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Microsoft: We Could've Been "More Focused" on PC Gaming

Microsoft stares wistfully at the success of Valve's Steam platform

By Mike Williams. Published 5 months ago

For a long time, gaming on Windows was the only real way to play games on PC. Mac OS gaming has been growing and Linux is about to get a shot in the arm thanks to Valve's SteamOS, but Windows is still the reigning king. Various versions of Microsoft's operating system are used by 93 percent of Steam users according to Valve's Steam Hardware and Software Survey. It's pretty much a PC OS shut-out when it comes to games.

Microsoft's support of PC gaming has been anemic at best. It's flagship franchise, Halo, hasn't had a guaranteed release on Windows for years. Halo: Combat Evolved released on PC two years after its Xbox release and Halo 2 bested that with three years. Halo 3, Halo: ODST, Halo: Reach, and Halo 4 have been complete no-shows on Windows. Fable and Fable III both had one year between their Xbox and console releases, while Fable II never had a PC release. Games for Windows Live was the latest company's shot at a Steam-like service, but that's closing up shop next year.

Valve has done a great job with Steam, keeping PC gaming going strong and transitioning an entire audience over to digital distribution. With Windows 8.1 trying to grow the digital Windows Store, Microsoft has a lot to learn from Valve. In an interview with VentureBeat, Microsoft Studios vice president Phil Spencer admitted that Microsoft let PC gaming fall by the wayside in its focus on consoles.

"Valve is right down the street from us," said Spencer. "They've 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. We were probably too focused purely on console. With Steam, [Valve has] done an amazing job of building this thing that, in a lot of ways, we should have been building as well at Microsoft."

"We're back," Spencer told Shacknews."You'll see us doing more stuff on Windows. We probably have more individual projects on Windows than we've had in ten years at Microsoft Studios."

Microsoft is currently trying to create a single shared ecosystem across all its platforms: Windows 8, Xbox One, and Windows Phone 8. Whether customers will get on board is still in question, as the Windows Store isn't kicking ass and taking names.

"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," Spencer added. "At the launch of Windows 8, we had about 30 games in the Windows Store. A lot of those you'd consider lightweight or casual games... But we've covered all of that property now. Now we're starting to look at bigger and core gamer things. I'm excited by that."

Microsoft recently hired Valve director of business and Steam boss Jason Holtman to do something within the company. His official position is within PC Gaming and Entertainment Strategy at Microsoft, so perhaps Holtman can turn around the company's poor PC gaming efforts. Either way, thanks to Valve, PC gamers don't need to wait around to get their game on.

The best community comments so far 4 comments

  • nimzy 5 months ago

    I don't think it's possible that Microsoft could have developed anything like Steam if you look at their Games for Windows track record. Their App Store for Windows 8 was a shot across the bow to anyone who sells games for the platform -- Valve immediately began investigating Linux alternatives.

  • weevilo 5 months ago

    Jason Holtman being hired was definitely good news, but it's hard at this point to imagine Microsoft ever doing anything but botching further attempts to cater to their core PC gamer customers. I have visions of Windows 8.1+ required "Apps" that can only be purchased and played through whatever it is (Metro Store?) with Windows tablet/smartphone tie ins being pushed at every opportunity. SteamOS came at just the right moment. If it can't directly compete with Windows, hopefully it will serve to curb the misguided direction Microsoft seems determined to head down with their desktop OS. I think we've already seen a lot of changes in the console market as a result of what Steam has managed on Windows.

  • Merus 5 months ago

    Funny that Microsoft is committed to making Windows a stronger gaming platform after Gabe Newell started musing about abandoning it.

    That said, Microsoft make their money from the corporate world, so while they might lose their home market monopoly, they're probably fine.

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