Microsoft wants to finally bring together the Xbox and PC into one super-platform capable of playing games anywhere. Xbox head Phil Spencer said that Windows 10’s universal app platform was the future of Microsoft’s gaming efforts, which could potentially signal the end of new Xbox games that won't work on PCs.
“That is our focus going forward,” said Spencer, at a press event in San Francisco. “Building out a complete gaming ecosystem for Universal Windows Applications.”
The news is a huge switch for a company that’s long tried to keep the Xbox and Windows platforms separate. The original Xbox, which launched in 2001, had hardware and software closely related to a Windows PC, but PCs couldn’t play Xbox games and vice versa. Although a version of Windows 10 came to the Xbox One back in November 2015, before now it remained largely separate from Microsoft's gaming efforts.
Spencer sees a future where the Xbox is updated on a more regular basis with more powerful hardware. Games built for the universal platform would run on both older and newer Xbox Ones, as well as on Windows 10 PCs.
The Xbox would end up resembling something closer to the PC, with slower and faster consoles providing various performance levels. The fact that newer games could in theory work on older hardware could transform the gaming market — there would be less need to buy a new console if newer games worked on older hardware.
“We believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen,” Spencer said last week, according to the Guardian. “We’ll see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation and allow the same games to run backwards and forward compatible because we have UWAs [universal Windows applications] running on top of UWP [the universal Windows platform].”
Microsoft has long pushed universal apps as the future of Windows. The company sees the platform as a way of getting more apps onto the troubled Windows Phone platform, with developers able to bring their creations from the desktop to the small screen with ease.
It’s unlikely that gamers will be able to play the latest “Tomb Raider” on both their supercharged Xbox One and their Lumia 950, but a single, unified platform where developers can bring their creations to many devices with ease is likely to bring big benefits to Windows 10.