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Gaming In The Age Of Vista: An Interview With Microsoft's Rich Wickham
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Gaming In The Age Of Vista: An Interview With Microsoft's Rich Wickham

June 4, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

One place to start is in how you control your games. “We had a lot of good controller solutions,” says Wickham, “But we didn’t have one good controller solution.” The 360 controller now works wirelessly with Windows, as well as other accessories from the Xbox: the racing wheel, the headset, which will certainly helps some, and moves the platform a little closer towards having a common way to play games.

But the most important part, what Wickham stresses as the fifth pillar, “Once you’ve built this platform, you have to support it. Right?” he asks. The platform holder must educate consumers and work with partners to make sure they understand what you’re doing.

Vis-à-vis Games For Windows, there’s been a major push at retailers. “We’re in more than 10,000 US retail locations with Games for Windows branding,” Wickham reports. A thousand of those have interactive kiosks. That’s in addition to the general marketing campaign about the “Games for Windows” brand. The brand has also launched at retailers in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

Wickham thinks if you don’t do all five of those things – if you don’t have great games, if you don’t have an online service, if you don’t have hardware and accessories, if you don’t have marketing and retail support – that you’re not really bringing a platform approach.

Flagship Studios' upcoming multiplayer action game Hellgate: London

Vista as Successor

Microsoft laid out the promise of a platform, and has been working towards it. “That’s what we talked about that day, back in February of ’06,” says Wickham, who sees the Bill Gates’ Live Anywhere speech at E3 as an iteration on the idea. Microsoft, he adds, is going to keep iterating and doing more work, which is necessary. And indeed, Vista is still in its proving stage for many, with driver issues still being worked through, and UI and system spec questions still making their way through the media.

In addition, the time between Microsoft’s XP operating system and the launch of Vista resulted in some pent-up demand. MS also worked with partners to generate excitement during the holiday season, before the OS launched in January. It’s a long product cycle, and will only be judged one way or the other in perhaps five years, notes Wickham.

But does the man on the street differentiate well between, say, DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 titles? Wickham thinks so: “I think gamers are excited about DirectX 10. Those games are coming really soon.”

When Peter Moore wanted to sell Xbox 360s, he went out and sold them. When Reggie Fils-Aime wanted to sell Wiis, he went out and sold them. But with the PC-as-a-platform, isn’t it simply inevitable that consumers will get new computers with Vista, and then play games on it?

“If we really thought it was inevitable,” responds Wickham. “We probably wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing.”

But also, there’s an ecosystem formed by Microsoft’s partners. Intel, AMD, ATI, nVIDIA, Electronic Arts, Logitech… “Anyone and everyone that is involved in this big Windows business,” Wickham says of companies that have been investing in Vista for as long as Microsoft has. “It’s important that we do the right thing by the product and by the partners. I wouldn’t just throw my hands up and say that anything is inevitable.”

Viewing Vista as inevitable is a “poor business approach,” claims Wickham. “We haven’t taken it for granted, or taken it as inevitable by any stretch.” In fact, he believes that it’s taken effort and leadership to make sure that PC titles are treated the same at retail, and in the mind’s of customers.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

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