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Monday, May 15, 2006

Can Microsoft Save PC Gaming?

Some would argue that might depend on if PC gaming needs saving. Microsoft is making much of it's plans to revive the platform, which has at the very least suffered sagging sales and shelf space in the last couple years. Will "Live Anywhere", "Games For Windows" and DirectX 10 be able to change any of that?

I have to somewhat doubt it. Live Anywhere doesn't solve any particularly problem the PC actually has ... it's just an extension of the Xbox franchise and won't do much but add another offering to a glut of PC online socialization software. Games For Windows reminds me of that IBM add where they try to solve customer support issues by finding a new jingle and there's nothing in DirectX 10 to persuade people to buy more expensive computers compared to more economic consoles.

And that's the real problem Microsoft has ... with the Xbox they've become servants to two masters. They say they want to revive PC gaming ... but they also want everyone to buy a 360. These aren't compatible goals. Why spend $400 or $500 upgrading my computer for some games while spending $600 on a console? Consoles are more user friendly, heavily subsidized (in the case of the PS3 or 360) and hold their value much better than PC hardware. As Microsoft emphasizes things like XNA, which will promote cross-platform development between the 360 and the PC ... the reasons to get a PC will be even less not more. The Xbox showed with titles like Deus Ex 2 that cross-development can be a detriment to the PC version. Games like Doom 3 got features on the Xbox which should have been included on the PC version, namely cooperative play.

As long as Microsoft treats PC development as an extension of 360 development, PC games will continue to whither. The PC market needs exclusive titles which take advantage of the fact that they're being played on a full computer ... not shared features or marketing labels.

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