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Microsoft To Unify PC and Xbox One Platforms ( 214

New submitter Serzen writes: According to The Guardian, Microsoft is planning to end fixed console hardware for the Xbox One as a move towards one ecosystem running Unified Windows Applications. The head of the company's Xbox division, Phil Spencer, said that the Universal Windows Platform would be central to the company's gaming strategy. "That is our focus going forward," he told reporters. "Building out a complete gaming ecosystem for Universal Windows Applications." What this could mean is that the Xbox One becomes more like a PC, with Microsoft releasing updated versions at regular intervals with more powerful processors and graphics hardware. In theory, because games will be written as UWAs, older titles will remain compatible with the new machines.
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Microsoft To Unify PC and Xbox One Platforms

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  • by goose-incarnated ( 1145029 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @06:30AM (#51620637) Journal
    If your PC can run everything that the console can, why bother with the console?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @06:39AM (#51620661)

      If your PC can run everything that the console can, why bother with the console?


      Consoles usually represent good value for the processing they provide at time of release.

      • by Stormwatch ( 703920 ) <> on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @07:06AM (#51620773) Homepage

        Consoles usually represent good value for the processing they provide at time of release.

        That was the case with the Xbox 360, which had a triple-core PowerPC back when x86 PCs were still on single-core Pentium 4. Not so much with the current generation consoles, that were kind of "meh" from the start.

      • It's much of a muchness.

        A Core2Duo or Quad is plenty good enough for a modern AAA title combined with a modern graphics card like the GTX960. This means that you can get away with spending $200 every few years to keep up to date. Every now and again you might need a new processor, an SSD, or some more RAM, but it averages out. The big plus is that any game (pretty much ever) will run on the latest PC. And of course that it's a PC so it can do other things.

        The latest and greatest console costs $400-500 (here

        • by halivar ( 535827 )

          The problem for me is that when it's time for me to upgrade (I can't run the latest and greatest at max settings) the PCI Express slots are all out of date for the new graphics cards. That means a new mobo, and THAT means a new CPU and RAM, etc. I have only managed to keep the case and power supply through the last 4 iterations.

          • This is true although in the past I guess I've managed to buy at the right time. The cards are back compatible: I used a PCIe3 card (GTX750) in a PCIe2 slot and didn't have any problems running games at 1080p a couple of years ago. You'll just miss out on the extra bandwidth and possibly you can get away with it. PCIe2 isn't that much slower than PCIe3 (5 vs 8 GB/s)- at least compared to the doubling from v3 to v4. PCIe3 has been around for 6 years (2010), nobody is using PCIe3.1 yet and the specification f

            • We're at a point where you don't need to upgrade that PC anymore just for games. The new AAA titles run very well on average hardware. The only reason to break the bank is to keep up with elitists. I have components below the _minimum_ specs for Fallout4 and it runs great and looks great. I don't have super high resolution though, and anyone worrying about 2K or 4K resolution is already in their own reality along with audiophiles using gold plated connectors on ethernet cables.

        • You also don't need to keep up to date. The games that need top end PC are very niche games for the overly dedicated FPS gamer playing set to extremely high resolution. You actually get much bigger bank for the buck by getting more memory or upgrading your hard drive to be solid state, upgrading the video card is very often not necessary. You don't need $2000 skis to go skiing, and you don't need $2000 bicycle to go cycling, and you don't need a $2000 PC to play games, and you you will find people willin

    • by antek9 ( 305362 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @06:48AM (#51620701)
      It obviously doesn't occur to them that lots of former PC gamers turned to consoles specifically to get away from yearly hardware upgrades. This is a very anti-console move by Microsoft, indeed.

      It might be good news for Sony, at least in the short term, but I'm afraid it's bad news for most console gamers.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @06:53AM (#51620731)

        Oddly, I have noted in the past decade that the requirement for constant upgrades is becoming less excessive. Sure, I'm not running things on the highest settings but I certainly get to play and get to play with pretty shiny pixels.

        • by Tukz ( 664339 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @07:43AM (#51620861) Journal

          Because most games are optimized for console and ported for PC, thus the PC requirements are lower.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @09:20AM (#51621271)

            Also something of a hardware apex in current hardware architectures. When was the last hardware update that didn't scale out instead of up? The last CPU I bought had the exact same clock speed as the one I bought 5 years earlier, just with more cores. My graphics card? Still rocking GDDR5 with the same bud speed from a decade ago but cuda/shader core count has sky rocketed.

            Moore's law was nice while it lastest...

            • I've noticed that memory and hard disk speed are some of the biggest improvements you can make with games, it's no longer the video card that's a bottle neck. And those improvements do more than help gaming, they'll help all the other stuff you use a computer for.

          • by mcrbids ( 148650 )

            Odd, but I see no sign that this is true. PC Ports of console games typically require far more "firepower" than would be implied by the original console. Case in point: GTA IV/V.

      • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @07:13AM (#51620795)
        The flip side is that whatever you save by going to consoles you lose by paying through the nose for the same game. And certain kinds of games simply don't travel well to consoles.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @08:22AM (#51621025)

        Pure bullshit. You don't need yearly hardware upgrades to get a PC gaming experience that blows consoles out of the water. That's a common misconception propagated by console users. That might have been true a decade ago, but not anymore. In addition, most of the gamers I know, including myself, moved away from consoles entirely.

        • Yearly hardware upgrades used to be be a thing, but now CPU speed has hit a wall, and game graphics have gotten to a "good enough" point where the super powerful cards don't make things look that much better.

          4k and VR stuff is changing that a bit, but for the last decade or so there has been little need for pc upgrades to game.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @10:14AM (#51621513) Homepage Journal

        There is also the issue of console and PC players in the same game online. Having a mouse in a first person shooter usually grants a huge advantage. Are they going to enforce gamepad use, require the game to run at the same locked frame rate as the console, at the same low resolution etc?

      • Chances are this is more about cutting into Steam than anything else. Likely synchronous release, buy once and play on both platforms *if and only if purchased through Windows store* kind of tomfoolery. This would give them a cut of the PC gaming sales, as well as push PC gamers towards XBox should they decide to add a console to their repertoire.

    • Why did they become popular in the first place? There have been numerous times in the last 20-30 years when PC gaming was the place to be. Yet we've swung back to consoles just as frequently, long before the number of games vs number of PC games justified the choice.

      I suspect the reason is that your PC is something you have in your study/office/bedroom, hooked up to a 24" monitor, frequently needed for other tasks, whereas your console is something you can have in the living room hooked up to the 50" TV

      • Valve seems to agree with you - and are betting quite a lot on that being true with the link and the steam-machines and streaming.

        They may be right too - I love my steam link. It's actually very nice to sometimes play PC games in the living room on the massive screen. Those that play well on a steam controller anyway.

    • Software written for a known, precise, platform will be able to use that hardware more effectively and have fewer bugs. I don't know how much better a generic computer needs to be to make up for that specificity, but you might look at how far behind emulators are to get a rough estimate.

  • ... like, for example, graphical artefacts on xboxes released in march-november 2018, and crashes on xboxes from the second half of 2017. But the game runs just fine on consoles from 2019, you just need to upgrade!

    • Yeah... If it's going to be like PC gaming, you're going to get new games that only work well on the upgraded "XBox Extreme Edition" that has the upgraded hardware.

      That kinda sucks if you box an XBox One when it came out and you expected it to be fully supported for five plus years like the older platforms were.

  • So Microsoft sells more Xboxes for use as computers, stripping away sales from other vendors (it's partners). Profit!
    • They probably still won't let you run Windows apps on your console, even though they could run there. Just games.

      • But I really wanna run Office on my xbox! Imagine all the multiplayer spreadsheet action we could have! Fear my PowerPoint skillz!

        • Great. Just what we always wanted. Needing a virus scanner on a console....

          • I once actually installed ClamAV on a PS2 to check a suspicious download. I had been planning on downloading the thing on Windows, but the site seemed a bit "iffy" so I downloaded it on the PS2 Linux install and ran ClamAV on it, just to be sure.

            • And the irony is that even though you installed an antivirus scanner on a PS2, it was to check for viruses for Windows.

    • Not really. This takes away the need for an Xbox if you already have a PC, especially given MS are now talking about Xbox hardware upgrades. All that will happen is anyone who wants a console for unique games or an easy life, will just buy a PS4.
  • by jargonburn ( 1950578 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @06:46AM (#51620693)

    older titles will remain compatible with the new machines

    Well, 99% compatible; but, really, is anyone worried about the occasional game-breaking glitch in older software titles?
    Nobody replays those. Even if someone discovers a classic for the first time, I'm sure the developer will keep up with fixing any bugs introduced!
    [end sarcasm]

  • Steam Competition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nateman1352 ( 971364 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @06:52AM (#51620727)

    Looks like the fact that Valve largely controls PC gaming and is doing everything they can to push it away from Microsoft's platform has earned them Microsoft's perceived #1 gaming competitor. Make no mistake, Microsoft knows that gaming is one of the few remaining compelling reasons for consumers to use their platform. Most (but not all) desktop application use cases can be accomplished with a web browser these days. Microsoft knows that if they don't create a reason for game devs to use DirectX 12 then there is a risk that game devs will prefer Vulkan due to the multi-platform targeting (Windows, SteamOS, Android) which will erode the position of Windows as the best PC gaming platform.

