Does Microsoft Want To Own the Gaming Industry...?

Last Thursday morning I attended a media breakfast meeting where David Rowan, UK editor of Wired magazine was one of the key speakers. Rowan made a comment about the future of Microsoft...wondering if Microsoft wanted to own the gaming industry; which is currently a 48 billion dollars industry, which is probably why Microsoft in investing in gaming.

This idea of Microsoft mastering the gaming market are further validated by Microsoft’s latest game, Kinect, which is all about scanning and 3D, that doesn’t just record your movements. It is a system of cameras, microphones, sensors and software algorithms, able to recognise voices, faces and objects. Tellingly, it didn’t come from Microsoft’s gaming and entertainment division and neither was it trying to copy the Wii; it evolved out of Microsoft’s research labs.

Craig Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer at Microsoft, has said that Kinect “portends a revolution in the way people will interact with computers”, and Bill Gates hinted at something very similar at the D5 Conference in 2007, saying ‘the real change of the desktop metaphor for the PC would come through innovations in three-dimensional imaging, where the user would become part of the experience’.

Apple’s iPod, and then the iPhone, have given the company a direction for the future. It’s now a very different company if it had just followed its path of the Mac; all its triumphs come from the success of the iPod. Wired magazine puts it perfectly, “The iPod was universally hailed as the top device in its class, technologically sophisticated and culturally cool. iTunes gave Apple footholds in retail (first for music, then other media) and on the PC platform. It was the first post-PC device that along with digital cameras and video let Apple remake the personal computer from a workstation into a digital media hub by way of iLife.”

So, while Apple was flourishing, Microsoft was not. It lost a lot of its reputation as a leader and trendsetter, particularly in the consumer market. Its web browser and new Windows OS were unloved. It tried but was unsuccessful to get strong positions in search, smart phones, and music players; but it scored with the Xbox. This was a victory, people loved it and it has kept on growing. Microsoft is fighting back. It launches a studio called MGS (Microsoft Games Studios) Mobile Gaming, which is focused on bringing games and entertainment to the mobile life that people lead. Microsoft says, “Our vision is to deliver games and entertainment so good that people will want them always with them, on a service that makes them social, connected and relevant anywhere their life goes. The Mobile Gaming studio will be the hub for MGS franchises and titles on mobile devices and a centre of excellence for mobile game.” So, as Microsoft’s gaming takes off and it finds itself, continuing to invest in the Xbox rather than Windows and Office, or fruitlessly chase after Apple in tablets or Google in search, we’ll see it will find its niche again.

Photo Credit: LuChOeDu