The head of Microsoft’s gaming division has effectively confirmed that Xbox will become a ‘PC-console hybrid’ of sorts.
Microsoft’s intention is to have both PC and Xbox running “UWAs” (Universal Windows Applications), which would combine the two platforms on a software basis. It also seems likely that Xbox will become open to hardware upgrades. This decision has the potential to revolutionise the world of console gaming, as it has previously been accepted that the hardware of gaming consoles should, and does, remain unchanged throughout the device’s lifespan.
“In other [consumer technology] ecosystems you get more continuous innovation in hardware that you rarely see in consoles because consoles lock the hardware and software platforms together at the beginning and they ride the generation out for seven years or so,” said Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division. “We’re allowing ourselves to decouple our software platform from the hardware platform on which it runs.”
This would likely manifest itself with Microsoft regularly releasing updated versions of the console, the hardware improving incrementally each time. Spencer said that the intention was to create a system whereby gamers can, “still go back and run my old Quake and Doom games, but then I can also see the best 4K games coming out. Hardware innovation continues and software takes advantage. I don’t have to jump generation and lose everything I played before.”
Microsoft have also charged in-house studio Turn 10 with the task of translating their Forza Motorsport engine to be compatible with UWAs and DirectX 12, along with other console titles.
Additionally, any developer can create games for UWAs using development tools publicly available at http://dev.microsoft.com. In order to sell their products on the Windows Store however, developers need to complete an additional registration step to make their app available. There is no registration process to obtain the development tools.