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View Full Version : Microsoft could have overtaken Valve's Steambox, 12 years ago...



mashakos
07-02-2013, 10:38 PM
... by making a small but crucial tangent: package xbox games as standalone windows applications.

This simple adjustment to the trajectory of the xbox would have guaranteed dominance for Microsoft in both the console and PC markets. You can say that it would be a nightmare to patch xbox games so that they worked with the multitude of PC configurations in the wild - but Microsoft could have easily released a spec sheet and required certification for an "xbox ready" PC that must be adhered to in order to run xbox/xbox360 games. Think of the possibilities over the following 12 years: over time, we would not only have branded PCs that would run console games in addition to PC titles, but even laptops that are "xbox ready".

That could have been followed up by a digital distribution service for these PCs which would eventually trickle down to xbox live. A console/PC wide service similar to Steam perhaps?

I'm actually glad the xbox team felt they needed to act like a separate company from Microsoft, that kind of world domination would have been depressing!

Sakkura
07-02-2013, 10:42 PM
Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

eRa
07-02-2013, 11:09 PM
Did the GabeN stay at Microsoft in this alternate reality to take charge of gaming stuff?

Heliocentric
07-02-2013, 11:14 PM
Coulda, woulda, shoulda.
The last words of a fool?

Sakkura
07-02-2013, 11:19 PM
The last words of a fool?
That or developers, developers, developers.

soldant
08-02-2013, 01:48 AM
but Microsoft could have easily released a spec sheet and required certification for an "xbox ready" PC that must be adhered to in order to run xbox/xbox360 games.
What, you mean like an xbox? The two are totally different architectures, the 360 is driven by a PowerPC architecture while PCs are x86, they'd be recompiling the games anyway or you'd have an xbox inside your PC, which would make things absurdly expensive.

Also the Steambox isn't even out and we don't know much about it, it might not be worth the money or effort for all we know.

somini
08-02-2013, 02:48 AM
Did the GabeN stay at Microsoft in this alternate reality to take charge of gaming stuff?
The plot thickens....

EDIT:Sorry for the HL3 delay.

Moraven
08-02-2013, 03:27 AM
http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/02/06/why-microsoft-got-into-the-console-business

They tried the whole Games for Windows (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Games_for_Windows)thing, which had some specifications for games. There was PC/laptops certified for Vista. That was more so you knew your new PC could run the latest software, which was known to require more power. They messed that up bad by certifying PCs that could run Vista like crap.

Xbox Live was originally an paid for steam service for multiplayer games. Now it is that plus a lot of other services while never really going up in price.

Games for Windows Live was their attempt at the whole console/PC wide service. You share the same Live account. Sadly multiplatform connection is not a part of it. They have an app on Windows 8 phones, not sure about 7. Took Steam long enough to get an app to smartphones.

And what Soldant said. I doubt developers at the time wanted to invest into making their games work on PCs. Then it would come down to how would you define is xbox certified? What about new hardware coming out every 1-2 years? Thankfully developer tools have advanced more and more today that you see more and more games exist on all platforms.

mashakos
08-02-2013, 09:13 AM
What, you mean like an xbox? The two are totally different architectures,

the original xbox was an intel PC with an nvidia gpu under the hood. If the strategy was set from the start they wouldn't have needed to switch architectures every generation.


Also the Steambox isn't even out and we don't know much about it, it might not be worth the money or effort for all we know.

true, I personally am rooting for it.


Games for Windows Live was their attempt

LOL



Then it would come down to how would you define is xbox certified? What about new hardware coming out every 1-2 years?
if we are talking about the original xbox, a certified PC would have the hardware and drivers to support the extended Directx 8 instruction set of the console. That's pretty much it.

soldant
08-02-2013, 12:42 PM
the original xbox was an intel PC with an nvidia gpu under the hood. If the strategy was set from the start they wouldn't have needed to switch architectures every generation
You're right, it was based on a P3 IIRC. But they dropped it and went with a PPC architecture because it made more sense. Keeping the x86 box probably wouldn't have paid off in the long run in the way you presume - remember that one of the benefits of having a single hardware platform is that devs can start to practice more "close to metal" (or direct to in some cases I guess) techniques as they become more familiar with the console, squeezing more life out of it. That'd all go out the window with successive upgrades. Well, maybe not all of it, but enough of it to make your idea impractical. Given that a console only really has a handful of goals it makes sense to use a simpler architecture purpose-built for the device (i.e. playing games).

