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In February 2006, Peter Moore gave a speech at the DICE Summit where he demonstrated Windows Vista, apologized for Microsoft letting the PC slip into oblivion, and discussed how the company wanted to change PC gaming. Moore proclaimed the company's revamped plans, which include DirectX 10, Windows Vista, and Games For Windows - Live a bona fide platform - but is it?
Rich Wickham, Director of Games for Windows was there that day - in fact, he worked the demo. Recently, Gamasutra sat down with Wickham to discuss the progress that’s been made towards this future.
It’s been Wickham’s job bring the vision to life – when Gamasutra spoke with him, he was in between budget meetings, and joked that he was fighting for the Games for Windows marketing budget. Originally a lawyer in the Air Force and private practice, Wickham is also a lifelong gamer (Half-Life 2 is still his favorite game ever) - at one point during the lively interview, he used the phrase “my honest as-a-gamer-not-Microsoft-mouthpiece opinion.”
Windows Vista has certainly had much discussion as a gaming platform. “And you might criticize some of the choices we’ve made, but my point is: at least we’re making choices, man,” Wickham says. “At least we’re out there doing stuff. And that’s a good thing for PC gamers.” “The thing I don’t like is people making judgments without trying it out,” he confides. There will be some hiccups, and some things the company hasn’t done right yet, he admits.
Rich Wickham, Microsoft’s Director of the Games For Windows group, speaking at the recent Online Game Development Conference in Seattle, Washington.
And Microsoft could have gone down a very different path, and not built the Live service, not invested in the brand, not invested in first and third-party titles, and “let the world continue down the path it was going before that speech in 2006,” says Wickham. “I think we were at a point where you could go either way, and we’ve gone the right way.”
So is Vista really truly a platform? “Yes. I believe that that is true,” Wickham told Gamasutra. “I’ll tell you the things that I believe are important for any games platform.”
Building a Platform
In order to make a truly great games
platform, Wickham says, you have to do five things really well - these factors in his own words, of course:
1. You have to have a great operating system. (“I think we’ve delivered that with Vista.”)
2. You have to have great games. (“From your first party provider, as well as third-parties.”)
3. You do have to have a great online service. (“We’re going to be launching our online service on Windows: Games for Windows – Live.”)
4. You have to have terrific accessories and hardware that allow you to have a full game experience. (“We’ve delivered that with the Xbox 360 controller, which now works wirelessly with Windows.” Also, DirectX 10 graphics cards and dual and quad-core CPUs.)
5. You have to support the platform you’ve built. (“You have to market it, educate consumers about it.”)
Wickham believes that the right games are
on the way, both from Microsoft Game Studios – particularly
showing off Live – and from third-parties with such titles as
Crysis, Hellgate: London, Age of Conan: Hyborian
Adventures and Company of Heroes, some of the higher-profile PC titles due out this year.
That Games for Windows – Live service, still somewhat controversial thanks to its pay-for-features Gold option on the PC, is something important for Microsoft, which has plans to continually grow it. “As the service evolves, and we get content – you’re going to see that’s a really robust, really strong offering online,” says Wickham.