At first you don’t succeed, fire some people and try again!
With all the buzz surrounding its next-gen console, the Xbox One, it’s easy to forget that Microsoft’s roots trace back to the PC. In fact, if there was one company considered as the heir apparent to truly bring PC gaming up a notch in order to garner the same level of hype and media attention as the consoles, it would be Microsoft. Yet somehow, they dropped the ball.
In fact, they dropped it a long time ago and just left it lying there. Only now are they looking to finally pick it back up and run with it.
We’ve heard rumblings of major changes coming from Microsoft over the last several weeks, after a rash of hirings, firings and resignations. Then, after Julie Larson-Green (who has over 19 years at the company under her belt) was appointed head of hardware, we received the news that many had been waiting for. The shake-up took form in what they now call the new “One Microsoft.” For years, the company had operated in a somewhat disjointed way, with many parts of the whole being spread out among different departments. This move looks to unify the company in a more optimized way. As a result, the first order of business is to re-stake their claim as the best PC gaming developer around. “Now we’re one unified Microsoft.” said creative director Ken Lobb. “We have more support internally to support PC more. That’s great...So we’re really going after PC...The PC community is more vibrant than it’s ever been before.”
Sounds great, but I’m skeptical.
Frankly, I’ve heard this song and dance from Microsoft before. Around 2006 they announced a similar venture that, along with integration with its booming X-Box Live service, would provide a totally one of a kind experience for PC games. It was called Games for Windows. While it was an interesting concept at first, problems arose when only a small handful of games supported things like PC based achievements (Halo 2 and Gears of War for example). Not to mention the complete anemic list of titles released under the “Windows” umbrella over its lifetime (only five games during the entire years of 2013). Of course, that could be a direct result of Microsoft closing the service down last summer, in what they called a “discontinuation of the brand.” That sounds about right. I mean how did they expect the community to support such a piss-poor execution, when services like Steam showcased exactly how to do it right? If that’s really what they had in mind when they called it “one of a kind,” then they might want to start using Google instead of Bing when looking up future catch phrases.
I’m all about second chances, and ultimately, the success of the new PC campaign Microsoft hopes to take on will be directly dependent on how smart they are with their business model. I think they learned a lot about how to gauge community response during a very rough lead-in to the launch of the Xbox One, and the necessity of making adjustments on the fly. That will be the key to a successfully Microsoft/PC gaming empire in the future (if they hope not to repeat the mistakes of their Games for Windows debacle). Also, lest we forget that PC gaming is the ace in the hole that could finally give Microsoft an inside track to overtake Sony (whom by all accounts is currently ahead).
I can’t overstate how important it is that Microsoft plays their cards just right here. Needless to say, there isn’t much margin for error on the second time ‘round.