The two biggest Blue Mage fans are here.
Back in 2006, Microsoft attempted to bring console ideas and accessories into the PC realm with the now-infamous and totally atrocious Games for Windows platform. Now, according to an article by The Guardian, Microsoft is once again trying to hybridize Xbox consoles with the PC, but this time, they’re going for something much more game-changing.
According to Xbox head Phil Spencer, Microsoft is aiming to create a “complete gaming ecosystem” through UWAs, or Universal Windows Applications. This process started last year, with an Xbox app for Windows 10 PC, which allowed platform cross-play and a carry-over friends list. Then, the Xbox One itself became compatible with Windows 10, which changed most of the console’s interface. Apparently, these changes are only the beginning of Microsoft’s ambitions.
There’s a lot of information to wade through, but the cut and dry is this: by essentially “de-coupling” the software and hardware of the Xbox One (unlike most companies which lock the two for the console’s generation), Microsoft can continually release updated console versions with better graphics hardware and processors, much like newer PC models. With games being released as UWAs, it means that they’ll be both backwards and forwards compatible on the machines.
“We can effectively feel a little bit more like what we see on PC where I can still go back and run my old Quake and Doom games, but then I can also see the best 4K games coming out. Hardware innovation continues and software takes advantage. I don’t have to jump generation and lose everything I played before.” – Phil Spencer
This means a potentially infinite lifespan for the Xbox One, simply being released in newer and better versions with a library of games that can be played on any iteration. Spencer also mentioned that the integration of PC and Xbox One means there are more Xbox games being developed “than…have ever been before.” The idea of UWAs also means a shift in the purchasing model- it’s possible in the future if you buy an Xbox One game, you’ll be getting the PC version too.
Microsoft has also committed to abandoning Xbox One sales figures and instead focusing on MAU (monthly active user) data, with Spencer stating “it shows how many people are actually using [the] platform” and that it shows developers “how many people they can get to by building…games.” He went on to state that it’s the “success metric that [everyone] should be looking at,” and in this modern era, he’s not wrong.
Every step Microsoft is taking points to a bold, largely unprecedented, step for consoles as we perceive them. Sure, Steam tried to bring PC gaming to the living room with the Steam Machine, but the idea of a console which is continually updated isn’t something I would have ever considered. It might be difficult for Microsoft to convince every developer, especially after the failure of Games for Windows, but if they can pull off their plan without flying too close to the sun, console gaming could be changed forever. Exciting!