This week, Kotaku reported that PlayStation 4 exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn may come to the PC in the near future. And let me first say, it’s interesting this became big news because when Quantic Dream announced that Detroit: Become Human was coming to PC last year—another Sony-published game—it didn’t inspire nearly the same levels of pontificating about Sony’s intentions for the PC.
Of course, people generally praised Horizon: Zero Dawn and disliked Detroit. Maybe that’s the only difference, that Horizon is seen as one of Sony’s “prestige” games.
It does have me thinking about the PC though, and specifically about the PC as an arm of Microsoft—because that’s what it’s become to some people. The PC is seen as an extension of the Xbox platform, or perhaps the Xbox is an extension of the PC. Hell, I even wrote that the Xbox Series X “sure does resemble a PC tower” when Microsoft teased it at December’s Game Awards.
And it’s fascinating how times have changed. Only a little over a decade ago, Games for Windows Live seemed like a colossal overreach. Microsoft’s first attempt to wed PC and Xbox manifested as a buggy launcher with buggy authorization and buggy multiplayer functionality and it sucked. It wreaked havoc on the PC, and continues to do damage even today. Just this month Rockstar pulled Grand Theft Auto IV from Steam, citing a lack of Games for Windows Live keys as the reason.
With that failure, Microsoft pseudo-abandoned the PC again—or at least, that’s what PC gamers claimed. Really this period of benevolent neglect was the start of the PC’s resurgence. Windows 7 kicked ass. Valve built an empire. The average PC’s performance pulled way ahead of console hardware, and that status quo held even upon the release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in 2013.
A bigger audience meant more money, which meant developers started returning to the PC, the ports got better, and the PC began feeling like digital Switzerland. It was neutral territory, or ostensibly neutral. 2014 and 2015 were the heyday of the “Console Exclusive,” games that were either coming to the Xbox One or the PS4—but which were definitely coming to PC as well.
That’s how we started this console generation.
The situation’s changed though. Maybe five years ago now, Microsoft started quietly integrating the PC and Xbox again. The process has not always been smooth, nor subtle. The all-but-forced move from Windows 7 to Windows 10 proved controversial. The early years of the Windows 10 store even more so.
Valve tried to secede from Windows entirely, dreaming of a Linux-based future with SteamOS and Steam Machines. Epic’s Tim Sweeney penned a letter for The Guardian decrying the UWP format, calling it a “distribution and commerce…