PC gaming is the real winner of E3

By Sherif Saed, Thursday, 16 June 2016 16:01 GMT

If you mainly play games on PC, E3 had no shortage of love.

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PC gaming is the real winner of E3

“Who won E3?”

The meaningless question we ask ourselves every year after spending hours watching executives from the biggest players in the industry try to win us over with their suave confidence or impressive tech.

“The only way for Xbox to survive is to bring Xbox games to a bigger audience. No one has more interest (and money) to make this happen than Microsoft.”

No one in particular “wins” E3, but it makes for a fun topic of conversation nonetheless. Yet this year, it’s looking more and more like the PC is the real winner here. Despite not having an announced or marked presence – save for the PC Gaming Show – the platform is going to be home to some of the most diverse games line-up in years.

Of course, E3 was never really void of PC games in the past. You may not have heard the word uttered on Sony or Microsoft’s stages, but it was there in the trailers and it was there in press releases. There was always the “and PC” bit at the end of almost all third party announcements. It was expected, only surprising the few times we didn’t hear it.

Pay attention to Microsoft’s pitch this year, and you start seeing the ages-old talk of “commitment to PC” make sense for the first time since Phil Spencer took over the games division. It’s no longer bumbling ol’ Microsoft suits uttering non-statements while clearly only being jealous of Steam’s success.

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No, this year’s Microsoft briefing was a show where tangible decisions were made and plans became much clearer. Everything pertaining to PC coming out of that conference can only be seen as positive news.

PC players get to play the entire future first party Xbox catalogue on the same day as their console friends. If you own an Xbox One and a gaming PC, you need only buy your favourite game once to get it on both. If you go back and forth for any reason, your saves and achievements carry over between the two.

Not only that, but cross-platform play is on by default for both groups (co-op, and multiplayer when it makes sense). Everyone thought this would never happen, but kept asking for it anyway – and when Microsoft did try it, it didn’t end very well. Remember Shadowrun?

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Microsoft is finally starting to get it. You don’t beat Steam just by setting up your own store next to it. You beat Steam the same way Steam’s beaten piracy: by making the process of buying games, installing them, backing up and resorting save files easier than what cracked games could ever do.

It’s gotten so good at this that people forget it’s essentially a DRM platform, to the point where they’d take a Steam key of a game over a DRM-free copy, just to be part of that ecosystem. The Microsoft I witnessed at E3 this year is one that looks at this and goes, “we can do better.” More importantly, it’s one of the few companies actually capable of doing better.

But, I can see how an Xbox One-only owner might feel like their console of choice has lost its edge. At the end of the day, unit sales and raw data don’t matter to most players. Games are what matter. And when you see supposed exclusives be, well, a lot less “exclusive,” you begin to wonder if you made the right choice.

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“You beat Steam the same way Steam’s beaten piracy: by making the process of buying games, installing them, backing up and resorting save files easier than what cracked games could ever do.”

Though I say that, I can’t imagine open-minded Xbox One owners being upset about this forever. The way I see it, if you only own an Xbox One (or even both consoles) but don’t have a PC, you’re not losing anything. In fact, you have better chances of getting AAA games now that – theoretically – more people will buy Xbox One exclusives, seeing as they’re on an entire new platform with many potential buyers.

Secondly, games coming to platforms you don’t have access to shouldn’t in any way take away from your enjoyment. It’s not like Halo 6 will be designed with iPhones in mind. The games are the same, they’re just becoming available to more people. It’s a win-win for everyone, just as soon as you let go of brand allegiance.

Yes, Horizon: Zero Dawn and The Last Guardian are coming only to one platform, so why can’t Forza and Halo? I get that.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, this generation hasn’t exactly been going in the direction Don Mattrick thought it would. The only way for Xbox to survive is to bring Xbox games to a bigger audience. No one has more interest (and money) to make this happen than Microsoft.

Perhaps five or so years from now, when people start buying more and more Windows Store games and stacking up their libraries, Steam will get a UWP client, effectively making Xbox the Steam Machine.

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