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Would Microsoft ever make a Surface for gamers? - #AskDanWindows 46

Would Microsoft ever make a gaming-focused Surface device (and what would it look like)? Should we expect anything on "Project Andromeda" at Build this week, and what else could the Surface team be working on?

Let's dive into the latest rumors and expectations with this week's #AskDanWindows!

Audience questions for Episode 46

  • What do you think the chances are that Microsoft makes a gaming focused Surface? - @DarkKnightJavi
  • Do you think we will get to see an Andromeda device of some sort at Build, or it is more likely they'll just outline what devs need to know for this new form factor? @Gustavchirps
  • Wonder if we can expect more surprising devices than ''just'' andromeda... - Vivio vrvly

Thanks to everyone for the questions!

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Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • Yup, if there was ever a year to do a "one more thing" this would be the year!
  • Dan I think most of your predictions are pretty good, but here I disagree. You can ignore the first party IP problem (Halo and Gears do not an empire make), but you first have to explain how the Vita and Shield failed at the same job. Nintendo succeeds by going low on spec assumptions and high on nostalgia. The Switch is thriving on first party materials, not the third party games.
  • I would rather them make something that competes with the Nintendo Switch. We need another laptop in this world like we need another hole in the O-Zone layer. I've been looking for a Surface Pro replacement. I'm looking at the Surface book. I couldn't care less about the surface laptop if I tried. If the Andromeda can do it, fine. If it's something that's like a surface pro cut in half, fine. If it's a hololens 2, fine. but not another damn laptop.
  • Yeah I have to agree, except that I think Surface Laptop is important to MS in Education. But as for gaming, it's not that I don't think they could build a really cool, and probably really expensive, gaming laptop, but why? The Surface Book 2 spec'd out version does a pretty respectable job of that already. The way I see it, they've got enough unfinished business to work on already. I think for now their focus should be on getting "back in the game" with mobile devices, getting Cortana back on track and bringing her to more markets, getting HoloLens back on track and releasing an affordable retail version, getting UWP and the Store back on track with some great 1st party UWP apps (like resurrecting Encarta specifically for HoloLens or resurrecting MS Money), getting PWA up and going with banks, cc companies, airlines, stock brokerages, and bringing Bing to more markets. BTW this is an interesting take from Jason Moser of Motley Fool on how important it is for MS to get back in the game with mobile just from a financial perspective:
  • Absolutely agree. The last thing Microsoft needs is yet another gaming laptop. They need to invest into areas where the Windows Ecosystem itself is weak. That would be for instance a Switch-like ultra-mobile gaming device. This could as well be Andromeda with the option of attaching Switch-like controllers.
  • Yeah, the whole point of the Surface line isn't necessarily to compete with OEMs but to demonstrate to OEMs how to build a Windows device properly, to inspire them to up their game and to innovate by taking the lead in doing so themselves. Surfaces are all about showcasing the platform so to speak. That said, I think OEMs have gaming laptops pretty well so perfected, but yeah portable, mobile, devices that showcase Win 10's strengths that's definitely where OEMs could use some inspiring. BTW it's this same principle I think Microsoft should be applying in authoring some quality 1st party games, UWP, and PWA applications. One example... Encarta for HoloLens. I mean, how cool would that be to have a 360 view of the leaning tower of Pisa right there in your living room? Or a virtual replication of the Mayflower? This sort of thing inspires other devs to do the same... maybe to come out with holographic "encyclopedias" specific to a particular field. And maybe... even to store all their holographic images and data on Azure!
  • The Switch (and Nintendo) thrives because there are still enough 30-40 years old that want to play Mario and Zelda. When that generation, my generation of gamers, moves on Nintendo is in serious trouble. Mario and Zelda don't matter nearly as much to the 20 and under crowd and soon they will be the older generation of gamers. Nintendo has another 5 years or so until they really have problems and need to consider moving away from making hardware. Mario and Zelda make up probably 70 percent of their first party offerings. At some point in the nearish future there simply won't be enough interest in those games for Nintendo to sell hardware. Nintendo has kind of painted themselves in a corner with the Switch. They no longer have a home console and portable console business model. The Switch has combined them into 1. It may be selling great but in a couple years when they have sold 30 million of them but no longer have sales from their portable market it will actually equate to less total hardware sales for them. This will get worse and worse as the Mario and Zelda gamers stop gaming. As far as Sony and the Vita. Sony is the reason the Vita failed. At the time it came out, Sony was in trouble financially and most of their time and money ended up going to developing and releasing the PS4. No money, no marketing, only a few 1st party games. They really abandoned the Vita from the start. The Vita was Sony's Windows Phone. It's a shame. As a gamer I would love an upgraded Vita and a new, powerful true home console from Nintendo. As for MS and a Surface gaming device. I'm not sure Andromeda won't be capable of being that device and with dual screens it could get be very interesting. I'm also not sure any of their 1st party franchises translate well to handheld devices and even if they did, MS would just end up screwing something up at launch and then abandoning it within a couple years. One thing is certain though, it would be a beautiful device and a cool thing to have.
