Microsoft’s support of the PC market these past few years has been seen by many as little more than afterthought, with very few of its games coming out on PC exclusively, if at all. Popular Xbox 360 titles like Halo 3, Halo Reach and Gears of War 2, all published by Microsoft Game Studios, have all but skipped the PC entirely. Add to this the fact that the Games For Windows Live service pales in comparison to superior services like Steam and Microsoft’s own Xbox Live, it’s become easier and easier to simply ignore Microsoft on a PC.
Fortunately, it seems Microsoft may have finally taken notice of the fact that its gaming division has become largely obsolete in the PC market and has decided to do something about it. If the rumors posted on Insideris turn out to be true, PC users will be able to run Xbox 360 games directly through Windows 8 for a nominal fee.
As the first step toward this initiative, Microsoft recently merged its Games For Windows Marketplace with Xbox.com in an effort to give their PC download service greater visibility. If Xbox 360 games indeed turn out to be playable on a Windows 8 PC, it could drastically increase their userbase as well as allowing Microsoft to continue supporting the Xbox 360 long after they’ve moved onto its inevitable successor. I imagine though that it won’t be as simple as popping an Xbox game into your current PC, so we’d likely start seeing “Xbox-branded” PCs coming out that essentially have the 360 hardware built in.
Even though Microsoft may be looking to turn the PC and the Xbox 360 into a single unit, you won’t be able to play an Xbox 360 game on PC against someone who is playing on an actual Xbox. This is mostly due to the enormous advantage a mouse and keyboard has over a controller, as well as the fact that the games running on PC will be played over Games For Windows, rather than Xbox Live. So it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely an interesting step for Microsoft to take. I wouldn’t be surprised if they phased out the standalone 360 entirely in favor of this hybrid solution once they’ve unveiled their next console. Only time will tell.