Microsoft’s investment in PC gaming has felt half-hearted over the past several years. It locked Halo 2 and Gears of Wars into the now waning Games for Windows Live ecosystem, and it’s become abundantly clear that Microsoft is leaving video games up to the Xbox division. However, a recent interview between Microsoft and AusGamers reveals that Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Studios Phil Spencer is open to the idea of cross platform play between the Xbox One and PCs.
As expected, Microsoft's Gamescom conference held little for personal computer fans (by which I mean people, not heat sinks and stuff). The electro-megacorp have been been quietly dialling back their haphazard PC support over the last week, so they were hardly going to give us a mention now - lest they offend the potentially self-aware Xbone megalith. But nestled amongst their pre-order bonuses and launch exclusives, there was some PC news. Bad PC news: Popcap's Peggle 2 will be spending some time trapped in the Xbox exclusivity prison.
Xbox.com's PC store, the Games for Windows Marketplace, is set to shut down next week, as announced by Microsoft's almost comically outdated Games for Windows Facebook page. According to their post, users will no longer be able to buy games through the service. The Games for Windows Client will still provide access to existing purchases.
Yes, at launch, you won't be able to plug an Xbox One controller into your PC and have it just work. According to Microsoft, in a quick chat with VentureBeat, new software has “to be written and optimised for the PC.”
While they look very similar Microsoft states that the two controllers don’t really share the same technology at their hearts. The Big M’s spokesmen cite a new wireless protocol “and additional features like Impulse triggers” as why they’re only going to be compatible with the Xbox One from launch. They do expect to be able to get the controllers working across the range of PC games which supported the ever-popular Xbox 360 controller some time next year.
A quick exercise, before we begin a day of Hard News: list the various PC game-selling digital storefronts/services by your order of preference. I'm going to guess that, for most people, Steam and GOG will be towards the top; GamesGate, GMG and Desura will be filling out the middle; and that Origin will be the Wildcard - its placing likely dependant around each person's perception of its parent company. Then we have Microsoft, with Games for Windows Live/Marketplace and the Windows Store. Neither is much loved, and neither has earned much reason to be. And, at a guess, Microsoft isn't too happy about that situation.
Which may explain why they've hired Jason Holtman, Valve's former director of business development for Steam. His new focus at Microsoft: PC gaming and entertainment strategy.
It all begins so peacefully. A vast field of inky darkness, with just one point of light in the middle. Within it, a library stands tall and proud, but with many shelves left empty. Next to it, a few fields are tended by villagers, and a woodcutters’ camp stands in a clearing nearby. A scout sits and strokes his pet dog. In the middle of it all stands the town centre, its homes packed with children, waiting to come of age and leave a legacy unmatched by any other civilisation on Earth.
Rise of Nations attempts something quite audacious: fitting the entire span of human history into your lunch hour. It’s real-time, as in ‘real-time strategy’, but it accelerates that supposedly ‘real’ time to ludicrous levels, packing the scope of a game of Civilization into an hour without compromising on the detail. You might send a group of hoplites into battle with bronze spears and have them arrive armed with muskets. Imagine the aforementioned Civilization blended with Age of Empires, the Total War series and Red Alert and you’re getting close, but Rise of Nations has a few tricks of its own.
Right, I’m very much aware there’s a good number of folk out there with absolutely no interest in Windows 8 or it’s subsequent updates and I’m likely to be vilified in the comments for saying this, but I’m still a big fan. I like the apps, don’t mind the new interface - even on a desktop rig - and it’s got a host of behind the scenes code improvements for gamers.
And with the Windows 8.1 Preview released last week, around Microsoft’s Build developer’s conference, I think this latest OS has only gotten better.
Yo dawg, we heard you like games... Yeah, so remember Project Spark, that "game-making game" that was so tantalizingly, so awkwardly revealed to us by Microsoft at this year's E3? Its website is now accepting sign-ups for beta, so get on over there if you're keen to craft some whimsy.
