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Blizzard's Sams: Microsoft Should Put More Emphasis On PC Gaming
Blizzard's Sams: Microsoft Should Put More Emphasis On PC Gaming Exclusive
June 30, 2008 | By N. Evan Van Zelfden, Staff

June 30, 2008 | By N. Evan Van Zelfden, Staff
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

Talking to Gamasutra as a follow-up to similar comments made by design SVP Rob Pardo at Paris GDC, Blizzard's COO Paul Sams has reinforced calls for Microsoft to "put more emphasis on the Windows operating system" as it relates to gaming.

Blizzard's Pardo sharply commented during an onstage Q&A at Paris GDC that: "With Microsoft, I think they have a bit of lip service with PC gaming. They have their own game system now, so I don’t think it’s really in their best interest to support [PC]."

When COO Sams was asked about these comments and what Microsoft should do to further stress PC gaming, he noted:

"Well, their gaming focus is very much on the [Xbox] 360. And that makes sense, cause they’re a hardware manufacturer as well as a software developer. And so they’ve got a lot of money and investment tied up in that system.

Certainly they have a lot in Windows. And Windows is a system that supports all the business applications as well as games.

And I kind of look at it and say to myself, and I think similarly to Rob, is that it would be great if they put more emphasis on the Windows operating system, certainly probably the most prominent operating system in the world. Even more so than console boxes.

And they own and operate that system, so having them put more energy and effort against it – and they would say that they are, but I think that there’s more that can be done.

It makes sense to me, what they’re doing, they’re putting their energy and focus against the 360. That’s where their huge R&D dollars are that they have to earn out on and that’s where I think their gaming bread and butter is right now."

Sams was speaking as part of a longer interview with Gamasutra that will debut on the site in the near future.

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chris simmons
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I think ms and windows are the primary reasons everyone is saying that pc gaming is "dying". I think anyone that actually games on PC knows that gamers arent getting ALL the cool titles anymore but it is not like PC gaming is just going to just vanish. As long as there are PC's there will be PC gaming, plain and simple. However I would really like to see game developer learn that they do not have to rely on microsoft for gaming and see more games come to Mac OS and linux with me leaning more to linux. Gamers are always complaining the PC gaming is the "expensive" way to game, a free open source OS that doesnt require such high system specs to run stable would really help IMHO.

Sorry, not trying to rant, just saying that it is silly to complain about something and then stay dedicated to it :P

chris simmons
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sorry, wish there was an edit button. im not to say blizzard is dedicated to windows only, much kudos for diablo 3 on mac!

Steven An
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Good opportunity for indie PC developers? With Valve's Steam, more major studios focusing on consoles, this seems like prime time for indies to fill in the gap with full-length titles.

Jed Klampett
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Samms apparently has split personalities; Me and Irene.

"Me" lambasts Microsoft for putting more into XBox than PC gaming.

"Irene" totally understands why Microsoft puts as much as it does into XBox.

It was like watching a little tiff between a PC fan and Xbox fan; "Microsoft is being derelict to PC gaming"..."No, it is just being responsible to its console investment"..."No, its not"..."Yes it is".

I began to worry this might escalate into a physical confrontation between the two.

It makes perfect sense for Microsoft to put more into Xbox gaming than Windows gaming. If more gamers choose XBox, a significant percentage are still likely to own a Windows PC or laptop as well. If more gamers choose the PC for gaming, there is as much chance of cannibalizing XBox sales as winning sales from Sony and Nintendo. Microsoft makes the same on Windows and Office whether it is shipped on a premium gaming rig or general purpose home/office PC.

If you want to fault Microsoft for putting more into Xbox gaming than Windows gaming, then your real complaint is that Microsoft ever tossed its hat into the console ring to begin with. Once Microsoft decided to enter the console market, it could hardly be any other way (unless it were to fail in the console market).

What PC gaming really needs to worry about is one of the console makers finally eliminating the console's greatest weakness; fixed capability. At the rate of improvement through silicon revisions, process technology improvements, and die shrinks, it makes no sense to aggressively capture enough capability to last a minimum of five years, unless you are launching a satellite. This has proven a considerable risk as well, because it invariably courts bugs and other surprises. The longer your 'launch' capability needs to last, the more you are going to push the envelope. Stuff that normally would not be considered 'stable' until there is six months of data or experience with it, might be considered 'stable' after only two months.

Microsoft had already revised the Xenos GPU and migrated to a smaller fab process just two years after launch. What if, instead of trying to bring enough launch capability to last five years, they could relax the 'at-launch' capability, then recapture whatever they might have lost and then some using the mid-life upgrade? Bringing Intel's 'Tick-Tock' principle to the console.

Obviously, you would still focus on scalable interconnect bandwidth between the major elements; CPU, RAM, GPU/VPU, and core logic. Its far easier to launch a lot more bandwidth at any given time than state-of-art devices can utilize. So launch a console, then follow the same proven revision path that CPU/GPU manufacturers have virtually perfected; bug fix, performance tweak, and die shrink. Two or three years later, offer the revised/improved chips as affordable drop-in upgrades (with enabling firmware updates, of course). And it can be affordable. How much do you think the improved/shrunk Xenos chip cost to manufacturer today compared to the launch cost of those chips? Hugely less.

It amazes me console makers haven't figured this out, but I suspect it is only a matter of time. When one of the console makers finally figures out that upgradeable CPU, RAM, and GPU/VPU module will allow them to bring a lot more capability at less risk by spreading it over two capture points - at launch and mid-life upgrade - it will equalize one of the PC's greatest advantages over the console.

Bruce Baxter
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Either way Microsoft still wins.

What developers should do is take a hard look at making games for something like Linux instead - and Linux should be sweating it out to make their OS easy to install and operate as Windows is. Mac OS is still crippled in terms of gameplay so lets not even get into that.

Even if it is just to get out from under Microsoft's thumb, game developers should take a hard look at Linux, for example. There is nobody to answer to. It runs on PCs. It supports hardware acceleration. All it needs is a little polish and support. I think the gaming industry is easily powerful and monetized enough to advance Linux, as a gaming platform very easily.

I don't use Linux or Ubunta - but I would partition in a heartbeat (or run it form an external drive) just to play games. I don't think gamers would have a problem with that - and you cut out the 800 pound gorilla middle-man in the room at the same time.