Xbox One: The Windows 10 Advantage
The desktop PC is upgradable to provide unparalleled performance; but Microsoft has neglected to nurture it for years and left PC game developers with aging graphics APIs and players to use Steam as their platform of choice to connect with fellow gamers.
Microsoft's new Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, had a presence on the PC gaming E3 conference this year and acknowledged: "There have been times in our past where Microsoft has lost our way with PC gaming. As a person who now runs gaming for Microsoft, what people have done on PC is critical both to our success and to Windows' success."
Spencer began his career at Microsoft as a PC software developer, moved on to manage Microsoft Game Studios, before his appointment as Head of Xbox in March 2014. His solid credentials have no doubt played a big factor in recent moves which have appeased game developers and fans around the world, but the decision to bring some Xbox-exclusives to the PC has worried some gamers...
Here is why there are significant benefits to Xbox having a close relationship with Windows:
Porting between Xbox - PC
It's in the best interest for game developers to reach as big an audience as possible. As of writing, Windows accounts for 90.82% of the desktop OS market with all of the versions in-use combined.
Microsoft’s challenge is to move those to Windows 10 when it arrives next month...
"We have Windows 10 obviously coming out in July. One of the early moves was to make the free upgrade for people. Really, we thought about that from a developer's standpoint. If developers look at a common ecosystem - with everybody on one version of Windows - it just makes it easier when people are developing games," Spencer said.
Along with Windows 10, Microsoft is shipping the long-awaited DirectX 12. The new graphics API doesn't just feature significant performance enhancements - but is also shared across Windows and Xbox which makes it much easier to port games and reach a bigger audience.
Spencer continues: "Build in DirectX 12 and make it common on our platform. If you're interested in Xbox Live... it's the same API set, the same service, and it's just trying to make it easier for developers as they're developing Windows games."
Since it makes more sense for more developers to target Xbox first in this scenario - this will have an effect of more Xbox games making their way to PC. However, the unique ability to target Xbox and Windows easily will attract more game developers to create more titles and even better experiences...
This leads to our next benefit; unique cross-platform experiences. As shown by Fable Legends, the new PC / Xbox relationship allows players on both devices to have a full experience instead of fighting over who has the controller.
The PC player can have a unique perspective and interact with the console player; whilst still playing a full game and not having to sacrifice their own experience like some current "second screen" implementations.
Of course some games lend themselves to just the TV, or just the PC. "I think there are a lot of opportunities for cross-platform, but I also think that there are games that exist on a television and there are games that exist for keyboard and mouse on a PC," Spencer explains.
He continues: "It's not our job to dictate where games are developed or the kinds of games that developers want to build, but giving developers the options, the opportunity, creating the widest canvas we can for creativity - that is what I've seen in my time leads to the best games."
One of the biggest surprises of E3 was Bethesda announcing exclusive support for PC "mods" on the Xbox One version of Fallout 4. There is a core reason for this - the Xbox One is a Windows PC under its chassis.
Speaking at E3 about the decision, Bethesda's Pete Hines said: "Why Microsoft? They are a company that is in both of those spaces; they're heavily in the PC space; they're heavily in the console space,"
He continued: "They had some pretty good ideas about how to make something like this work."
Mods are one of the main reasons why some gamers prefer the PC. If you take Minecraft - which was acquired by Microsoft in November last year - mods are what brings that game to life and switching back to the limited console version after playing the PC is difficult.
Finally we can start to see mods on a console, and Microsoft is in a unique position to deliver that thanks to the incredible talent of the PC modding community.
The new ability to stream your Xbox games to your Windows 10 device is cool, right? Well have you considered it in reverse? PC-to-Xbox game streaming?
Neither of the latest generation of consoles will be able to deliver 4K gaming just from their built-in hardware - but it's something which PCs have been able to achieve for some time. Eventually we'll be at a point where 4K games can be streamed over the cloud; but we're some way off that due to the lack speed and reliability of our current broadband infrastructure. 4K is here, however, and many gamers want it...
Complete new hardware - such as a sequel to the Xbox One or PS4 - comes with a significant cost both to a business and to the end-user. Microsoft on the other hand could allow gamers who want 4K games on their TV to upgrade their PC's GPU and stream to the Xbox One (with the cost of capable GPUs is getting lower every month.)
Cohesive ecosystem / Universal applications
A cohesive ecosystem can be the difference between success or failure. Microsoft has been pursuing an ambitious plan for some time which intends to offer developers a single Windows platform to deliver their applications on desktop, tablet, phone, and even console...
With the upcoming release of Windows 10, all the pieces are in-place to deliver on their plan for universal applications.
Almost straight after the Xbox E3 conference, we saw how seamless this could be for users. Gamers in the Xbox preview program switched-on their Xbox One consoles to find an increasing amount of their Xbox 360 games ready to download and continue their progress.
Before long, you'll see your apps from Windows 10 available for download in the 'Apps' section of your Xbox. This allows developers to create new apps to complement gaming experiences which can be run full-screen or snapped to the side of a current game, as appropriate.
Do you think Windows 10 offers significant benefits to the Xbox? Let us know in the comments.
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