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Contradictory Headlines, Pt 2: Msoft Hires Ex-Steam Boss

Hmmm. Well, OK then. So remember how Microsoft is closing down its increasingly irrelevant PC games marketplace once and for all? I would hope so. We just posted about it, like, an hour ago. (Apologies to the rather sizable goldfish portion of our audience; that comment was insensitive.) Well, you’d think that plus a very overt focus on Xbox One would imply total abandonment of our hotrod tech hive art house sector of the gaming industry. But in a legitimately shocking twist, you’d be wrong. Microsoft just hired former Steam┬ádirector of business development Jason Holtman for one reason and one reason only: “to make Windows a great platform for gaming.”

Holtman was with Valve for eight years, during which time many viewed him as one of Steam’s most important driving forces. Speaking with GamesIndustry, he explained the move:

“Yes, I have joined Microsoft where I will be focusing on making Windows a great platform for gaming and interactive entertainment. I think there is a lot of opportunity for Microsoft to deliver the games and entertainment customers want and to work with developers to make that happen, so I’m excited to be here.”

Which is very good news, assuming that doesn’t just mean improved interfaces for mobile ports. But then, we’ve watched various Windows gaming initiatives get off to infinity-and-a-half false starts – many of which have been mired in loathsome proprietary tech. And of course, let’s not forget that this is the age of free-to-play. I imagine Microsoft’s hungrily eyeing that easily poisoned pie for both Xbox and PC. Here’s hoping it learned some lessons from Age of Empires Online’s various failings – especially during its early, essentially pay-to-win days.

All that said, I don’t imagine we’ll see this hire bear fruit for a while. And even then, we have no idea what form it will take. Holtman helped head up Steam, so another storefront’s not outside the realm of possibility. Maybe GFW Marketplace’s closure was an attempt to clear the air – start fresh with a new brand. Only time will tell. But Holtman was involved with one of the very best, so hopefully that’ll rub off on a product that has, in the past, essentially been the opposite.

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Nathan Grayson

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