Microsofts “Renewed Focus On PC Gaming” May Embrace Steam

Posted on Mar 22 2014 - 3:14am by William Stephens

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On the last day of GDC 2014 the Head of Microsoft Studios, Phil Spencer, held a panel in which he made a number of interesting statements in regards to Microsoft and its future in PC gaming. It began with a simple question about how Microsoft will combat Valve and their upcoming Steam Machines. His answer seemed to disregard the very concept of competition and instead hinted that Microsoft will embrace the use of Steam:

“I think Valve’s an incredible company. They’ve been the backbone of PC gaming for the last decade, and as the Windows company, I appreciate what they’ve done. They have, in a lot of ways, focused more on PC gaming than we have.”

“You will see more focus from us; not to go compete with what Valve has done, but because we also understand as the platform holder it’s important for us to invest in the platform in a real way.”
Phil Spencer

Being Microsoft, there are plenty of lines to read between. But Phil’s statements do raise a lot of questions when you consider that the Xbox One is not backward compatible with both the Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE Arcade titles which leaves all those games with no future on a Microsoft platform, especially once Games for Windows LIVE shuts down and leaves Microsoft with no PC gaming service of any sort. Rather than revealing any information about some kind of replacement for the service, or brushing the topic under the rug entirely Phil Spencer, the head of the publishing studio for the Xbox brand (Microsoft Studios) pacified the idea of competing with Steam in the PC space. Furthermore he praised Valve for what they’ve done to become synonymous with PC gaming itself and wished to “invest” in the platform rather than move away from it even as Valve continues to advocate the use of Linux over Windows. Does this mean that we could see Microsoft publishing many more games on to Steam, including older PC games that will completely lose support once Games for Windows LIVE closes? Does this mean that the near-death PC versions of Halo 2 and Gears of War will be revitalized on Steam and possibly be joined by the rest of their respective series? Microsoft is attempting to push full speed ahead with the Xbox One but is weighed down by the baggage of a poorly managed library of popular IPs that desperately need a stable home. Could Steam be that home, or is Microsoft hiding a service of its own?

Talking to Polygon.com, Phil Spencer elaborated on his statements after he stepped down from the panel. When asked about the fate of titles that still rely on Games For Windows LIVE, which includes some non-Microsoft published ones, Spencer said “You will get a clear answer from us very soon”. This likely means that details will be given before or during the Electronics Entertainment Expo which will begin on June 10. He also admitted that the Xbox’s current marketplace “isn’t great” and that the “core” of the companies’ PC model today will probably not be its future.

To me, these words don’t sound like those of a company with an ace up its sleeve but rather of one that is seriously considering joining the side they couldn’t beat. With Ubisofts Uplay and EAs Origin vastly considered to a be an unwanted nuisance by the PC gaming community and only used when there’s no other choice, one has to wonder if Microsoft sees any gain in implementing another distribution service that faces a massive uphill-battle against Steam. Would they prefer to offer their library on a well established market, or be yet another store that is mostly used by a begrudging audience of PC gamers?

What do you think? Please, let us know in the comments.

  • http://www.SteamFirst.com/ Eric Hoff

    You make some good points in this article William. Especially regarding Microsoft starting their own PC service much like Uplay or Origin. That would be a huge uphill battle for Microsoft. So many people do not play games because they are not playable on Steam. I personally gave away a copy of Black Flag to a friend because I was not interested on setting up a Uplay account. Steam is successful and Microsoft could profit from teaming up with them in certain aspects. We will see what decisions they make.

    I personally would love to see Gears and Halo come to Steam. I really think that would be a revamp to those old but amazing games and spark another online frenzy. Not to mention people who play on PC, who will soon have games which multiplayer experiences are unsupported, may make their way over to Steam.

    Fingers crossed.

  • Reason Freeman

    Would be smart on Microsofts part to take advantage and use Steam

  • kevin

    Would be cool to Access Steam thru Xbox one to play certain games , but I hope MS is keeping their first party and 2nd exclusive to the console.

    • megadrivesonic

      I doubt they will. They wouldn’t miss out on pc gaming cash. The Xbox one is being sold at a loss anyway.

      • kevin

        so if sold at a loss why bother with it, if their going to hurt what it makes and what it can make .

    • William Stephens

      Doubtful you would ever see Steam on the Xbox, but maybe we could tie our Xbox LIVE gamertags to our Steam accounts (like we can with Playstation Network) to allow purchases made on one platform to carry over to the other.

  • Iain Chambers

    BULL!

  • ChatWraithDelta

    “..valve has focused more on pc gaming than we have.” Yup!??!

  • Axe99

    ‘They have, in a lot of ways, focused more on PC gaming than we have.”

    Only by several orders of magnitude Microsoft, lol! Good to see MS getting back into PC gaming, but to suggest that MS and Valve are in the same class is truth-bending spin of the highest order!

  • Orionsangel

    If the first 4 Gears of War games were ported over to Steam. That would be amazeballs!

    • http://www.SteamFirst.com/ Eric Hoff

      All I need is Gears 1 and I will be a happy camper!

      • Orionsangel

        Well I’m sure you know that they have Gears 1 for the PC, but it was never maintained well by the developers. I mean few patches and it’s glitchy at times. I always wanted it on Steam.

  • Rich Garner

    To understand MS, one needs look no further than their own history:

      Games for Windows Live attempted to force gamers to logon and provided almost no added value. Yet they continually pushed GFWL as a market to BUY games at prices higher than normal.
      Windows 8 claimed it would revolutionize the computer. All it did was confuse PC users, anger mobile users and further alienate PC gamers.
      In a market flooded with consoles, platforms and competitors, they still feel their Xbox is not a console, but a monthly service for which gamers should feel honored to pay $5 per month.

    Microsoft has NO interest in serving gamers. Their ONLY goal is to CONVINCE gamers to serve them.