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Games for Windows

Rich Wickham, director of Games for Windows, talks about MS's big PC gaming push

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Speaking hypothetically... Because of cross-platform, if Halo 3 were planned for PC, would we see the release gap between the 360 and PC versions reduced considerably in comparison to the release gaps between Halo and Halo 2 from Xbox to PC?

Rich Wickham: Part of the reason you have the gap you have between the releases on Xbox and on Windows for Halo 2 is simply because we wanted to take advantage of all the things we were doing in Vista to make Halo 2 even better.

The second thing is, I think we're entering a really interesting period in the game space where the idea of a platform exclusive is starting to fade away.

I think as you build $20 and $30 and $40 million games you've got to find a way to get them in front of as many customers as possible. Second, I think where it might get interesting is in the window of exclusivity - exclusivity is becoming a really elastic term.

And I also think there's a real opportunity with what we're doing with Live to make sure that titles do come out on our platforms at the same time so you can jump in and have that multiplayer experience cross-platform.

As far as specifics, for specific titles, developers and publishers are going to have to decide how to do that. We're certainly putting the tools into their hands to do that. The last thing I'll say, is I do think that, although you do see PC-only titles going to other platforms, I think they're going to other platforms because the money is better. But there are some games that I think are always only going to make sense on the PC.

What I think will be interesting, if we sit down in 18 or 24 months and see what platform has the most exclusives, whether it's the PC or not. It might be. It'd be a weird turn of events, wouldn't it? But that might be exactly what happens actually.

In your presentation, you were saying how Games for Windows is a mark of quality. So if in the consumer's eye, the Games for Windows brand represents quality, are you not concerned that the brand will have a negative impact on the sale of non-Games for Windows-branded titles?

Rich Wickham: No I don't think so. First of all, we're absolutely committed to getting as many games branded Games for Windows as possible, because I think it's a great thing for consumers and it tells them something they didn't know about the game before or that they would have to read the 4-point font on the back about - we don't want to do that, no one wants to read 4-point font.

Second, I think for those folks who decide they don't want to be part of the programme, I think they're still going to in some measure benefit from Microsoft's efforts to make the platform better overall, to remind people that Windows is actually a place you can play games. It's completely up to the publisher and developer to decide if they want to be in our programme and if our programme is actually providing value I suspect they'll come with us. I hope so.

Recently, comments from Valve Software's Doug Lombardi were taken to suggest the developer believes Games for Windows may only be a short-term marketing initiative to boost Vista...

Rich Wickham: Here's my take on what Doug had to day. First of all, I think his comments may be being taken somewhat out of context. What I took from what he [Lombardi] said was that, if Microsoft and Games for Windows was only about selling Windows Vista and this was just like a big 'pop' because Vista came out, that that would be a bad thing for PC gaming - I think he's right. I agree with that, I absolutely agree with that. And in fact that's not what we're trying to do here.

I think we may have to prove - because we're Microsoft - our intentions over time, and that's exactly what we're going to do with Games for Windows. We're going to continue to invest in retail, we're going to continue to invest in the Games for Windows brand, we're going to continue to make sure that great titles come out on this platform and that you see... We're absolutely going to commit to what we're doing on Live.

My take on it is the proof is already in the pudding but will continue to be in the pudding. We wouldn't be spending tens of millions of dollars at retail, we wouldn't be building a Live service that's going to go forward, we wouldn't be doing all the things that we're doing - with the packaging, the branding - in order to just go through a six-month cycle.

This is a long-term investment.

I think there's plenty of proof there already, I think there'll more proof going forward, and I think that in the end it's going to benefit Valve, and Epic and Crytek and everyone else who's a great developer on this platform and I think that ultimately they're going to be very pleased with what we do.

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