance, new digital platforms – consoles struggle to keep up. But Spencer reckons that E3 is about retail and consoles. Not PC gaming.

Of course, it’s people like Spencer and publishers like Microsoft that, with all their weight and loud voices, influence what E3 is about. If it’s not about PC gaming, it’s only because they don’t want it to be. Of course, he’s completely wrong, though. While console gaming remains dominant during the show, that hasn’t stopped a plethora of PC games from sneaking in and, of course, Oculus VR.

Spencer thinks that, if not E3, PC games could have their own show… during eSporting events. “Well they do these huge world championship events and they fill up arenas,” he said. “I do think there could be a space there.” He mentioned World of Tanks and League of Legends, so he might be under the impression that only eSports games are big on PC. But that’s nonsense, and seeing something like Elite: Dangerous or the PC version of GTA V being shown at a LoL tournament is utterly absurd.

He quickly forgets that he acknowledged PC games can fill up arenas as well, excusing Microsoft’s laser focus on Xbox One because that’s how one fills up arenas. Oh dear. “For us, E3 is a console show and an Xbox show, and for us as Microsoft, Xbox is our gaming brand, and it’s the thing we can fill an arena like this, we get millions of people to watch us on TV and we show our games and it’s a brand that people care about.”

Microsoft, of course, cares little for PC. The original Xbox was their escape from a gaming platform they perceived to be dying, and they’ve failed to catch up with the times. GfWL was an impotent attempt that completely backfired and showed that Microsoft just doesn’t know what it’s doing with PC gaming anymore. So it’s no surprise he feels this way in regards to his own business. But stating that E3 in its entirety is just for consoles is magnificently arrogant and short sighted.

Thank goodness he’s talking rubbish.

Cheers, Polygon.