By Nelson Schneider - 09/09/12 at 01:13 PM CT
Ever since code combers first found embedded references to Xbox Live in the Windows 8 source code, I’ve been excited about the prospect of Microsoft finally doing right by their firstborn child and giving Windows some proper gaming attention, instead of lavishing mountains of praise on their misshapen hunchback of a bastard child, the Xbox line of unnecessary consoles. Unfortunately, now that we have seen Microsoft’s plans begin to bear fruit, we can also see that this fruit is so rotten that not even a Fruit Ninja would touch it.
Instead of creating a runtime environment or emulator for the dead Xbox or aged Xbox 360, Microsoft has decided it is in gamers’ best interest to only play Xbox Live Arcade games on their Windows 8 PCs. Okay, that makes sense, to some degree, as not every PC will have hardware capable of running disc-based Xbox/Xbox 360 games, with their higher production values and whatnot. Plus, it’s not a big deal, since most of the interesting Xbox 360 exclusives are Xbox Live Arcade games anyway. So, I’ll just grab my $40 Windows 8 upgrade and finally be able to play “Shadow Complex” without having to submit to the shame of buying the game console most commonly associated with jocks, dudebros, and 12-year-olds shrieking obscenities at random strangers… wait… what? There’s a list of ‘compatible’ Xbox Live Arcade games… and “Shadow Complex” isn’t on it? Well, let’s just see what games ARE on the list… FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU!!! Well, as long as we can buy one copy of the game and play it on both platforms it’s not a complete wash… oh… that part isn’t ready yet? Okay.
Essentially, what Microsoft is doing with Xbox Live Arcade games on Windows 8 is a branding exercise. It is an ongoing experiment to see if they can get some of the ‘coolness’ to rub off of the Xbox brand onto the Windows brand in order to make Windows 8 more appealing to private individuals and shake the common perception of Windows as the boring, default operating system for stuffy corporate environments. And what better way to gain mindshare among the masses than to emulate Apple and ignore good games in favor of a bunch of barely-curated touchscreen trash?
While I was really excited about the possibilities of an Xbox/Windows crossover, Microsoft’s actual implementation of that crossover has completely de-energized me on the subject. While there is still some time before this abortive service launches, I doubt Microsoft will do anything to significantly improve it. Microsoft isn’t interested in capturing mindshare among gamers with Windows 8, but instead in capturing mindshare among the same casuals and non-gamers who love smartphone games, Facebook games, and the Kinect. Unless something changes drastically, Gabe Newell has nothing to worry about, as Xbox Live Arcade on Windows 8 offers no compelling competition to Steam.