IHS analyst and director of the firm’s games department Piers Harding Rolls shares his view on Microsoft’s newly unveiled video games plans for Windows 10
Microsoft holds a unique platform role and is best positioned to bridge the community divide between core PC and console gamers.
With the ambition to drive hundreds of millions of Windows users to Windows 10 through its free upgrade offer, and having the Xbox app native to all versions of the new OS, the company is positioning itself to deliver on this ambition.
While Windows 10 is being built to address all consumer device and screen categories, Microsoft’s limited market share in the mobile market means that the new Xbox app’s most significant addressable gaming market will be PC and console fans.
Gaming platform ecosystems on mobile are well established, but there remains an opportunity to bridge communities across desktop/laptop PC and console to take a more comprehensive role in these specialist segments of the games market.
The fact the new Xbox app is universal for Windows so the industry can apply the same Xbox Live API to all Windows platforms including the Xbox One.
These efficiencies will naturally make this latest version Windows more attractive to the industry.
Many, such as Valve with its Steam Machines, are attempting to bring PC gaming to the living room. But Microsoft is coming from the opposite direction, using its console strengths to reinforce its role in Windows gaming – moving from the standardised console market to the more open world of PC gaming.
All the new Windows 10 Xbox app features will make it more attractive to Windows users and are likely to drive more engagement.
But, the new app is not a revolution for users but an evolution of previous implementations. It’s a step towards a broader Xbox ecosystem, a strategy that is currently embryonic and in need of escalating.
The stand-out social feature is the game DVR functionality already found on Xbox One. The connections between online video and gaming are well established and bringing DVR functionality to Windows will generate engagement and discoverability.
More ambitious is Microsoft’s vision for cross-platform gaming between Windows devices and Xbox consoles.
There are very few experiences which bring these two groups together in the same online world and there is an opportunity here to expand Xbox’s addressable market significantly if this ambition can be realised.
It is likely Microsoft will lead with first-party content – Fable Legends was demoed – but the broader success of this cross-platform strategy will rely on third-party being convinced of its synergies.But Sony’s strength in the console space could limit the attractiveness for third-parties if this platform is excluded.
In-home Xbox One to Windows 10 device streaming functionality follows similar initiatives from Sony and Nvidia. This is not a killer app. Rather, it is a foundation for more cross-device engagement and its implementation is intuitive and can be launched from the new Xbox app for Windows 10.
In the broader scheme of Windows 10 positioning, placing an onus on gaming is a sensible move – using the Xbox’s strength to drive interest in the new version of the OS.
Gaming remains the largest area for digital entertainment consumption, globally and it represents the majority of apps revenue and drives significant consumer engagement.
IHS data shows that PC is the biggest gaming platform globally, representing $32bn (39 per cent) in consumer spending on games content worldwide in 2014.