Cognition Dissemination: Microsoft and PC are Back Together

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On this fine Valentine’s Day, what better time is there to discuss a relationship? Specifically, Microsoft’s on-again, off-again, and on-again relationship with PC gaming. Sure, there’s probably a better time, but today is at least moderately suited for the subject, however hackneyed and forced.

(That is unless it’s Singles Awareness Day for you; in which case, I can sympathize.)

Microsoft was a formidable force in the PC gaming realm when the market was previously brimming with life in the 90s. But after the platform’s viability appeared dire for gaming purposes, they wanted to try their hand with a video game console in Xbox, to the remaining PC gaming audience’s chagrin. They knew it would eventually mean nothing good for their support, since consoles needed exclusives for customers to purchase systems. Not to mention Xbox software needed to be designed with an alternate approach, befitting the console audience and control methods. Though signs were slightly encouraging for their continued support when the Halo games made their way to PC during the Xbox’s heyday, however late, their worst fears were realized when they mostly abandoned it during the Xbox 360’s life. And that’s not even getting into their Games for Windows service being steps behind Steam in nearly every way.

That'll leave a rash.
That’ll leave a Rash.

But the sun is shining brighter than it has for a while for PC gaming, and that includes Microsoft. It took the Xbox One debacle for them to receive a figurative punch to knock the hubris out of them, and part of their journey to make amends has involved porting games to PC again. Many didn’t take their initial moves seriously after their pledge to port free-to-play titles like Project Spark and Fable Legends, though some among the core gaming audience were and are looking forward to giving those a shot. While the port of Ryse: Son of Rome also made some ripples, it still hasn’t fully lived down its E3 2013 demo. It took the announcement of Killer Instinct for everyone to wonder if they were actually serious about this, though it’s admittedly coming well after its XB1 launch. That small wound, however, is dulled upon realizing that cross-play will exist between both versions.

The latest move is the biggest yet in proving Microsoft and the PC hardware’s rekindled relationship: Former Xbox One-exclusive Quantum Break will release on PC simultaneously with the console version on April 5th. It’s a sizable move thanks to the lengthy hype cycle Microsoft provided for the title thus far, as it was announced alongside the console itself back in May 2013. Interestingly, this isn’t going over well with some XB1 owners, who took out their frustrations on Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, over Twitter. Just think, some of these people are likely adults in their 20s and — yeesh– 30s who never grew up.

I think there's some quantum breakin' going on in this pic.
I think there’s some quantum breakin’ going on in this pic.

With Microsoft possessing their own dedicated platform for PC game distribution, there was little chance of them allying with Steam here.  Aaron Greenberg, Xbox Head of Marketing, confirmed on a podcast that it will be a Windows 10-exclusive. They’re following the trend of many big companies by using their own platforms for distribution on PC, despite Valve and Microsoft not being enemies. This wasn’t the wish of anyone who likes having their PC games in one convenient place, but it’s better than not having the game on the platform at all. Whether it will be a good long-term decision is another matter, particularly if Windows 10 gaming is as “successful” a venture as Games for Windows.

It’s possible they already have long-term plans that include Steam, if there’s something to the discovery of a semi-functional xbox.steampowered.com URL. That could simply be for the previously-linked Valve VR collaboration, or another matter not gaming-related.

It was also confirmed that Comcept and Armature Studios’ Recore will be hitting PC, presumably alongside the console version.  This news could have made some take further notice of Microsoft’s seriousness here, if not for how we still haven’t seen this game despite is being announced at E3 last June. You can show it anytime now, guys.

PC gamers aren't going Scalebound. Or are they?
PC gamers aren’t going Scalebound. Or are they?

The best evidence of this kiss-and-make-up relationship came when Gamespot posted information saying Scalebound and Gears of War 4 will also hit PC. Or rather, it would have been evidence if they hadn’t recanted that segment of the article in supposed error. The big question here is whether it was a genuine mistake, or if they spilled the beans too early. Given the trend indicated above, I’m going with the latter; but Microsoft could feel they need more Xbox One-exclusive titles.

If you’re the type to follow sales numbers, you’re likely aware that XB1 is significantly trailing PlayStation 4 worldwide. That also means Microsoft’s software sales aren’t as high as they could be, and they’re amending this issue by also selling that software on PC. But this doesn’t help speculation that they’re planning their slow-but-steady exit from the hardware market, despite assurances to the contrary. Unless XB1 sales fall below a comfortable threshold, that’s unlikely to happen. Expect them to give both platforms ample support….for now.

Microsoft’s increasing support is a welcome opportunity for those who enjoy gaming on PC, so they’re in the process of repairing two relationships here. They sure have a lot of love to share, and their plans work out for the company and its consumers, barring unforeseen burdening circumstances.

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