Windows Isn’t For Gamers Anymore

For the past decade-and-a-half, “Windows” has been synonymous with “PC Gaming” – after all, no other PC platform has managed to satiate the undying hunger gamers are quite famous for. But now it seems that Windows is on the verge of losing its distinction as the gaming platform of choice – with nothing but Microsoft’s own machinations to blame.

Despite PC users’ widely-varying taste and preference in operating systems and platforms, gamers need Windows. In fact, one of the biggest reason people around the globe tend to dual-boot is their undying love for gaming and the fact that no other OS out there can boast the wide range of gaming titles and genres available for their platform like Windows can. The traditional choice faced by most non-Windows users has been to either install and dual-boot Windows or bite the built and buy a gaming console – ask us, we would know.

But this is all about to change, thanks to Microsoft’s reckless abandon for one of its few truly-loyal userbases.

When Microsoft first began its frenzied Vista marketing campaign in 2006, one of the points it focused on most and repeated over and over again was just how big of a gaming revolution Windows Vista was. Gaming was a large part of the Vista WOW campaign, but it has since failed to disappoint. But this isn’t an article about Vista, it’s about how Windows is poised to lose its gaming advantage if Microsoft doesn’t get its act together sometime soon.

The problem is that Windows – standalone or in a dual-boot – is quickly becoming the lesser-appealing option when compared to a gaming console… in large part thanks to Microsoft’s ridiculous, biased, and fairly infuriating decisions to release games for Xbox and then for PC.

A major part of the gaming/entertainment Vista PR that went out around the same time as the OS: Microsoft Announces Spectacular Windows Vista Title Lineup. Spectacular? Hardly so. Take a look at the Microsoft Game Studios release history for 2006 and 2007, you’ll find a great disparity between the number of titles MGS released for Windows verses those for the Xbox (360)…

If you ignore expansion packs (the Zoo Tycoon development team seems to love these), you’ll find that Microsoft Game Studios released a total of nineteen titles for the Xbox over these two years, compared to a mind-blowing six titles for the PC over that same period – half of which were either available on the Xbox simultaneously or years before!

But what does Microsoft have to say about the obvious deterioration of the Windows gaming market?

The Windows gaming world continues to evolve, and we believe in the future of that property.

-Shane Kim, Microsoft’s Vice President of Interactive Entertainment

Sorry Mr. Kim, but we find that a bit hard to believe. Mr. Kim’s statement came in response to the recent (shocking) news that Microsoft’s (PC game development) Ensemble Studios – authors of Microsoft’s Age of Empires claim-to-fame hit series – would be shut down for "fiscal reasons."

Obviously Microsoft is in a hard place here, needing to cater to both of the (competing) PC and gaming console markets at the same time. However, due to the serious 3rd-party hardware/platform competition in the gaming console market it seems that Microsoft’s decision has been to give Xbox the priority here.

It’s obviously not Microsoft’s job to develop games for its own platform – technically, all they have to do for either the PC or the Xbox is develop the APIs and provide 3rd party gaming developers with the tools and support they need to make it work. And 3rd party developers have not let anyone down, with astonishing numbers of titles being published for both platforms.

But if Microsoft wants to ensure that its platform retains its current hold on the PC gaming market they’re going to need to do a bit more to convince potential Windows gamers to stick to their platform and not go out and get a gaming console instead. It’s quite a logical choice to focus on Windows here – there are literally millions of Windows users who would be using something else if it wasn’t for Windows’ vice-like grip on the gaming market.

The fact is, PC gamers and console gamers aren’t the same market targets. It won’t kill Microsoft’s Xbox division to treat their Windows gamers with a little bit more respect than they’re currently doing – if not for the users’ sake then for their own.

But no matter what Microsoft Game Studios does or doesn’t do, it can’t actually damage the Windows gaming platform – all it does is create a scenario wherein another OS can work hard and potentially overtake Windows at its own game (pun intended!).

Mac OS and Linux both have a rare opportunity on the horizon – but for it to have any impact on the current PC gaming sector’s dynamics, they’ll have to put a bit more effort into the gaming scene than they’re currently doing. Something that requires this sort of centralized coordination is definitely not one of Linux’s strong suites, so the ball is now squarely in Apple’s playing field, and it’s up to them what they do with it.

Basically, Microsoft needs to watch its step. The incentives for PC gaming are at their lowest levels in years with even real-time strategy games – the PC’s long-standing forte – being developed first for the gaming consoles and then, possibly, for the PC (yes, we’re looking at you, Halo Wars!).

And then there’s Bungie – cross-platform game developers bought up by Microsoft years ago, authors of the internationally-acclaimed “Halo” series, and now released from Microsoft’s reigns with its sights set squarely on developing games for the Mac once more.

At the end of the day, Microsoft’s size is getting the better of itself once more; with its own divisions failing to compete with themselves they way they should. Microsoft needs to pick up on this slow degradation of PC gaming satisfaction and do something to buck the trend, or else they could suffer some serious consequences.