    Basically this is Microsoft saying that they don't care very much about Sony anymore, they perceive Valve as a greater threat and they are willing to give up the hardware sales that XBox exclusive titles would normally drive to instead incentivize continued purchase of Windows licenses for gaming PCs. It would not surprise me if Microsoft starts licensing the XBox brand the same way Steam Machines are licensed. We could see an "Alienware Xbox" sometime soon.

    • This. No serious PC gamer gives 2 hot shits about gimp console-specced games anyway, and by porting Windows games off to Mac and Linux they are saving us from Windows 10.

      • This. No serious PC gamer gives 2 hot shits about gimp console-specced games anyway

        Ironically, console gamers also don't give a crap about what snooty PC gamers think about games, because we probably play different titles and play them differently.

        Your "no true Scotsman" argument is representative owfhow you play games, and has nothing at all to do with how I play games -- and for me the last thing I want it the annoying churn of constantly installing titles on my desktop machine which over time turns it in

        • The point is PC folks don't want to run an OS that has been castrated to run kiddie games. Play whatever you like, but Microsoft shouldn't be cutting Windows' leg off to give Xbox a chance in the race.

    • Hell, MS will be FORCED to use Nvidia hardware for the next iteration of consoles if Vulkan takes off like it's looking to and it wants DX12 to stay relevant. Cause if they go for similarly specced AMD hardware again, there's virtually zero reason not to run Vulkan over DX12 as it gives you easy access to the widest array of platforms.

      • Are you an idiot? Vulkan is AMD for christs sake. It comes from Mantle. []

        So yeah, MS will be FORCED to use Nvidia to run AMD.
        • No shit, shit for brains. If the next gen consoles are both running similar AMD hardware there is no incentive to use the DX12 APIs on MS's console. It would make infinitely more sense to use Vulkan. As such, in order to make DX12 have a relevant userbase, they will be forced to go Nvidia for graphical hardware, and probably Intel for CPU, or at least have to pay more for an AMD CPU than if they bundled with the graphics card.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )
      Yep, Valve is undoubtedly the 800 pound gorilla in the room here... And Valve considers Steam's competitors to be physical sales and smaller game stores like GOG rather than consoles.

      This is Microsoft finally admitting that their consoles are trying to emulate the PC... badly. Sony is doing the same thing, just not admitting it. The last generation of consoles were lacklustre. The Nintendo DS was the top selling console of the last generation, its because it's casual. Not that there's anything wrong with
      • They always claimed their console emulated a PC. It's always run some core kernel of Windows, and the first one was expressly built from COTS computer parts.

    • We could see an "Alienware Xbox" sometime soon.

      We could Alienware exiting the Steam Machine market. Seriously.

      In a bizarre twist of fate, high end Steam Machines are being purchased for Win 10 console gaming. ZOTAC NEN Steam Machine 6th Gen Intel Core i5-6400T Quad-Core CPU NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 8GB Memory 1TB 2.5-inch Hard Drive Dual Gigabit Lan 802.11ac Bluetooth 4.0 ( ZBOX-SN970-P-U) []

      While sales of more affordable Steam Machines with very credible specs have been nothing to write home about. Alienware Steam Machine ASM100-2980BLK Desktop Console []

    • Sony has sold nearly double the PS4 consoles worldwide then Microsoft's Xbox one. This puts Microsoft at a huge disadvantage when it comes to getting exclusive titles. Sony has a much higher number of 3'd party exclusives which in tern help it sell even more consoles. The only way Microsoft can get exclusives is by buying development-studios which it has done several times, or offering money-loosing sweetheart deals. By bringing PC's in the Xbox ecosystem Microsoft can add 100Million+ gaming-capable PC's to
  • This is excellent, I can finally F9 my Excel workbooks on my Xbox!

  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @08:12AM (#51620981) Journal

    I'm toying with another possible interpretation of this; that this is effectively MS's way of getting out of the console market, but without the "big bang" announcement that saw Sega ditch things what should have been half-way through the Dreamcast's life-cycle.

    There's not much detail out there yet, but based on what there is, it sounds like MS are planning to release what are basically cheap, locked-down PCs on a rolling basis, similar to the Steam Machines. As with those Steam machines, anything which is playable on them will also be playable on a full-sized PC. This is a long-way removed from the traditional console model, where a machine is sent out to sit in the market for anywhere from 4 to 8 years with no hardware changes and where the console-manufacturer funds exclusive titles to grow the installed base (then creams revenue off the third-party titles via licensing fees). In essence, it is just a slightly different type of PC, which sits under your TV (and yes, I know the PS4 and XB1 already resemble that description to a degree, but they were both sold on the "static hardware" model).

    It's pretty clear why MS might go in this direction. Their long-standing cash-cows are Windows and Office. Xbox has been a side-line and, in some respects, a slightly risky one, in that it has toyed with undermining one of the key sales-points of Windows (gaming). It was always a sideline which only a company which was very, very confident in its continued monopoly position in its main market (and the continued health of that market) could afford to pursue.

