Microsoft Plans to Return to PC Gaming in Bold New Ways

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by Jacqueline Emigh

Without spilling many details yet, Microsoft claims to be ready follow up on online editions of Age of Empires and Microsoft Flight Simulator with “bold” new games that will call on PC gamers to upgrade their rigs.

“Reinventing these iconic franchises with social, shared experiences at their core marks the beginning of our return to PC gaming in bold new ways,” Microsoft said in a statement at Gamescon 2010.

In a later interview with game site vg247, MS Games Studio Dave Huehmann reportedly confirmed that Microsoft’s two new browser-based games are really just the re-entry points on Microsoft’s new gaming roadmap.

Microsoft: ‘More in the development queue than you’ve seen’
In fact, there’s at least one gaming product coming up that will spur core PC gamers to check for new gear for upgrading their rigs, according to Huehmann.
Luehmann wouldn’t talk about specific future game titles.

Yet he said that Microsoft has multiple games in the pipeline for the next two years, “more in the development queue than you’ve seen.”

Held in Cologne, Germany, Gamescon 2010 featured games for PCs, mobile devices, and gaming consoles like Sony’s PS3, Nintendo’s Wii, and Microsoft’s own Xbox 360.

Microsoft’s Age of Empires Online and Microsoft Flight will “fully integrate the free Games for Windows – Live online service to deliver compelling socially connected gameplay experiences,” Microsoft said, when introducing the games at the show. So, too, will Microsoft’s previously announced Fable III,

Age of Empires Online is now in beta. Microsoft Flight – an online edition of Microsoft’s longtime flight simulation game — is still under internal development, but a teaser is available on the Web. To apply to be a beta tester for Age of Empires Online, you need a gamertag for either Games for Windows – Live or Xbox Live with a Silver or Gold account.

Mixed opinions among gamers
Gamers, though, are voicing mixed opinions about Microsoft’s impending online games. “I might play Age of Empires online, but the Games for Windows Live scares me,” wrote Mwarhead, in the Alienware Arena online forum.

On the same site, Zaxxon said he thinks Microsoft’s new games are a “good call.” Yet he added: “I just don’t like Windows Live’s intrusiveness. Not really in the sending of information, but just in the ‘wants to always start up with Windows, load, then load some content, then pop up letting you know that’s done, then jump in front of everything else, just in case you didn’t figure it out’ sort of way.”

More clues on the way this weekend?
PC gamers could get clearer clues about Microsoft’s “bold new plans” as early as Labor Day Weekend. Kevin Unangst, Microsoft’s senior global director for Games for Windows, is slated to speak in a panel session this Saturday at PAX Prime in Seattle.

The panel, “The Future of PC Gaming,” will look at where gaming is headed beyond touchscreens, multitouch, and 3D.




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