Microsoft is Mashing Windows And The Xbox Together To Win Over Its Most Critical Market

Phil spencer microsoft xbox

When Microsoft launched Windows 10 in the summer of 2015, it came alongside a brand-spanking-new app strategy for the company. Microsoft promised that with its new Windows Universal Platform (UWP), developers could write their apps once and they would run on any device running Windows 10 — including PCs, tablets, smartphones, and, eventually, the Xbox One and HoloLens holographic goggles.

Image: Getty Images/Kevork Djansezian - Microsoft Xbox head Phil Spencer

From Microsoft's perspective, it's a grand idea for getting developers to take their Windows software and make it available everywhere, including the severely lacking Windows phone platform. With competition from Apple and Google only intensifying, it's critical to attract as many apps as possible.

Apart from a few big names like Uber, Hulu, Twitter, and Facebook, however, developers across all industries have been slow to sign on with UWP. Meanwhile, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says it won't work, and one of the biggest names in gaming slammed it as "the most aggressive move Microsoft has ever made."

Overall, developers are concerned that rebuilding their existing apps for UWP is too much work, while simultaneously giving Microsoft too much control over the PC software market.

But at a session at the Game Developers Conference, Microsoft Xbox Advanced Technology Group boss Jason Ronald explains why Microsoft's "journey to one platform" is good for game developers — and thus for all developers everywhere.

The ultimate answer: By smashing together platforms like the Xbox One and Windows phone together with Windows 10, Microsoft says that it's opening up all kinds of doors to help developers make a lot more cash and win more fans.

Smashing the Xbox

It's not news that Microsoft is bringing Windows 10 and the Xbox One video game console closer, including the fact that many former Xbox-exclusive titles will debut on Windows 10 with a cross-saving feature, and the extension of the Xbox Live network to Windows 10.

At his session, Ronald provided some more details on the future of that trend.

First off, the Xbox One is going to get the ability to run those Windows 10 UWP apps later this summer, with the Xbox Store and the Windows Store getting merged into one. Furthermore, UWP apps are gradually going to open up over the course of this year to run the more advanced graphics settings that PC gamers demand.

Plus, Microsoft also announced the "Xbox Live Tournaments Platform," a tool to let developers making Windows 10 and the Xbox One games organise their own competitive eSports leagues.

Earlier this week, too, Microsoft dropped the huge bomb that it's opening the door for cross-platform play between Windows 10, Xbox One, and the PlayStation 4.

Microsoft universal windows platformA slide from Microsoft's GDC 2016 talk.

All of those things have a common thread: They encourage players to play more games for longer, across all of their Windows 10 devices, Ronald says. On phones, tablets, or the living room, Microsoft wants customers to never have to leave their games behind.

"We want all your players to stay in your game," Ronald says. "With Xbox Live, we want people to play games longer."

It's an important concept in modern gaming. In the early days, developers would release their game and leave it at that; modern gaming involves supporting a game for months or years after launch with additional paid content or subscriptions.

All of which means that if a developer can keep players playing, they can make a lot of money without having to reinvest resources in creating a new title. Indeed, Ronald boasts that Microsoft made 4.5 times the amount of revenue per Xbox Live-connected device in 2015 than 2014, with twice the number of paid transactions.

All about choice

In a broader context, Ronald says that the whole push towards UWP is about letting developers choose where they sell their app, and to whom.

"It shouldn't be easier to hit one platform versus another," Ronald says.

With regards to gaming specifically, Ronald says that there's no reason a developer can't use Universal Windows Platform to make a game that's just for the Xbox One.

Microsoft is working hard to make a range of tools and features available to make building games on Windows attractive, regardless of whether or not you're actually investing in the PC market, he says, with the goal of simply making UWP the best place to build games.

And with the merger of the Windows and Xbox stores, it makes it easy to start selling your UWP to the 200 million-plus Windows 10 devices and 18 million-ish Xbox One consoles out there, too. Better, it makes it easier to move your apps to new Windows 10 devices like the HoloLens, even as they're released.

"There's stuff we haven't invented yet," Ronald says.

HoloLensMicrosoft HoloLens.

And with Xbox Live as "the connective tissue between devices in our ecosystem," Ronald says, it's going to be easier to keep stuff like saved games and purchased goods consistent between platforms.

It's absolutely worth noting that all of this is just the gaming-centric version of Microsoft's strategy with its Office 365 suite — keep things consistent across devices, everywhere, with services on the backend.

