Microsoft has been haphazardly trying to court PC gamers for a while now, but this year's E3 seemed like more of a sincere effort. Old PC franchises are being resurrected, we've got old and new Halos on the way, and there's a new app (opens in new tab) to replace the terrible Microsoft Store. Head of gaming Phil Spencer says Microsoft's not trying to replace other stores, however, and the publisher's approach will be an open one.
"I didn't want people to think this was our attempt to go and push all the other stores out of the way," says Spencer. "In fact, if you want to buy games from us, we want to give you a choice where you buy those games. So the announcement of Halo: Master Chief Collection coming to both Steam and our store was us saying you should be able to buy the games where you want to buy them. We want to make sure the communities are all connected, so we obviously had to work with Valve ensuring that, regardless of where you bought the game, you'd be one community playing together."
With the current wave of hostility directed towards store exclusives and Epic in particular, it's easy to score points by presenting yourself as open and 'for gamers', but Spencer says they're different strategies and he believes Tim Sweeny and Epic are "working from what they believe is what's best for both them, their creators and their players". Microsoft may release games on the Epic Games Store and other places in the future, too, though right now Steam's the focus.
With Steam being the largest of the stores, it makes sense to start there. Spencer says that Valve's also been supportive when it comes to making sure everyone still gets to play together, and he got advice from friends at Valve when it came to bringing the Xbox Game Pass at PC. This doesn't mean more stores are out of the question, and there's no reason why we wouldn't see them appear on GOG or the Epic Games Store somewhere down the line.
As for what's going to appear on Steam, it sounds like it will be most games, at least going forward. "My expectation is that our games will be available on Steam," says Spencer. "You can never say 'always ever', because then something will happen with rights in certain situations where something might not happen, but we have a really good relationship with the team over there. We go over and talk to them about a lot about the plans we have—it's a good, healthy conversation. So there's nothing in our plans that would say there's a reason we wouldn't continue to ship our games on Steam."
Microsoft's also looking into bringing existing games over, and Sea of Thieves was one of the most requested games on Steam, after Halo. It's a matter of finding time to do the work required to get it ready for Steam. Microsoft's not ready to make announcements about it yet.
Read our full interview with Phil Spencer (opens in new tab).