Microsoft’s Xbox boss admitted “we’ve lost our way” on PC gaming, but the company wants another chance.
At the Game Developers Conference on Wednesday, Phil Spencer took the stage and reaffirmed that the company sees Windows 10 as the company’s big chance to get back its shine and its market leadership.
He also committed to building games for HoloLens, the futuristic augmented reality goggles that Microsoft promised would be out in the Windows 10 time frame.
“We see this as a full Windows 10 device,” Spencer said.
Microsoft also announced it was giving game makers their first look at a toolkit for integrating Xbox Live into Windows 10 games.
PC gaming used to be synonymous with Windows — games were played on Windows, using the DirectX APIs for graphics, and often controlled with Microsoft mice, keyboard, and hardware.
Then, 15 years ago Microsoft rolled out the first Xbox and everything changed: Suddenly, all of Microsoft’s video gaming focus was on the new console. The Xbox franchise, along with games like Halo, became a decent business for the company. But in the meantime, competitors overtook the PC gaming market. For instance, Valve’s Steam platform captured the hearts of gamers with a successful app store and integrated social networking features.
Games for Windows Live, an early attempt by Microsoft to bring the social features (and copy-protection against piracy) of Xbox Live to the PC, was buggy, unreliable, and a laughing stock among people who play video games.
Spencer specifically called out the existing Windows 8 App Store, which he acknowledged wasn’t a huge revenue driver for any of the developers there, including Microsoft itself.
The way forward, then, is in changing how Microsoft thinks about its customers: They’re not people who play games on Windows PCs, or tablets, or consoles. They’re customers of the Xbox Live service. That means that games can and should work across multiple devices, with the same friends list and the same high scores, and people should be able to play each other no matter what device they’re on.
“Xbox” no longer means consoles, said Spencer. It means “gaming with Microsoft.”
As for HoloLens, Spencer says that it’s a natural extension of Microsoft’s new philosophy towards Windows 10, and will receive the same level of support and multi-platform cohesion.
The takeaway for the developers at the conference: They can reach a broader audience (and make more money) without having to go through the hassle of developing for multiple screen sizes and operating systems. After all, every single Windows 10 device is going to have the built-in Xbox app.