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Good News, Microsoft Really Serious About Windows Games Now

For the nth time, Microsoft is announcing that it’s really serious about PC gaming. Really about the best thing that could happen to PC gaming is for Microsoft to leave it alone. The motivation this time is that years and years too late, Microsoft suddenly got interested in the Steam model. So after feeding off PC gaming, trying to destroy it in order to move gamers to its own closed XBox system, saddling PC gamers with its Games for Windows crap, Microsoft is taking another whack at it. Which is why Fable III is coming out for PC.

Cue news stories announcing that PC gaming is back. Newsflash, PC gaming never went anywhere. Magazines have declared PC gaming alive and dead over and over again. But PC gaming never left. It has a huge core audience. And its great strength is that most people already have the system to play games and its flexibility means you can play a wide variety of games way beyond what mobile or console platforms can accommodate, technologically and by design. That means everything from FPS to RTS to RPG to TBS and beyond.

Microsoft tried to destroy PC gaming because it saw no real value in it, because there was no competition. And Microsoft couldn’t make money from every company. Now it’s looking at the Steam model again. And it’s doomed to blow it. Because while PC gaming may mean Windows boxes mainly, it doesn’t have to. PC gaming began with the IBM PC. Because of its flexibility and power. Windows or no Windows, that’s what the PC still has. It’s what closed systems, whether they come from Nintendo, Microsoft or Apple don’t.

Is Microsoft Trying to Kill PC Gaming?

It’s not exactly an original question. When Microsoft got on board the console express, one of the first things they did was try to begin drawing away PC game makers into developing for the the XBox, that was actually one of the supposed selling points for developers. Microsoft has an obvious financial incentive to drive gamers from the PC to the XBox 360, because it doesn’t profit from PC games, it does profit from XBox 360 games. Microsoft needs PC gaming only when it releases a new OS to try and sell gamers on the idea that this OS will be good for them. And Microsoft has a history of trying to pull gamers into a new OS by making it exclusive. Microsoft deployed that in a big way with Windows 95 working with developers to create Windows 95 only games. Microsoft has done the same thing with its own games, buying up developers and insuring that they develop only for the XBox 360 and not for the PC. That’s why you won’t find Gears of War 2 or Fable II on the PC. Microsoft however has to walk a fine line between shoving gamers out the door, or destroying the whole idea that the PC is a credible gaming platform.

Should Microsoft be in the Phone Business?

With the Zune HD set to get a generally positive if shrugworthy reception, the question becomes what Microsoft’s next step will be. Microsoft may not have many grown up fans in the hardware crowd, but they’ve demonstrated that they can produce passable technology with the XBox 360 and the Zune HD. Apple has made the next step very obvious, a mobile phone. But that temptation may be a very bad idea. Microsoft’s strength has been selling operating systems, not selling hardware. Apple on the other hand has always been the fancy upsold hardware company. But with the Zune, Microsoft tried to grab the market from Apple, and arguably went the wrong route. Microsoft sabotaged its own efforts to sell an MP3 OS to rival manufacturers that could have posed a serious threat to iTunes and done to Apple’s iPod, what the Windows PC did to the Mac. Instead Microsoft tried to compete on hardware and lost. Now if Microsoft goes down the rumored Pink road to a Zune phone or a Windows phone, Microsoft will not only alienate manufacturers, already looking toward Google, and uneasy with Microsoft peddling Windows Mobile 6.5 while toying with Windows Mobile 7, it will take another step away from its core OS sales, to peddling hardware. Which is not a smart or safe business model for Microsoft at all.

Blu-Ray and the Wrath of Michael Bay

Blu-Ray and the Wrath of Michael Bay. Hey that rhymes. But not that long ago somebody paid Paramount a few hundred million dollars to go HD-DVD. Back then this was considered a great victory for HD-DVD and one of the signs of Blu-Ray’s collapse. Michael Bay lashed out at Paramount for choosing an inferior format in response to Microsoft’s bribery. Microsoft denied that it had paid off Paramount to choose HD-DVD but strongly suggested that Bill Gates might be perfectly capable of it, if bribery was called for.

Michael Bay blogged about it, criticizing Paramount and suggesting he wouldn’t be doing Transformers 2, allowing the deluded fans of Transformers to breathe a sigh of relief. Then Michael Bay retracted his Baytimatum, the Michael Bay version of an ultimatum, the blog post got deleted and Bay went along with HD-DVD briefly and even wrote a Transformers 2 script, but not without habitually bashing HD-DVD.

Now Bay is gloating over the supposed fall of HD-DVD in the face of his favored Blu Ray and winning friends and influencing people while doing it. Now Bay was right but all he did was hold out for the superior format, which isn’t necessarily heroic, especially when you consider Sony’s history of tech screwups and how quickly Bay himself folded in the face of a little pressure from Paramount.

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