Over the past year, Microsoft has been pitching its return to ‘gaming’ with regards to its Xbox One. Out of the gate, the Xbox team stumbled with the message for the Xbox One console. Between the ambitious entertainment goals, the Xbox One set out to achieve and the muddled messaging around always-on connectivity, there was hardly any air left in the room to discuss gaming. Since that ill-fated E3 conference two years ago, the heads over at the Xbox division have done nothing but pitch gaming as the console’s focus. Perhaps, the Xbox’s team laser focus and gaming enthusiasm is bleeding over onto the Windows team.
With Phil Spencer at the head of Xbox, a plan to have Windows PCs once again communicate with the Xbox consoles, has been re-ignited. For game developers, this level of multi-platform integration should be pretty compelling. During an interview with PC Gamer, Xbox head Phil Spencer discusses what E3 observers can expect regarding Microsoft and PC gaming this year. When asked about what made the Xbox team extend their presence from the large E3 stage also to include the PC Gaming Show, Phil highlights the ability to communicate directly to PC gamers. “We’re proud to be involved in the first PC Gaming Show. E3 has traditionally been a console focused event, so it’s great that there is a forum to celebrate all that is going on in the community, and it’s an opportunity for us to speak directly to core PC gamers. In Windows gaming, we are part of an overall ecosystem, and it’s critical that we understand and recognize this.” Phil would also like to capitalize his time at this year’s PC Game Show to ‘kick-start’ better dialog between gaming fans and the company. Instead of separating Xbox and PC gaming into two distinct experiences, Phil would like gamers to see moving forward that when Microsoft speaks about the Xbox brand, it means gaming across all Windows 10 devices. Fortunately, for players, Windows 10 will be running on PCs, tablets, phones, Xbox One and HoloLens.
Phil also acknowledges that rebranding the concept of the Xbox from a singular console experience to more a concept of gaming, Microsoft is just at the beginning of its journey. Phil is optimistic, that as he watches more and more gamers utilizing other devices to play a game, Windows can naturally extend its gaming capabilities to meet players wherever they are. PC Gamer also hammered Phil about the poor reputation Microsoft has acquired over the years with PC gamers. Phil admits to the poor reputation but believes that the Xbox team in place now is fundamentally different than teams prior. “The key difference now is that the Xbox team is driving the Windows and console gaming efforts as one connected ecosystem. Games and gaming is front and center in our device and service strategy at Microsoft,” according to Phil. For the few remaining fans of Microsoft PC-exclusive games, Phil reassures players that they can expect to see more games soon. As part of Microsoft’s strategy to develop games that showcase the best of every Windows device now, the charter of Microsoft Studios is working to break down the walls between platforms. Perhaps the recent Age of Empires tower-defender style game or Halo Spartan Assault are evidence of how games will be developed and then optimized for the device.
During the interview, Phil is also asked about his views of the competition on PC and what is Xbox’s new role on the PC platform. Phil acknowledging that when Windows 10 is released, there will be a unified Windows Store, and Microsoft as a company would like to make sure their first-party franchises are well assorted. However, “At the end of the day, we want to be the best at giving gamers their greatest gaming experiences as a platform, publisher or retailer,” he said.
As of now, Windows is the most popular platform for PC gamers and among the most popular for games as well. Phil would like extend Windows 10’s new gamer-centric features to players as a way to help foster more development of the community. Gamers on the Windows 10 platform will now have access to built-in Game DVR for nearly any game, Direct X 12 capabilities that include cross-device multiplayer gameplay and performance increases. In addition, players will also benefit from unified accounts within games across platforms, as well as game streaming thanks to the new Xbox App. Phil sums up his efforts as, “the result would be that gamers will feel like the best games in the world come to Windows, are easily acquired, have consistent and reliable online services and that studios and publishers feel like they can build and grow a healthy business on Windows.”