For years, PC gaming has flourished almost in spite of Microsoft’s efforts, as the company has tried (and failed) on several occasions to funnel players into its own digital storefronts. Now the company is acknowledging its previous missteps, and says it’s embracing the kinds of choices that PC gamers have always preferred.
“We’ve not always lived up to our aspiration of keeping gamers at the center of everything we do when it comes to the experience they’ve had on Windows,” Xbox head Phil Spencer said in a blog post.
To start making amends, Microsoft is bringing more than from its own studios to other stores, adding to the 20 games it already offers on Steam, Valve’s dominant marketplace for PC games. That means players won’t have to shop through the Microsoft Store for those titles, though Microsoft will still try to offer its own online features and friends lists.
While the Microsoft Store isn’t going away, the company will no longer require game developers to support its Universal Windows Platform (UWP) format. Instead, they’ll be able to release traditional Win32 apps, which will allow for mods and other tweaks that the Windows Store hasn’t previously allowed for. (This is likely part of a broader move away from UWP for Windows as a whole, as the strategy of de-emphasizing Win32 never quite resonated with software developers.)
Finally, Microsoft is bringing its Game Pass subscription service to PC. The service will provide about 100 games at launch, though Microsoft hasn’t specified a price or release date.
On the whole, the announcements mark a significant shift from Microsoft’s old strategy, which involved building its own game storefront and trying to lure players over with exclusives and Xbox-related features. As always-online games and subscription services take hold, Microsoft is now seeking other ways to interpose itself between players and their games.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Microsoft is adding more than 20 games to Steam. It is adding more games beyond the 20 that are already available.