And while Microsoft is going after game developers hard, it's only because gamers have proven themselves time and again to be the earliest, most bleeding-edge of adopters.

If Microsoft can get game developers on board, it's going to pave a nice path to future success. And that means unifying the platform to make life as easy for developers as it possibly can.

Originally published on Business Insider


Comments

    When Apple makes an app store, it's the world's greatest invention that revolutionises how developers can access users and make a ton of money.

    When Microsoft makes an app store, it's the greatest threat to developers that the world has ever faced.

    Now, I don't mind one way or the other about merging eco-systems between MS devices, but people's reactions to Apple and Microsoft have always baffled me.

      Well, the same concerns were raised - it's just that nobody really cared because OS X has a limited user base, and you can still install whatever you want on OS X anyway. Popular mobile platforms didn't really have that open market to begin with, so few people (outside of the technically minded) really mind. A mobile OS doesn't really compare because we expect apps to be held to a high standard to ensure security, performance and battery life are maximised. Anyone who owned a pre-iPhone mobile device (like Windows Mobile) can tell you what finding software was like, and how atrocious a lot of it was.

      But everybody knows what Windows is and how it works - it's been fundamentally the same for ages. Now when MS introduces an app store people immediately jumped to conclusions that MS were going to lock it down - probably because of so many people's conception of MS is the mid to late 90s anti-trust era MS ("M$"). It's complete bullshit, but that's how people think.

        Apple and google are thinking about the problem and how to solve it it's really that simple, I remember back in 2001 when I got a microsoft smart phone they just crammed windows XP onto the phone without even thinking about the usability like how you gonna use a smartphone with a traditional full size desktop operating system no thought what so ever went into that and there has been very little thought on any product since then, they are not innovators which is why their ship has sailed.

        The loudest complaint I've heard was from Tim Sweeny from Epic Games, who only recently released their own distribution platform. I'm not sure if too many consumers are that fussed, just a few vocal people in the industry who have conflicting interests they wish to protect have made their voices heard.

        Honestly, Windows isn't going to be locked down anytime soon and Xbox already is a pretty self contained environment. If MSs tools EULA isn't friendly to publishers, they'll just use dev kits from other companies.

      You sound bitter over something that doesn't matter one bit. I own a galaxy S3 and I can honestly say apple just do it better, everything from the operating system to the hardware if it wasn't so expensive I would have one right now.

      Microsoft is a dinosaur with no innovation left, people had to put up with microsoft before because there was really no alternatives except linux but now google and apple are doing it the right way and actually putting thought and energy into the things that matter, both of the latter spend heaps of money on R&D yet it seems microsoft keeps rehashing the same boring things.

        You have got to be joking.

        What's Microsoft been trying?
        Windows Phone
        HoloLens
        Surface,
        Windows 8/10
        Kinect

        What's Apple been trying?
        ...
        iMacs?
        Oh, force touch, that's kinda neat.

        Sure not all Microsoft's attempts pan out, but some of them are fantastic, and they're definitely pushing boundaries.
        Even moreso than Google, I think, though Google's R&D and innovation is great, won't say anything bad about that.
        But to be saying "Microsoft is a dinosaur with no innovation left... keeps rehashing the same boring things" is a joke.

          I had a microsoft windows phone in 2001 and all they did was cram windows xp into a hand held device do you think this is a company that is thinking about the problem or how to solve it? they got lucky with windows cause thats how it came when they stole it from their competitors.

          They are not a problem solving company and that is there problem they might be amazing at writing code but that is only part of the struggle.

          Tell me why didn't smart phones take off in 2000 when microsoft came out with one? microsoft has no idea what their doing they screwed up windows 8 cause they have no idea what their customers want, all the things you listed are subpar copies of things that are already out today they are not the leaders im afraid to tell you.

          What's microsoft been trying?
          Windows Phone = Apple and Android done properly
          HoloLens = Occulus Rift done properly
          Surface = iPad and Android tablets done properly

          It's so obvious to me that they are finished, yes they will be around forever cause they have like hundreds of billions of dollars but as far as pushing innovation of boundaries they are done for.

          And yes I used microsoft products all my life but once google and apple came into the picture I immediately realized that they are doing it they way it's supposed to be done, with thought and care not just throwing money at stuff and praying it works.

    Is probably worth pointing out that UWP is not actually available to developers yet.

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