Microsoft’s current stance on ‘gaming’ has been something talked about quite often over the past couple of months; What with their recent focus on PC gaming, a discussion which has split gamers around the world. See Microsoft, we have always been asking for your support with Windows-based PC titles, for quite some time. You even teased us by released a closed, region-specific beta of Halo Online, a title which has intrigued PC owners. However, it seems that every time you try to ‘Wow’ us with your PC support, you crap all over it with a program like ‘Games With Windows Live’ or ‘Windows 10 Store’. It’s unacceptable in a market dominated by Valve’s retail program, Steam, which has proven to be a great resource for distributing games, for developers and consumers alike.
Now, I can sit here and complain about how Microsoft has struggled with the PC gaming market, but that isn’t why I decided to write this piece. This piece is to talk about several improvements that we would like to see happen for Microsoft going into 2016. While we are on the subject of PC gaming, why don’t we start here. The PC gaming scene as we have it is a complete mess and Microsoft wants to add to that mess with their own Windows 10 Store. Speaking from the consumer side of things, the “one-stop” shop mentality is where I want to live, and that is exactly what Valve is attempting to do with Steam. It is simple to purchase titles, simple to keep them up to date without the need of hunting around the web, and (almost) every developer/publisher uses it to retail their product.
Now, rumors that Microsoft and Valve would be joining forces have been going around for some time now, even with activity being registered on Xbox.Steampowered.com, a domain managed by the Valve corporation. If Microsoft can work with Valve do deliver a unified experience on where Microsoft would benefit from selling on their platform, not only would you be helping your consumers purchase your product, but you would avoid any possible issues with cross-platform play, a feature that Microsoft want’s to full-dive into.
I mean come on, Valve has been generally open to cross-platform play, which could now play a part in Microsoft’s strategy by not only keeping their products in one place, but their games in one place as well. Imagine booting up one program to communicate with Xbox Live, Playstation Network, Nintendo Network and Steam all in one place with no latency or purchasing problems, on a shared platform. While I admit that this is more of a pipe-dream vision of mine, it would make for a innovate way to enjoy console and PC gaming on one platform, in one place. Really, when it boils down to it, its all about the consumer experience. Of course though, this whole process is a lot easier said than done.
Moving to the Xbox platform, Microsoft’s recent PC focus has left Xbox gamers left hung out to dry, with exclusives such as Killer Instinct, Halo Wars 2, Forza Motorsport 6 and others being ported to PC. One can argue that the games are still available on the Xbox One for gamers to enjoy, but for the tens of thousands of gamers out there who own multiple platforms, they want to be able to justify that Xbox One purchase with console exclusives, something which has played a strong role for the Xbox One last Fall with titles like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Forza Motorsport 6, Rare Replay Collection and more. Xbox One owners are now left with titles such as Halo 5: Guardians and Gears of War 4, which are both great titles, but are two of the few exclusives left in the Xbox One’s gaming library.
Not only does it have fans questioning their purchase of the Xbox One console, it has fans second-guessing Microsoft’s integrity, which is never a good sign as shown in 2013 when Microsoft announced DRM-locked titles. There are some Xbox One exclusives we really do want to see at E3 this year, including Halo Wars 2, ReCore and Crackdown 3, however Microsoft needs to re-establish their Xbox game lineup by partnering with first and third-party studios to continue the ‘Greatest Lineup in Xbox History’ from 2015. Continuing this, we would love to see some details regarding the new Halo FPS such as Halo 6, and new announcements from third-party developers such as Insomniac Games’ Sunset Overdrive 2, Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2 and independent game studios during their E3 Press Briefing. By coming out of the gate with a solid console line-up, Microsoft will be able to bring Xbox One gamers back into the loop of things while keeping a strong focus on PC gaming.
As a side note, VR (Virtual Reality) is here to stay. Microsoft has backed the Oculus Rift headset by bundling an Xbox One controller with every headset, but does it have room to remain in Xbox’s future? I’d like to believe that Microsoft is working with Oculus to develop a solution to bring Virtual Reality to their console. I think this is more than possible considering that Microsoft is already deep in development for the Microsoft Hololens, an augmented reality headset set to launch for Windows in the coming years. While Microsoft has denied any rumors regarding an upcoming revision of the Xbox One, we know that the current hardware might just support VR technology – after all, Sony’s Playstation 4 seems to be capable of doing so already. To pair with this, the Xbox One console is practically running on a Windows platform, meaning the inclusion of the Oculus Rift, or other VR headsets such as the HTC Vive should be more than possible to complete. Personally, with the focus that the rest of the industry has on VR right now, I believe Microsoft would be smart to share that focus with the Oculus Rift team to add more value to their headset.
Now, I know Microsoft has their Augmented Reality lined up called the Microsoft Hololens, with development kits just going out to developers recently. I’ve used one (which you can read here), and they are truly terrific devices, however, straight from the horse’s mouth – The Microsoft Hololens will not focus on gaming. With Augmented Reality being more of an ‘Entertainment’ platform, we would like to see a little bit of talk about how Microsoft plans to further integrate the Hololens with Xbox and Windows. A brief glimpse into things to come would be nice to see – perhaps even an upcoming release window and retail price.
So, let’s recap what I really want to see from Microsoft in 2016:
- Oculus Rift or some kind of VR compatibility with the Xbox One.
- Integration with Valve in delivering a steam platform.
- Partnerships with third party’s to develop Xbox One exclusives.
- Strengthening on the strong first-party support for Xbox One.
Listen Microsoft, you gained a lot of trust back from your consumers since the Xbox One was initially announced. You’ve been listening to fans, you brought back Xbox 360 titles via the backwards compatibility feature, you brought great UI changes to the Xbox One Dashboard and you are providing a steady stream of free titles for Xbox Live Gold Subscribers. Keep this up.
The only thing I can’t stand is the poor communication you have with fans when it comes to PC Gaming. You destroyed your relationship with PC Gamers when you launched Windows With Windows Live, and now with the Windows 10 Store, you are starting to effect your Xbox platform. No one wants to go to your crappy store, and no one wants to login to several different online retailers to play their games. Partner up with Valve and come to a consensus on how to deliver a streamlined process. This is what we want to see.
This is the end of my hopes and dreams for Microsoft this year. Do you agree or disagree with any of my points or do you have comments of your own? We would love to know! Feel free to post in the comments below or tweet us @InformedPixel.