Microsoft discusses improvements to PC gaming, including a bigger cut for devs

Xbox Store
Xbox Store (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft announced a new commitment to gaming on Windows PCs.
  • Microsoft is cutting its share of game revenue from 30% to just 12%, letting devs keep more money.
  • Microsoft also teased more "quality-of-life" improvements for PC gamers, touting "improved install reliability and faster download speeds."

Microsoft has a checkered history when it comes to PC gaming. While its early work to make Windows as open as possible for game development led to the industry we know and love today, later blunders like Games for Windows Live did more than a fair share of damage to its reputation in the space. And even now, many PC gamers haven't forgotten, nor forgiven. The modern Microsoft is proving itself to be a lot different, however, making over a hundred high-quality games available on Xbox Game Pass for PC at a relatively low cost, while also showcasing a commitment to bringing its flagship Xbox titles to Steam and beyond.

Xbox Game Studios lead Matt Booty recently shared a blog post (opens in new tab) on Xbox Wire, touting further Microsoft's commitment to gaming on Windows PCs, while teasing some improvements heading to the Windows content delivery system.

"Premier" PC games experience

Halo Infinite

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

In the post, Booty touted Microsoft's efforts to revitalize classics like Age of Empires and Flight Simulator, while delivering new titles like Wasteland 3, Minecraft Dungeons, Gears Tactics, Sea of Thieves, and others to PC. Microsoft also discussed the recent beta rollout of Xbox Game Pass for the web, bringing hundreds of console-quality games to low-power PCs that might not necessarily have the graphics clout to run a game natively. Microsoft was also careful to add that cloud streaming is by no means intended to replace native gaming, merely serving as an option.

Microsoft reiterated that Age of Empires IV is aiming to launch later this year, built from the ground up for PC, while reiterating that Halo Infinite will support multiplayer cross-play and cross-progression between Windows and Xbox consoles when it drops.

We've talked often about our "player-first" approach to gaming over the last few years. In the past, that may have meant different things to different people, especially for those who identified strongly with being a console gamer, a PC gamer, or a mobile gamer. If you were to walk the (virtual) halls at Xbox today, I think you'd find that to us, the idea of the "player" has come to mean someone who plays many kinds of games on many different devices. PC gaming is part of this; "player first" has to apply for PC, as well, and to that end we've been making investments across the PC gaming ecosystem to ensure that PC is a key part of how people can play games.

The company notes that Halo Infinite will be a "premier" PC experience, including out-of-the-box support for ultrawide and ultrawide displays, triple keybinds, and a "wide variety" of advanced graphic options. Given the work Microsoft did with Gears Tactics, I think it's safe to say Halo Infinite could be an impressive showcase for Microsoft's commitment to the platform.

Tech boost for Xbox Game Pass for PC and devs

Xbox Game Pass

Source: Matt Brown | Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Matt Brown | Windows Central)

Matt Booty also discussed its plans for Xbox Game Pass for PC in a bit more detail, touting the hundred-plus games Microsoft has added to their PC offering so far in 2021. Microsoft says that over fifty "leading device partners" including the likes of Acer, Razer, MSI, and ASUS will offer Xbox Game Pass for PC bundled in with select devices.

Microsoft also teased more "quality-of-life" improvements for PC gamers, touting "improved install reliability and faster download speeds." We believe that this is part of Microsoft's effort to revamp the clunky Microsoft Store delivery system, which was ultimately designed originally to deliver mobile apps on Windows Phone. We recently wrote about how Microsoft is planning to embrace Win32 on the Microsoft Store, dropping the requirement to use UWP containers. Microsoft will even allow developers to use their own content delivery networks (CDN) — the latter of which alleviates major headaches for certain developers. For example, Final Fantasy 14: Realm Reborn is notoriously unavailable on Xbox, and we believe the CDN restriction could be to blame. We believe that these improvements could be announced at Build 2021, alongside the big Sun Valley refresh for the Windows 10 OS.

Matt Booty also reiterated the recent announcements out of Game Stack Live 2021, which revealed the DX12 Agility SDK to help devs gain access to new DirectX features more easily, alongside DirectStorage, bringing Xbox Velocity Architecture APIs to PC games for faster loading speeds and decompression.

A bigger cut for game devs

Xbox app for Windows 10

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

One of the biggest areas of contention in the game industry right now revolves around how much developers get paid. Epic is doing battle with Apple in court over its hefty store restrictions and deep revenue share scheme, which sees 30% of all cash spent on the store going straight into Apple's pockets. Epic Games has bucked industry trends by offering developers an 88% share on its own Epic Games Store, and now, Microsoft is following suit.

Matt Booty says that from August 1st, the developer share for PC game sales net revenue will increase to 88%, up from 70%. This is a "clear, no-strings-attached" revenue share, without any hidden caveats.

This is a huge opportunity for game developers to gain access to a storefront that is pre-installed on over a billion devices, offering an industry-leading revenue share. It will put pressure on Steam to follow suit potentially and will continue to shine a spotlight on the likes of Apple, who gouge their developer community despite the incredibly high margins on the hardware they sell.

A committed PC gaming Microsoft

Razer Blade 15

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Microsoft has never before put so much money behind its gaming offering, and to see all of these moves signal a huge boost for the effort in this space. The lifted restrictions on content delivery via the Microsoft Store delivery system should lead to improved mod support for Xbox Game Pass titles too, and make it easier for developers to bring their games to the store, while also getting a bigger chunk of the profit pie.

