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Is Xbox becoming a PC?

Posted by Jon Peddie on March 3rd 2016 | Discuss
Categories: General Interest,
Tags: microsoft windows pc gaming xbox

Microsoft unifies PC and Xbox One platforms into one ecosystem with Universal Windows Applications (UWAs)

Microsoft announced over a year ago in January 2015, that it was bringing Xbox apps to Windows 10 PCs, and that would allow cross-platform play and a cohesive friends list across both platforms. In November, the Xbox One was updated to be compatible with Windows 10. That brought a new interface and features to the console. At the dotNet conference in January this year in Madrid Satya Nadella said Universal Windows Applications (UWAs) would be coming to Xbox One. And most recently at a press event in San Francisco, head of the company’s Xbox division Phil Spencer said the Universal Windows Platform would be central to the company’s gaming strategy.

He also added that upgradable Xbox One hardware would make the idea of ‘generational' console releases is a thing of the past. 

Doesn’t that sound like a PC?

Well, yeah.  “In other ecosystems you get more continuous innovation in hardware that you rarely see in consoles because consoles lock the hardware and software platforms together at the beginning and they ride the generation out for seven years or so,” explained Spencer. “We're allowing ourselves to decouple our software platform from the hardware platform on which it runs.”
Nice. That breaks the whole compact between consoles developers and platform builders. One of the ways console platform builders got game developers to do a console first, and often best (over a PC) was the promise of a rock-solid, dependable and stable for a long time platform. Write once—run forever. That model is broken when you have an upgradable platform like a PC. It’s the upgrades to the PC with GPUs, memory speed, and size, and CPUs that causes the crashes and disappointments in older games (and sometimes new one as well). 
Don’t care.  Microsoft now believes that there will be “more hardware innovation in the console space than we've ever seen,” according to Spencer.

“We'll come out with new hardware capability during a generation and allow the same games to run backwards and forwards compatible because we have Universal Windows Applications running on top of a Universal Windows Platform. It allows us to focus on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform,” said Spencer.
“Hardware innovation continues and software takes advantage. I don't have to jump generation and lose everything I played before.”

Microsoft has had a long term love-hate relationship with PC games. During the Robbie Bach administration, PC games were decimated in order to make Xbox look good. Naturally there is a certain mistrust of Microsoft’s intentions, and follow through when the company makes announcements like this. Anticipating that no doubt, Spencer added, “PC gaming is as important as it's ever been in the company.,” He also reiterated that Microsoft still won’t reveal Xbox One sales figures, a pretty clear indication they aren’t proud of the numbers.
And as a tip of the hat to PC game developers he said, “Windows is a critical franchise. Over 40 per cent of people running Windows 10 are playing games. We want to work hand in hand with our partners to make sure we have the best platform we can have.” 

What do we think?
I’ll see it when I believe it. Microsoft has made so many promises to support PC games, and to open up the Xbox, and yadda yadda yadda. Talk is cheap and Microsoft talks a lot, but does little. Let’s revisit this at Christmas time and see what if anything Microsoft’s has actually done besides issue press releases.  ~ JP

Point-counter point
I would argue that Xbox is in no way a PC it doesn’t matter what is done shuffling the hardware around.

A PC (as gamers consider it) does not lock you into a closed garden and has absolutory tons of other uses with full support from all major software publishers. Simple as that.

 “decoupling the hardware and software” as Spencer put is does not make it a PC.

All it does is defend against Steam Machine which is a console.  ~ TP

Another point

Epic founder Tim Sweeney has severely criticized what he sees at Microsoft’s attempt to take control of the PC games market via its new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) standard. 

 “Microsoft has built a closed platform-within-a-platform into Windows 10, as the first apparent step towards locking down the consumer PC ecosystem and monopolising app distribution and commerce,” Sweeney said on The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/04/microsoft-monopolise-pc-games-development-epic-games-gears-of-war 

Final word

"I wouldn’t say our strategy is to unify" The games will have different characteristics that make them more suitable for one platform than another. Some games are more suited for keyboard and mouse, and a Kinect game like Dance Central, is probably not the best PC game.

Spector thinks there are two factors that differentiate what he considers a PC and console gaming. One is input. Microsoft said they are going to support keyboard and mouse on console, and you can plug a controller into a PC, so that’s not differentiator. However, PC games have to support keyboard and mouse, console games today usually don’t and for the most part can't. 

Universal Windows Applications currently don't support a lot of the features PC gamers would expect, for instance multi-GPU support, exclusive full screen, modding, etc. Specter says certain things will happen very quickly like, multi GPU support and things where there’s no policy, it’s just Microsoft working through the timeline of implementation. VSync lock, for example, there’s specific reasons that it’s there, but it’s not something that’s kind of a religion for microsoft. Specter says they are focused on modding even on console with, , Fallout. Microsoft owns Minecraft, they understand the importance of modding, and making sure that they support that in the PC ecosystem is critical to UWA success.

“The Universal Windows Platform is a fully open ecosystem, available to every developer, that can be supported by any store,” corporate vice president of Windows Kevin Gallo told The Guardian.

Tim Sweeney, founder and CTO of Epic adds,” UWP is only "open" in the sense that anyone can apply to be a registered Microsoft developer and, if accepted, can submit a UWP app to Microsoft for them to consider digitally signing and, if accepted, can be placed in a .zip file that any user can extract and dig through to find a PowerShell script to install the app.”

 

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck. . .

Spector is doing what any executive of a company that is focused on maximizing the value of their eco system does. Politicians also do this and are quite good at it. He is “guiding the debate” to issues that are not relevant to the core issue. By doing so he attempts to re-define the debate and suppress the core issue; which is the best thing he can do if the goal is to drive sales through their ecosystem...

He talks about hardware and ergonomics as PC gaming definers. If one were to let themselves be guided by him, they would instantly define the Xbox as a PC gaming if you could connect a mouse and play on desktop display.

He does not talk about utilitarian use model of the personal computer as being the differentiating factor nor does he discuss competition in software distribution. Because those issue are not in line with maximizing shareholder value.

This is the last person, along with Gabe Newell, that I would listen to for advice about what PC gaming is. They are ultimately focused on their own “stores” and have no interest in enabling competition in software distribution. ~ TP

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