    And right now, while that monopoly still looks fairly strong, there are signs of stress; tablets (mostly non-MS ones) have convinced a lot of people to give up their laptops. Ten years ago, Linux was, in essence, NeckbeardOS with no real chance of displacing Windows in the home environment. Now you have Valve and other reasonably serious players throwing a lot of weight behind Linux-powered devices. Win8 flopped and while Win10 is doing better, it isn't doing as well as you might expect given it's basically free. MS still dominate the PC OS market, but it's an increasingly vulnerable domination of an increasingly vulnerable market. Re-emphasizing the Windows PC (be it a laptop, desktop, tablet or box that sits under the TV) as a gaming platform may well be a sensible defensive strategy.

    Phil Spencer is, unlike his immediate predecessor, no fool. If he thinks for a moment that what's needed to maintain the health of the Windows cash-cow is to sacrifice the Xbox console strategy on the altar of PC gaming, he will do so in a heart-beat and that, I think, is what we're starting to see happening. Previously-announced Xbox-exclusive series have been announced for PC (albeit Windows 10, and sometimes Windows Store-only) and in some cases are already available.

    This shouldn't be a surprise. The Xbox One is a moderately successful console, despite the bad publicity, but MS has no real interest in having a moderately successful console. Don Mattrick's strategy was to use the Xbox One as a doorway for MS to get a presence in every living-room in the country through an all-singing-all-dancing multimedia box, that just happened to also be a games console. That strategy was inane and failed. Spencer has turned the disaster around by refocusing the console in the short term as a traditional console, but it is still only putting out reasonably good numbers and MS have bled market-share to Sony. I just don't see why they'd be excited about staying in that market.

    • I can't help thinking this has nothing to do with gaming but is another attempt to make Universal Windows Apps popular with developers.

      They'll keep on trying but will never succeed until all users have finally had Win 7 prised away from them.

    • tablets (mostly non-MS ones) have convinced a lot of people to give up their laptops

      Numbers for this? I think tablets were kind of a fad.
  • by Punto ( 100573 )

    The xbox is not going to become a pc. What they're doing is forcing the low end games that want to be on xbox (like all the trendy 2d indie stuff) to use the UWP apis instead of the native xbox ones, with the promise that they will run on xbox eventually. What they get out of it is that those games will also build for windows phones and the 'windows store' for desktop. The high end console games will still use their native apis, because they need the access to hardware that UWP doesn't provide, but the rest

    • Exactly.

      Right now, as a small game dev, you could write for iPhone or Android. There are are reasons to do one or the other first, and maybe, just maybe, you'll write for Windows 10.

      Now, if you write for Windows 10, your app is available on Windows 10 and Xbox One.

      This isn't just a matter of store size, but which platform has the best chance of generating revenue. That is a function both of store market size and the tendency of people to actually buy stuff from the store.

      Also, as a Windows 10 and Xbox One o

  • SteamOS was necessary after all!

  • by GrumpySteen ( 1250194 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @09:35AM (#51621337)

    What this could mean is that the Xbox One becomes more like a PC

    Yes, but it could also mean that the PC becomes more like the Xbox one with advertisements cluttering up a dashboard. In fact, they've already started showing ads in the menu.

    It's more than a little cluelessly optimistic to think that MS will suddenly reverse course and make the Xbox more like the PC. Get ready to have the Xbox dashboard shoved down your throat.

  • Now they just need to add support for desktop apps to Windows 10 on the Xbox One, that way users could play Steam and GoG titles on the console, not to mention emulators.

  • The idea of an upgrade-able console has been around for quite a while, usually ending in failure. Most notably Sega's CD and 32X. Neither add-on was very successful. And the timing of the 32X didn't help it. Nintendo has it's memory pack for the N64 which few games used. Some game could only run with it, IIRC. There were other lesser known upgrades for other systems like memory expansion and VCD playback for the Sega Saturn and various devices that never made it out of Japan. People seen to reject console u
  • One more reason to avoid both the Xbox and Windows!

  • Maybe they will unify marques and the next Xbox will be a desktop addition to the Surface family of products.
  • Don't you think I would have bought a PC?

  • One OS to rule them all, and in darkness bind them.
  • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @12:31PM (#51622385) Journal

    I have always liked consoles for games because of the "it just works factor". You can pick up a title that says its for XBox One and you immediately know that it will work and you will probably have a good experience, and one consistent with the promotional videos etc.

    Its entertainment I don't want do work for entertainment. I don't play what patch level of video driver works best, I don't want update libraries, and tune settings. I want to play.

    I don't want to have to figure what revision of the console I have. I don't want bring a title home and find it runs like crap on my down level console.

Beware of Programmers who carry screwdrivers. -- Leonard Brandwein