You're either arguing for creating one hardware profile on the PC (which means you're an enemy of competition, so AMD might as well just roll over and die now) or for specific gaming PCs which just turn us into consoles.

mashakos
08-02-2013, 01:02 PM
Keeping the x86 box probably wouldn't have paid off in the long run in the way you presume - remember that one of the benefits of having a single hardware platform is that devs can start to practice more "close to metal" (or direct to in some cases I guess) techniques as they become more familiar with the console, squeezing more life out of it. That'd all go out the window with successive upgrades.
The intel Conroe architecture was WAY better than PowerPC by 2004-2005. It ran cooler, performed better and was cheaper to boot. Microsoft would have had a much more powerful - and reliable - machine if they had opted for a quad core custom intel core based CPU than an overheating RROD IBM processor.

you seem to have misunderstood my original argument - the console would still run on a custom version of Windows with more access to the hardware, but the games themselves would be standard windows executables. See Sega Lindbergh (http://www.system16.com/hardware.php?id=731) as a Linux example, and Taito Type X2 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taito_Type_X) as a Windows example.
the focus for Microsoft would absolutely be the console first. Whenever a game breaks on the PC because of "close to the metal" console optimisations, a separate division patches it to make it "universal" (this would be an official certification). A console developer can always choose to opt out of making a game playable on both platforms officially. Even then it would be a win-win, many developers who happen to be PC gamers (me included (http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1765599)) can release guides for hacks or code their own to make unplayable games work.

On the PC side, support would be for general hardware. There would be a platform limit i.e AMD cpu's without support for SSE4 would not be eligible, but in the end this would promote AMD to push harder and not release inferior tech.
Either way, all this would only be relevant to PC gamers interested in console games. For the average counterstrike gamer a cheapo AMD system would still be a viable and great choice.

soldant
08-02-2013, 02:29 PM
The intel Conroe architecture was WAY better than PowerPC by 2004-2005.
Citation needed, not because I know differently, but because I don't know if your claim is worth a direct comparison. Also I'm not really sure what the point of mentioning Conroe was, because it landed in 2006 so noting 2004-2005 seems rather redundant. The Xenon wasn't a bad CPU for the 360 at all. It's dated by today's standards sure, but in 2006 it was fine.


you seem to have misunderstood my original argument - the console would still run on a custom version of Windows with more access to the hardware, but the games themselves would be standard windows executables.
Actually I haven't missed the argument, I'm stating that what you're describing wouldn't have worked out very well. You'd just be stagnating PC gaming through limiting hardware profiling. Establishing some sort of compatibility outfit would be expensive for little gain, you might as well just port the thing across. If they're able to opt out, why even bother with it? It's just like saying "Well, you can port your game... or not" which is pretty much what we have now, just with a different architecture. Given how the PC was starting to lose ground in terms of gaming market share in 2006, it's hard to imagine why devs would bother trying to support the myriad of possible configs when they could just code for the "console" version and know that it'll work. I don't know why we'd be advocating for increasing operation overheads for a games console... that's not the point of a console.

Honestly, I think it's just an argument that consoles should have been PCs... with all the problems that come with them. This sort of universal compatibility testing has been a pipedream for a long time, with Games for Windows Live being Microsoft's most recent attempt. It failed... miserably.


Either way, all this would only be relevant to PC gamers interested in console games.
A lot of them got ported in the end anyway, and given how hostile PC gamers are to some console titles, is this really worth mentioning?

mashakos
08-02-2013, 02:39 PM
"Well, you can port your game... or not" which is pretty much what we have now, just with a different architecture.
nope. If the games were windows executables, some of us would have figured out a way to make them run.
Not at all comparable to porting from a different architecture (hope you know that!).

soldant
09-02-2013, 01:55 AM
nope. If the games were windows executables, some of us would have figured out a way to make them run.
Not at all comparable to porting from a different architecture (hope you know that!).
So your answer is basically harnessing the community to fix games that were programmed close to the metal on other systems?

Yes. I can see studios really subscribing to that frame of thought.

No, sorry, this is a pipedream.