Microsoft still has work to do in this space, but they're certainly on the right track.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • It's impressive to see the fidelity of Apple devs.
    It's okay, but i would like more original games for PC, and material and tools given at devs are probably very important for it.
    Actually. the market of PC games is in relation with activation key, not forget this.
  • You post some truly weird-arse stuff mate, it’s like you’re tripping or something, I like it.
  • The best president and vice president pair ever? Phil Spencer, Matt Booty
  • Matt Booty is the head of Xbox Game Studios.
  • That was the joke.
  • Best president, and best precedent.
  • I’m still concerned about apps and games not having to be packaged, but games and apps like Visual Studio are exactly why they’re doing this. At the same time, they said they’re committed to start using MSIX, so it’s a little confusing to me. I guess they’ll use for some apps.
  • If MS will allow developers to use their own in-app purchase systems (as being reported by WindowsCentral), could they potentially bypass this 12% cut by listing games as free to download and then asking to pay full price as an in-app purchase with their own purchase system?
  • No, Microsoft still vets apps going into the Store
  • Throw away and rebuild your Gamepass app Microsoft into something that doesn't suck.
  • They already did
  • This all sounds like good news for MS and its game developers. Just on the business side of the 30% cut -- when Apple announced that, it was in contrast to the typical 35% - 50% taken by physical brick and mortar retailers. In other words, Apple's cut was a smaller share than traditional retailers had taken. Of course, they don't have to pay rent or property taxes, inventory carrying costs, etc. that physical retailers must, but they were also the first to offer application developers, whether for games or utilities, an alternative way to reach a mass market (Steam was there first for games only, but same applies to them). I do think Apple's cut was reasonable. But as is always the case, such large margins invite competition -- originally because big margins mean big profits, and later, the smaller players always cut prices to attract more business, exactly as Epic and MS are doing here (smaller compared to Steam and Apple in the realm of retail digital app/game sales). One of the many ways competition benefits the customers (in this case that's also the developers who are "customers" of the app distribution mechanisms). Such is the beauty of capitalism. :-)
  • Apple was not the first app store. Handango introduced the first on-device app store in 2003. In 1996, apps were being packaged for download in goofy formats on PC (can't remember the name), in 1998 or 1999 there was the mobile app craze DoCoMo or whatever too - heck in the early 2000s there was Linspire Linux which had an app store model too. Most of these stores only charged 9-11% Apple didn't have an app store until iOS 2 in late 2000s
  • blahism, NONE of those before the App Store (except things like Steam, but only among Steam users) were the primary mechanism for customers of that hardware to get apps. Handango did apps for the Palm Pilot. Most Palm Pilot applications were purchased and installed without going through their store. There have been lots of download sites with installers, including for Windows with freeware and shareware sites like Tucows, which is the kind if thing that you're describing, but again, none of them were ever widely used and all were just one option among many to get apps for the respective platforms. Apple changed that completely when it launched the App Store as the only mechanism to put apps on its devices, and it provided standardized mechanisms for handling updates, reviews, categorization, promotion, etc. Shortly after that, it launched a mechanism for in-app purchasing and advertising to help developers with monetization even on free apps. This is why there isn't really any record in the public mind of an app store before Apple's App Store. They do deserve credit for those things.
  • Yes, ios has a walled garden, but that doesn't mean it was the first app store. Palm et all were HUGE in their day...
  • After Apple and Google finish getting sued for doing the opposite of this, Steam might finally feel the squeeze of their game developer tax as well. This is good news for everyone except those companies.
  • www(dot)neogaf(dot)com/threads/ms-promises-to-bring-more-first-party-games-to-pc.710494/page-4#post-88868188 The PC world figured this out decades ago. LOL "We're committed"
    "PC gaming is awesome"
    "We'll fix our broken ****" LOL
    "We won't abandon you"
    "PC gaming isn't dead"
    "We're doubling down on PC gaming"
    "We'll rename our ****** client again and that will fix everything"
    "Windows 8 is going fix our gaming problems"
    "Charging PC gamers $50 to play online makes sense"
    "Hey, you remember that other ****** client we made, we won't do that again" LOL Like the movie Ground Hog Day at Microsoft, heck, they don't change the script ever.
  • PC gaming is awesome
  • Oh yeah, but not from their POV. Another revamp of a failed service, rinse and repeat on the consumer side.
  • I only play a few games, but when I do I use Steam. Its catalogue is extensive and its integrated mods system works perfectly. It would be nice if the Store could compete, but right now it cannot. I am waiting for the overhaul to be announced, maybe that will address some of these issues.
  • Hmm. No mention of the really *big* gaming news in there: GAMEPASS preinstalls. "Microsoft says that over fifty "leading device partners" including the likes of Acer, Razer, MSI, and ASUS will offer Xbox Game Pass for PC bundled in with select devices. " Probably a free month trial. Talk of "burying the lede". Those companies move a *lot* of product.
    If even 1% signs up that is going to add millions more subscribers. Bundling MS OFFICE with DELL and GATEWAY 2000 got them office suite dominance back in the day; bringing the tactic back is likely to be...useful, shall we say? Cheaper than carpet-bombing TV screens with ads for what is, truthfully, a niche service. But a very profitable one moving forward. Catch the cash-tight buying their first gaming PC and the GAMEPASS proposition is going to be very enticing. They're covering a lot of angles and going places competitors can't. I wonder what their next GAMEPASS trick will be...Ubisoft? Activision?
  • This Microsoft has a checked history in PC gaming narrative is a joke. There would be no PC gaming without Windows and DirectX. Steam would have no customer base. Yes, Microsoft ****** up Games for Windows Live, but since then Xbox Games Bar and the Xbox app for PC has fixed all of that.