Xbox One. PS4. What effect will the poster children of E3 2013 have on the future of PC Gaming? Will new hardware architecture mean more high-profile PC ports or—dare we say it—PC-led titles that are ported for consoles afterwards? Are Microsoft's touted 15 exclusive launch titles going to be anything we'd even want in the first place? Will the pull of the indie scene be enough to turn gamers away from hardware manufacturers that shun them? We chew on this, and feed you our analysis like a mother bird to her chicks.
The new consoles have the spotlight at E3 2013 this year, but what will the expo's many reveals, demos, hardware rollouts, and buzzwords mean for the PC? Is this even a show for us at all, with the focus on the brick and mortar retail market? We discuss the implications, and speculate on which of the big, all-star console titles will eventually make it to our corner of the gaming universe.
Zombie-infested open world survival sim State of Decay is out now for the Xbox -1, but we haven't heard a groan about the PC version for quite a while. Unfortunately, now that we have, it's not all good news - while the game will be coming to lap/desktops at some point, "it isn't going to be soon by any meaningful use of the word 'soon'." The zombie apocalypse just got a little more depressing.
Former Microsoft Corporate VP and current EA Chief Technology Officer Rajat Taneja has claimed in a LinkedIn post (thanks, GamesIndustry) that the Xbox One and PS4's architectures are "a generation ahead of the highest end PC on the market."
You can't see my face right now, but it's contorted into an expression of bemused bewilderment. That's because of an interview by ShackNews with the excellently named Matt Booty, Microsoft's "general manager of Redmond Game Studios and Platforms". In it, he distances the company's Windows game strategy away from the perception of the "more traditional desktop PC game," heavily suggesting that the majority of the Xbox One's "15 exclusives" won't be arriving on Microsoft's other platform.
While the internet took cover from the barrage of Xbox One announcement news yesterday, some pertinent details for us PC gamers slowly rose to the surface of the TV-TV-Sports-Dog news conference. Among them were the release date for Battlefield 4, what the Xbox One might mean for PC gamers, and the hint that the Kinect 2.0 will eventually be available for Windows.
Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal this morning didn’t present any immediate or obvious implications for Our Dear Hobby. Conspicuously few games were shown during the debut of a new video game console, and no games were demonstrated live. Microsoft mostly spoke about the new utilities (Skype!), partnerships (NFL!), and living room takeover (Kinect!) we’ll expect from the Xbox One when it releases this year. From a technical perspective, 8 GB of RAM is the only concrete hardware spec Microsoft dropped.
The big finale at Microsoft's Xbox One reveal today was not Call of Duty: Ghosts. It was Call of Duty: Ghosts' instantly famous mo-capped dog. That's right, Ghosts will feature Peter Molyneux's essential invention: a dog companion to keep us company as we fight back against an oppressive someone. This is Call of Doggy. Collar Duty. The rex generation of gaming. I could go on, but I'll stop before you flea.
Microsoft announced on its blog today that Windows 8.1, previously called "Windows Blue," will release as a free update on the Windows Store, with a public preview coming June 26. According to the post, the update will help "deliver the experiences customers—both consumers and businesses alike—need and will just expect moving forward."
Here's a spot of news tracking strongly on the intrigue-o-meter: Microsoft has released sample code for its Kinect for Windows peripheral under the Apache 2.0 license. In other words, the tech giant is giving PC developers a partially open source Kinect to play around with, opening up interesting possibilities for utilizing Microsoft's motion control device in games and other software.
As Valve finally prepares to roll out prototypes for its Steam Box in as little as four months, it's apparently as good a time as any for established living-room-gaming lords to talk about what they think of PC gaming's strongest push into their realm. During a talk at Microsoft's TechForum conference earlier this week (via The Verge), Microsoft's head of Interactive Entertainment Business Don Mattrick—that's "Xbox boss" in non-corporese—gave a simple "no" in response to being asked if he considers Valve a competitor.
Games for Windows Live users have been experiencing problems connecting to the service's servers, leaving some unable to access their online profiles. It's an unusual situation, because the much-loved GfW Live is normally so reliable, and definitely not something we recently described as "one of the most ill-conceived and poorly executed pieces of software it is possible to install on your PC."
...Is how I might begin this story if we were in a parallel universe. Instead, all I can do is offer a resigned shrug and urge publishers to stop putting the bloody thing in their games.