Living with a Nerd
Dear Microsoft: Stay the hell away from PC gaming
There have been quite a few shake ups at Microsoft in recent days. Don Mattrick left Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Division after a bungled Xbox One reveal, and is now tuning his violin on the Titanic that is Zynga.
Steve Ballmer announced that he’ll be stepping down as the CEO of Microsoft within the next year. The Surface RT was a costly flop. The company is in a transitional phase, and this has led some people to speculate that, hey, maybe Microsoft will have a renewed interest in PC gaming!
Dear God, no
Okay, stop. That’s a good thought, because we all love PC gaming, and of course that means a Microsoft operating system, but what do we actually want them to do? What’s the end goal here?
The last time Microsoft was invested in PC gaming was the disastrous Games for Windows Live service, which was seen as more of a plague than a feature by most players. I can still remember my wife complaining about being kicked out of Netflix because I was playing a Games for Windows Live title in my office. And of course, since Netflix is kept behind the pay wall of Xbox Live, there was no way for her to watch a movie while I played the game unless we paid for another account.
We were the best-case scenario for Microsoft, a house that operated inside its ecosystem, and we were being punished for it. Games for Windows Live was a liability for the games that employed it, not a feature. The service seems to be in a series of quiet death throes now, and the best thing to replace it with would be absolutely nothing. We’re fine with Steam, thanks.
Distribution is a solved problem on PCs, we have Steam, we hate Origin, the Humble Store has indies covered… Microsoft has nothing to add to how we buy games. A few have said that DirectX could be improved, but that’s not exactly a sexy slide to put in a Powerpoint presentation; it’s going to be a hard sell to get the company to spend more time and money working on something that, to most people, is working pretty much fine. DirectX is not a concern on the minds of most PC gamers.
So how about bringing over those sweet first-party games? Halo would be a wonderful addition to the PC, as would the Forza Motorsports series, but Microsoft is not going to hurt its console business by placating PC gamers with titles that are console exclusives. How many times have we read in the forum or comments that someone is glad that Titanfall is coming to PC, so they don’t have to buy an Xbox One?
I would love for Microsoft to bring more of their tentpole franchises to the PC, but the pragmatist in me knows that it isn’t going to happen. The same goes for cross-play between PCs and consoles.
The reality is that developers will tell us that Microsoft could benefit from a few tightened screws here and there when it comes to Windows, but from the perspective of the average gamer? PC gaming is doing just fine without Microsoft caring about it. Every time they try to get into the game it ends poorly, and the things we want don’t make business sense for the company to provide.
This article in the Atlantic does a great job at taking a top down look at Microsoft’s business, and you can see the teeny tiny sliver of profit the company makes from entertainment devices. I don’t see a new CEO moving into PC gaming and, even if they were interested in doing so, there’s no clear idea of what gamers would gain from the move. The likely scenario is that we'd be saddled with storefronts, services, and limitations that wouldn't offer benefits to anyone but Microsoft.
PC gaming has never been stronger, and Microsoft moving into the area in the past has only caused heartache. Let them go back to chasing the business and server money, and leave us gamers alone on the PC. We’re doing great.
Note: the header image for this article came from this 2011 story.