REDMOND, Wash., March 1, 2000 — As the use of personal computers has grown over the past two decades, so has their popularity as a way for people to play games. In fact, playing games has become one of the PC’s more typical uses in recent years. Microsoft has developed its Windows software to support PC gaming for years and continues to incorporate new technologies to make the PC gaming experience more enjoyable for the home user.
On the eve of Microsoft Gamestock 2000, Microsoft’s annual gaming press event that begins today on the company’s Redmond, Wash., campus, PressPass interviewed Microsoft’s Shawn Sanford, group product manager for Microsoft’s Windows Division, to better understand the PC gaming market and its future. Sanford and his team are currently working on Windows Millennium Edition, Microsoft’s next version of Windows for the consumer.
PressPass: When and how did gaming become a viable use for the Windows PC?
Sanford: The evolution of gaming and the PC have gone hand-in-hand. Gaming has been a popular use of the PC since the beginning and has grown with the maturation and innovation of PC technology. The flexibility of the Windows PC has provided games developers with a great platform to create incredible games over time, and the development continues to evolve with the innovation of the Windows PC.
PressPass: How popular is PC gaming now?
Sanford: Gaming is incredibly popular. In fact, PC games sell more than all other categories of computer retail products. A recent study showed that 75 percent of PC owners played games on their PC. Of course, they do not all play the same types of games; some play action games, some play hearts or solitaire, and more and more people are playing online. That is the great thing about the Windows PC — it provides the flexibility and the choice for users to experience technology in a way that best suits them.
PressPass: Why has gaming become so popular on Windows PCs?
Sanford: I think the popularity of gaming on Windows PCs can be attributed to two areas. The first is the flexibility of the personal computer, which enables developers to use the innovations built into the PC platform to deliver incredible games. This flexibility also enables consumers of all types to take advantage of the environment by providing them with the choice to play the games that best suit them.
The second area is the incredible pace of innovation of the PC platform as a whole — both its hardware and software. As processor speed and power increase at an incredible rate and graphics cards rapidly improve, these innovations continue to open new opportunities for game developers and players. The Windows PC enables consumers to continually take advantage of theses advances by enabling systems to be updated with the latest hardware and software innovations. While a game console is a snapshot in time of the latest in gaming technology, a personal computer running Windows can keep up with technology as it develops.
PressPass: How has the Internet changed the PC gaming experience?
Sanford: The Internet’s popularity has created a wonderful new avenue for PC gamers to pursue. Before the Internet, competition was often limited to playing against the computer. With the connectivity that the Internet provides, gamers can now play games with real people all across the globe as well as play against their computers. Playing against a different competitor every time you play a game naturally brings new challenges and opportunities to the gaming experience. The Internet has created a new realm of gaming that is going to be the force behind some exciting innovations in the years ahead.
PressPass: Despite increased competition from gaming consoles over the past several years, the PC gaming market has continued to grow. What are the reasons for that?
Sanford: I really don’t look at the console as a competitor to the PC in gaming, or vice versa. I view the PC and the game console as complementary devices that provide two different gaming environments. The game console is a much more social platform that allows people to sit on the couch with their friends and play games in the family room. Gaming on the PC enables a more intense gaming environment, where role-playing and strategy are more prevalent. When you look at the incredible growth in the computer games industry, it’s obvious there is plenty of room in the gaming world for both types of devices. With these two gaming environments, the ultimate benefit is to home users because they can choose the gaming platform that will give them the best experience.
PressPass: How will Windows Millennium Edition improve the gaming experience for home users?
Sanford: With Windows Millennium Edition, or Windows Me, I feel we have made improvements that will deliver benefits to both game players and general users overall. Windows Millennium Edition will increase hardware support, enabling consumers to take advantage of the latest innovations from graphic cards to joysticks. With work done in the areas of stability and performance, the overall experience with a Windows Me PC will be improved.
One of the best features Windows Me brings to the table for gamers is connectivity within the home. The number of homes with multiple PCs is growing rapidly, and Windows Me makes it simpler to connect home PCs to each other as well as to the Internet. This is good news, both because it makes sharing Internet connections and printers easier and because it allows two people using two computers in the same home to compete against each other. Before Windows Me, connecting PCs wasn’t nearly as easy as it should have been. With Windows Me, we’re opening the door for people to use technology to make gaming more alive. We think it’s a great example of using technology to benefit the home user.
PressPass: How have the demographics of the PC gaming community changed over the years?
Sanford: The PC has entered the homes of more and more users, and PC gaming has been one of the driving forces behind that movement. Before the upsurge of PC use in the home, PC gaming was aligned with hardcore gamers. As the PC adoption rate has increased, the demographics of the PC gaming market have shifted to include mainstream America. That, in turn, has led to the broader use of the PC for gaming and a larger variety of available games. From sport games to backgammon to role-playing games, there’s a computer game for all interests and skill levels. The breadth of games is amazing, and it in turn has attracted more people to play PC games.
PressPass: Where do you see PC gaming in the future?
Sanford: There are two aspects of PC gaming that I believe will have a great impact on the gaming environment in the future. The first is the Internet, which is already beginning to have an impact on gaming and will continue to do so over time. By incorporating the Internet into gaming environments, we open up a wide range of opportunities for developers and consumers alike. The Internet removes the barrier of physical locations to play games; users can play games of all types with other users from all over the world.
The second area that I think will play a part in the future of gaming is speech recognition. Over time, consumers will be able to interact with their Windows PC via speech, and incorporating this technology into games will create incredible new gaming scenarios and features.
PressPass: What excites you personally about the future of PC gaming?
Sanford: I’m excited by the advances in technology that make gaming more fun, more interactive and simpler for people who want to play games at home. From hardware and peripheral advancements to the connectivity of the Internet, technology has enriched the PC gaming experience and will continue to do so.
The breadth of games and the type of interests they cover makes the future of gaming exciting as well. When you look at buying a PC game, you have an immense number of options, each of which will provide you with a high-quality experience. Take the sheer selection of games available and add to that the unlimited number of participants that the Internet provides, and you’ll never have the same gaming experience twice.