  • Ah, the ever popular death knell prediction of Nintendo... funny how it is always 5-10 years away from the time the prediction is made. If the poster's logic was workable the Vita wouldn't have failed nor would have the Shield. The "mature" gamer handheld hasn't worked since the PSP and that still was a distant 2nd to the Nintendo offerings. People predicted the death of the big N after the Gamecube (a criminally underrated system), the N64, and now the WiiU. They thought the DS would fail and then the 3DS, yet both were bigger successes than any of home consoles.
  • I never predicted the "death" of Nintendo nor do I think they will die. They will making games as long as gaming exists. I completely agree about the Gamecube. I never used the word "mature" when referring to the requirements of a handheld and that has nothing to do with any of my arguments. The Shield failed for multiple reasons, It was an Android gaming tablet, Nvidia is not Nintendo, the average person or parent was not aware of it and it wasn't as easily available or as heavily marketed as anything Nintendo has done. I addressed the reasons the Vita failed and the reasons I provided are 100% logical and would cause any item to fail. I wasn't 1 of the "People" you were referring to that have been saying Nintendo would die since the Gamecube, or the N64, (noone else said they would fail with that either by the way) or any of the other consoles you mentioned. Nor did I insinuate that I am hoping for Nintendo to fail which it seems is how you decided to interpret my post. I simply stated that I think at some point in the near future (when Mario and Zelda matter less and less and due to them combining the handheld and home console market) they will have a tough time selling consoles based off of a very limited amount of old 1st party franchizes and I even said that I think that will be a shame if it happens. It's amazing how only 10% of what I posted actually registered with you and yet based on that 10%, you were able to (in your mind) figure out completely (and inaccurately) what I was saying.
  • One of the biggest ball drops pertaining to Windows Phone was MS's lack of focus on Xbox for the platform. It was absolutely ridiculous. Xbox integration, if you can even call it that, was what fans thought was the biggest differentiator for WP. That was the main thing we thought would bring market share. Not that it was possible at the time, but WP should've launched with controller support, and not have had that crazy intricate certification procces to get XB games in the store.
    Fast forward to 2018, and we still wonder if MS is gonna once again ignore the biggest no brainer in the history of sensibility. At this point, it shouldn't even be a question whether MS will market this device to different types of users, selling it's strengths accordingly... Why are we still talking about this?
  • I agree to a point. I think MS should have just chosen which aspect to focus on. During the time Windows Phone came out, despite coming in late, MS should have focused solely on the OS itself to make it something that would have kept the interest of the masses. If they focused on standout features for the Xbox side of things, as technological improvements in mobile devices occurred, They could have focused on the gaming aspect, for the next big update. This would have created more buzz and excitement. They could have worked on true Xbox Live gaming and not just achievements. This would have also given them time to get more developers on board with games, while improving the OS, too.
  • Also, lately its been Surface Surface Surface... I like that. Surface is the key to taking this site back for Windows fans.
  • Surface Sidewinder? Just a thought...
  • Surface Jot?
    Wait a minute... We're not talking about Andromeda here🙄🙄🙄🙄
  • That would be around 10000$
  • An external GPU with a Thunderbolt equipped Surface would make more sense. Keeps the Surface form factor in place and have an Xbox branded external AMD GPU in a custom low profile case, the eGPU could be sold separately too or part of a bundle. Hardware is not just enough this Surface Xbox edition would need some tie in for promoting Xbox on PC and MS don't really have anything in this area, the MS Store + Xbox app make a poor alternative to Steam even from an advertising point of view.
  • Xbox is the surface device for gamers. Surface is about integrating software with hardware connected through the cloud. MSFT makes money on software. Especially software as a service. This is what 365 is all about. Azure is the same as 365 but way over my head. I understand an email service with Cortana doing some legwork for me. There is no reason not to think a dual screen pen-enabled device is not a perfect form factor for the Surface Team. Huge software and hardware engineering issues to resolve. The software has to be tightly integrated with the device. So yes Build will tell developers what the specific tools they can use to bring unique features to their users.
  • For me, a Surface gaming laptop looks like my Surface Book 2 15", just with more storage (I currently use a 400gb SD card with the BaseQi adapter for my Steam games).
  • It makes no sense for MS to build a "Surface for Gamers". That would make them compete with themselves (XBOX) for eyeballs and R&D money. MS has a long history of killing off internally-competitive products to focus profits on just one in that field (this is being done now with Office, it is going to wither on the vine as they do everything they can to push users to Office365.) Unless they can come up with a compelling argument to build something in Azure to do this, it won't get done. I can see MS leveraging a streaming XBOX game interface on a Surface product (that way it builds on Azure) possibly via a Virtual Machine that is hardware encrypted on the Surface product, but that is it.
    Nothing else makes sense from a business perspective. If MS REALLY wants to get into the handheld market (and I don't think they do) they can just BUY NINTENDO (that would make the most sense in the long run, if just for the IP they would gain.)