Microsoft: We should have been building something like Steam
Imagine a world without Steam. PC gaming just wouldn’t be the same. There is no denying what Valve have done for PC gaming with Steam, a digital platform which keeps going from strength to strength. Microsoft however, have done little to advance PC gaming, with their soon-to-be defunct Games for Windows annoying more gamers than it appeased. But they will be the first to tell you that their Games for Windows Live should have been more like Steam and that more should have been done to make it a real competitor with Steam. What with Steam having such huge ambitions to break into the living room scene with Steam Machines, Steam OS and Steam Controllers, Microsoft corporate vice president Phil Harrison stated that Microsoft would “be watching what they do with great interest.”
Microsoft Studios vice president Phil Spencer spoke to GamersBeat about Valve’s living room strategy where he stated that Microsoft had concentrated on Xbox a bit too much, leaving Valve to build up the PC market. “Valve is right down the street from us, They’ve done a great job of keeping the PC ecosystem strong at a time where I don’t mind saying that we could have been more focused on what was going on in PC gaming,” stated Spencer.
“We were probably too focused purely on console, With Steam, [Valve has] done an amazing job of building this thing that, in a lot of ways, we should have been building as well at Microsoft.”
Despite praising Valve for their evolution of Steam, Spencer feels that there is still a lot of work to do, especially as they try to juggle being a game publisher, a store and now handling Steam Machines and Steam OS, based of the Linux operating system which currently only holds 1 percent of the PC market.
“This is where I think they’re going to have to do quite a bit of work. There is a difference between being a game developer, running a store, and being a platform company,” he said. “That’s an evolutionary jump. They made the jump from building Half-Life to having a set of franchises to running Steam. They did a good job learning through that. Now they’re taking the next job to becoming a platform company - in some sense a hardware company, but in the truest sense more of an OS company. That’s not an easy transition.” Spencer believed however that Steam can and will pull it off. “They’re smart. They’ve been through it. I think they can do it, But I think it will take time.”
Will Microsoft ever create something to be a direct competitor to Steam? It’s unlikely, considering their decision to shut down Games for Windows Live, for the best, in 2014. But Microsoft’s aim is to connect Windows, Xbox and Windows Phone all into one platform. “We’re focused on making Windows and Xbox and Windows Phone the best connected ecosystem we can.”
A lot can be learned from Steam with regards to Microsoft’s future ventures into the PC market, but it will be interesting to see how the gaming industry, and more importantly consumers, react to the Steam Machine and it’s open-source OS coming next year. Competition can only be a good thing, and thankfully we have had Steam to offer us an outstanding marketplace and for the most part, a stable platform to store and launch our games from.
Valve aren’t messing around, with the release of their products coming around a year after their announcement. They aren’t standing still to see what competitors do, instead they are taking the initiative. Perhaps if Microsoft had done that back in 2006 with Games for Windows, before Steam was a household name, the industry could have been in a much different place, for better or for worse. An opportunity missed for Microsoft perhaps?