The Game Stash

The Game Stash
Game Stash: Microsoft’s Missed Opportunity

Steve Butts | 11 Aug 2010 21:11
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Look, I've been covering PC games for eleven years. Until I reached the broader shores of The Escapist at the start of this summer, I was covering PC games almost exclusively. It is, understandably, a subject that I'm very interested in, both personally and professionally. Out of sheer necessity, I eventually stopped being angry at Microsoft for its lack of support for PC gaming. Since Windows is, in essence, the primary platform for PC gaming, it seemed like a missed opportunity for the software giant, and perhaps even a discouraging sign for other publishers who are considering whether or not to publish games for the PC.

Then I moved on to a new kind of disappointment. Having assumed that Microsoft was all but abandoning the platform, I found a new dislike for the company's repeated insistence that it was, in fact, not abandoning the platform, but was fully committed to supporting it. To date, these claims have been, well, not exactly lies, but at least untruths. Based on recent evidence, it doesn't seem likely to change any time soon. When Kotaku linked to an internal Q&A document this summer, in which Microsoft claims that Windows gaming is "an incredibly important part of Microsoft's business," and "Microsoft has a vested interest in using it as a platform for amazing first party content," I was unconvinced.

To me, it's a bit like Duke Nukem Forever; just assume that it's never coming out. That way, it will be a pleasant surprise if it does eventually come true, but not a source of frustration in the meantime. If Microsoft ever gets its act together enough to support the platform it has controlled since we crawled our way out of the primordial DOS soup, then I'll start to pay attention again.

Last week, John Funk wrote a story about the delay of the PC version of Fable 3. The title had been promoted by Microsoft as yet another proof of its renewed commitment to PC gaming, so it was a bit worrying that it was delayed, particularly since the Xbox 360 version wouldn't be delayed. So now the bright and shining example of Microsoft's commitment to PC gaming wasn't going to be available in a PC format to gamers who wanted to play it the day it came out. Regardless of the reason the PC version was delayed, (which is obscured by the marketing message), it was another opportunity to see just how thin Microsoft's commitment to PC gaming actually is.

The company never seems to tire of making claims that Windows is the most popular and potent gaming platform on the planet, but given the company's lack of first-party offerings for the platform, those claims seem like mere marketing hype for the "Games for Windows" brand. You can't fault Microsoft for promoting the GFW message, particularly as other major developers are migrating towards Steamworks, but the absence of any concrete evidence of Microsoft's own commitment to PC gaming is telling. Why wouldn't a company go with Steamworks when it provides the very things that Microsoft should have been providing all along? Compared to Steam's consistent copy-protection system, digital delivery service and community features, Microsoft's Game Advisor and performance- ranking seem inconsequential.

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