Microsoft: We Are Doubling Down On PC Games

Exactly a year after rolling out Windows 7 with much fanfare, Microsoft seems to be finally remembering the gamers who help make their platform so popular.

The October 2009 launch of Windows 7 happened with almost no reference to gaming or the people who use the system so prevalently to game.

It was a massive shift in tone from 2006, when then Microsoft Vice President Peter Moore apologised for what he called a dereliction of duty to the company’s no. 1 gaming platform: the PC.

While Vista’s 2006 launch was touted as a renaissance for Windows gaming, three years later Microsoft seemed to have once more forgotten about their other gaming platform.

Last week, though, the company unveiled their plans for a bigger, better online store for selling computer games digitally. Peter Orullian, group product manager for Windows PC and Mobile, told Kotaku that the idea is to “bring some of the rigour thought and success we’ve had on console to bare in the PC space”.

“PC games,” he said, “is a place where we are doubling down.”

For now “doubling down” on PC gaming means relaunching their web-based Games for Windows Marketplace next month with about 100 titles for sale.

While it’s nice to see Microsoft paying attention again to the PC as a gaming platform, I asked Orullian why Microsoft is spending time fixing a program that already has several very successful third-party solutions. Why reinvent the wheel, I asked, mentioning Valve’s tremendously popular Steam service which currently has more than 1200 games for sale.

“We have a different vision that runs parallel to what (Steam) is doing,” Orullian said.

This is just the start of Microsoft’s latest PC gaming push, he said. As the company builds up their store, they will also be tapping into the massive community they’ve built with the Xbox 360.

Could that mean that gamers will see a second attempt at cross-platform gaming between the PC and the Xbox 360?

“We have a healthy list of feature’s we’re going to start bringing out once the store launches,” Orullian said.

One obvious place where Microsoft’s new Games For Windows store may have the upper hand on Steam is how it handles digital rights management.

Where Steam uses a single proprietary system, Games for Windows will have a much more flexible approach.

The Marketplace will work with nearly all forms of digital rights management, Microsoft told Kotaku, allowing publishers to submit a pre-protected or unprotected build of their game with their choice of DRM and Microsoft will distribute the builds on the Marketplace along with the appropriate activation keys.

While Microsoft’s renewed interest in Windows gaming is surely tied to the chance to create a foothold in the digital game sales space, this year’s tremendous line-up of computer games also probably helped.

Over the past 10 months, we’ve seen the release of a new StarCraft, a new Civilization, a new Total War and computer versions of massive hits like Mass Effect 2, BioShock 2 and Dragon Age: Origins.

With only two months of the year left, we can also look forward to the coming of the Cataclysm expansion to massively popular, massively multiplayer game World of Warcraft.

Despite the popularity of PlayStation 3s, Xbox 360s, Wiis and iPhones, computer gaming isn’t just still around, it’s making a resurgence.

Well Played is an internationally syndicated weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Feel free to join in the discussion.

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