15 thoughts on “Windows Isn’t For Gamers Anymore

  1. Do you actually play games???? From your obvious hatred towards the windows platform I would not think so. The beginning of your article reads like nothing more than unsubstantiated tabloid dribble. And you continue on do discuss how the failure of a single game company is going to affect the entire Windows platform. What???? I revert back to my first question. In danger of sounding like your article with fact less data. Most serious gamers would not and do not play Microsoft Games. Have you heard of Crysis, Spore, Warhammer, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, STALKER, Fallout, Outcry, GTA, The Sims, Mass Effect, Bio Shock, Assassin?s Creed, Quake and Quake Wars, Supreme Commander and the list goes on. All of which were picked as top 10 of PC games for ’08. And not one of them from Microsoft. I think you need to educate yourself a little on what PC gaming actually is before you go and write and article about it.

  2. None of the games you mentioned are even made by Microsoft or any of their studios.
    Which validates the point made in the article where Microsoft stopped producing games for the PC and moved on to the Xbox

  3. So this should have been called: Microsoft isn’t a PC Gaming company anymore is what you are saying xyx.

    The entire article is trying to convince people that, because Microsoft wants to focus their game development studios more exclusively on the Xbox360 to promote its sales, Windows is going to suddenly drop off the face of the world for PC Gamers as they all rush out and buy a 360.

    There are so many more titles for PC coming out constantly than all of the consoles combined(at least in the States) that this is not even remotely close to being truthful.
    The PC Gaming market is basically entrenched, having an easier time developing games over longer periods, and the luxury of knowing their game can be purchased by a MUCH broader range of people.

    Console titles are practically rushed into release status from the moment they are conceived, simply because consoles no longer last as long as they used to before being replaced by the next best thing. PCs aren’t going anywhere, they only get better hardware/software.

    Sounds more like he was made they closed Ensemble Studios and he wouldn’t have any new Age of Empires series games to play and wrote a rant.

  4. I wasn’t encouraged to read past the first few paragraphs thanks to sloppy editing. For example:

    “bite the built”
    “reckless abandon for one of its”
    “but it has since failed to disappoint”
    “the lesser-appealing option”

  5. I wrote better written and more thoroughly-researched articles about PC gaming back in elementary school.

    D minus. Please see me after class.

  6. I’m a hardcore gamer I have to say I really dislike micro soft. I am glade apple is back in the pc market. If apple was get all the games on the mac I would jump ship. Even another company that supports games with OS.

    All the attacks on pc gaming are all micro softs game devs. There is a ton of pc gamers out there that would agree with this article. I am a hardcore gamer and I agree with article.

  7. if don’t beleave me then look at live vs steam you go on gaming fourms where pc gamers are at you ask them what they think about micro soft! Even Blizzard well tell you how alot of pc gamers feel.

  8. The problem with Windows as gaming platform is not Microsoft don’t make games for it (im VERY happy with it), but the Windows itself. Look at Vista – this OS wasn’t made for gamers – theres too much automatisation, and too much resources goes for the system itself – there is no space for games. I remember E3 2006 when Bill &Co were saying how gamers will benefit from Vista – and only thing they did for gamers in Vista is … Games Explorer :P
    So: to save Windows as a gaming platform Microsoft needs to make Windows for gamers – not make more games by themselves. There is Business edition of windows, they should also make Gamers Edition of windows (and make it cheap).

  9. It’s good to see some of the fold stand up for PC gaming, but there is no doubt that it is somewhat in decline.

    The total market might still be larger than consoles, but those are mostly MMORPGs, and some genres like the adventure game, are all but vanished.

    Microsoft has no reason not to hasten the demise of PC gaming, since Xbox sales are direct revenue, not so PC games except if licensed by MS Game Studios, and creating games is expensive.

    I agree with the author that there is an opportunity for a smart, lucky team of developers who can create the next genre-defining game (Baldur’s Gate, Halo, World of Warcraft) and publish it exclusively for Linux. My PC can operate Linux for free. How many kids would learn to dual boot Ubuntu, if the game’s appeal and hype were strong enough?

  10. Wow, not so hard on them mate. :) I never find any pleasure in playing games in linux, even though I’m a hardcore linux user.

    I must say vista & DX10 was a disappointment for me and that’s why i’m sticking with Windows XP for those juicy games like NFS.But with Windows 7 it should, it must change.

  11. I think the article points out a real phenomenon, but it’s not just Microsoft’s fault. I think they’re reacting the changes that are happening in the market beyond their control.

    Most of the games Nick McDonald’s comment lists were released on consoles as well. Laptop sales are outnumbering PC sales by a wider and wider margin and the majority of PC users only use them to play casual games. There are a handful of hardcore PC games like Crysis but only a few people build the systems to run them properly in the first two years of their release. How much are you willing to spend to get 60fps at 1920×1200? If that’s the only benefit to playing on Windows, it’s a hard sell.

    Between that and the piracy problem, developers like Crytek have stated they’re reconsidering the value of developing PC exclusives.

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