Microsoft Studios vice president Phil Spencer recently admitted to Venturebeat that the company could have been more focused on what was going on in PC gaming.
With Games for Windows Live virtually dead, the company's PC gaming plans up in the air, and the Xbox One gearing up for a retail release, all eyes are now focused on what Valve is doing with Steam Machines. Even Microsoft corporate vice president Phil Harrison said the company would keep a close eye on Valve's initiative, but Spencer seems more congratulatory.
"Valve is right down the street from us. They've done a great job of keeping the PC ecosystem strong at a time where I don't mind saying that we could have been more focused on what was going on in PC gaming," Spencer noted.
In an interview with Venturebeat, he admitted that Microsoft has neglected PC gaming, and even suggested that the company should have made a distribution platform in Steam's likeness. "We were probably too focused purely on console," Spencer said. "With Steam, [Valve has] done an amazing job of building this thing that, in a lot of ways, we should have been building as well at Microsoft."
Agreed. Other companies have taken the hint such as Electronic Arts with Origin, Ubisoft with Uplay, GamersGate, GameFly and a few others. Yet so far none have been able to match the popularity and the amount of content found in Valve's Steam platform. Still, despite the success, Spencer believes that Valve will face an uphill battle with its push for Linux. Of course, this opinion comes from a Windows-based company; whether that is true or not remains to be seen.
"This is where I think they're going to have to do quite a bit of work," he said. "There is a difference between being a game developer, running a store, and being a platform company. That's an evolutionary jump. They made the jump from building Half-Life to having a set of franchises to running Steam. They did a good job of learning through that."
"Now they're taking the next job to become a platform company — in some sense a hardware company, but in the truest sense more of an OS company. That's not an easy transition," he added.
Valve made its Steam Machines initiative official back in September, and is now sending out beta units of Steam Machine prototypes. The company, which started out as a developer of Half-Life back in the 90s, plans to announce its Steam Machines partners at CES 2014 in January. The actual products are slated to arrive sometime next year.
"They're smart. They've been through it. I think they can do it. But I think it will take time," he said.