PC Game Distribution on Windows 8

So Windows 8 is going to be this inter-connected OS between all Microsoft’s devices, it will have its own software storefront, and it’s gonna have games on it. What does that actually mean for PC gaming? Recent impressions I’ve read and seen look like a massive disappointment for the sake of artificial constraints in Microsoft’s ecosystem.

A while ago Microsoft announced “Xbox Games on Windows” or something like that. Not even “Games For Windows” anymore. At first glance finally incorporating Xbox and Windows into one software system seems like a big opportunity for games on both hardware platforms. One of the things I was interested in was the pre-installed Windows games with achievements.

One of my favorite games to play on my iPhone is actually Solitaire, which has achievements on GameCenter. Right there I wondered “Why doesn’t Solitaire on Windows have achievements for GFWL?” Now Microsoft seems to have basically done this for Solitaire, Minesweeper, and I think at least one other game… except each game only has around three achievements. Solitaire on iOS actually has some pretty challenging achievements but the ones on Windows 8 seem specifically position to do nothing more than make Windows users aware of achievements and the Xbox system.

When Apple launched the app store on iOS it inevitably led to games which became very popular despite the platform not being originally designed for games. This will inevitably happen with the Windows 8 store, which means that games could become a lot more prevalent on Windows in the eyes of the mainstream audience, but it doesn’t look like Microsoft is taking very much advantages of the existing gaming environment on their operating system.

By all right Microsoft should see this as an opportunity to give Games for Windows Live the shot in the arm it needs. Right now Mac users can open the Mac App Store and buy not only iOS apps or Mac apps, but also full-blown Mac games from Bastion to RAGE to Assassin’s Creed, right there for the mass audience. It’s almost doing what Steam did and putting it in the mainstream spotlight. According to Ars Technica, Microsoft isn’t quite doing the same thing with Windows 8.

First of all, not all the games will be of the “Xbox on Windows” label, and I’m honestly losing sight of what even sets that label apart. Secondly, normal downloadable games and standard PC games apparently will be sold through the Windows 8 store, but they won’t be launchable through the new Windows 8-style UI, nor will they have the achievements, rewards, leaderboards, and other stuff.

It seems like Microsoft is expecting a whole new class of games to be developed for the new Windows 8 ecosystem while the PC games that have run on Windows for its entire life up to this point will inhabit the background somewhere. I’m honestly still confused about it myself.

Let’s be real here though: If Microsoft was real about this they’d have some cross-buy system going on between Xbox games and PC games. You’d be able to buy Star Wars 1313 or Grand Theft Auto V on either PC or the next gen Xbox and own both versions. You’d have achievements and leaderboards go across both. It would all just be one big gaming service across multiple machines, but Microsoft is probably gonna drive a wedge between PC and Xbox.

Of course the problem that Microsoft is probably afraid of is redundancy. When I got my current computer, the only reason I had left to own an Xbox (or any console) was for console-exclusive games. Truly, the only reasons I even pay for Live anymore are Gears of War 3 and HBO Go. PC has been my first choice for every game that has a PC version, and rumors are even starting to indicate that next gen consoles might not be as powerful as current gaming PCs.

Microsoft has all these devices together now working under one ecosystem: the tablet, phone, computer, and soon the Xbox, but the problem is that the functionality of the computer and Xbox overlap in many places. Microsoft is probably playing a tricky game of avoiding redundancy between the two, possibly to the detriment of the PC for the sake of their Xbox business.

Hopefully later this year I’ll be able to build a new computer and hook it up to my TV as a set top box, which will heavily diminish my need for non-gaming console applications. If Valve can get Steam Big Picture mode working, then my computer will even begin to feel like a console. Windows 8 has the potential to close that circle but probably won’t because Microsoft doesn’t want it to. That’s the best reason I can think of for why we’re seeing a massive gap where PC gaming support for Windows 8’s UI should be. Other companies, Valve chief among them, already seem to be preparing to fill that void.

BULLETS:

  • GameStop finally getting rid of that PS2 stock? Might need to do a check on which PS2 games I’m still looking for.
  • As of this writing one of my favorite XBLA games – Stacking is on sale for a little under $4.
  • Man, RIP Michael Clarke Duncan.
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2 thoughts on “PC Game Distribution on Windows 8

  1. Bosstiger says:

    Reblogged this on Gigable – Tech Blog.

  2. KhleSmizth says:

    Thanks for the post, it was well written. Can you make more post like these in the future? I would appreciate it!

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