The Tech Market – From Metro UI to Business and then to Game Engines

I don’t do this often, re-blogging that is.  This time I have to make an exception because I read a great post from an ‘anon’ user on a forum that offers some pretty great insight into the ‘new’ Microsoft.  I am sure many of you have heard about Notch and Gabe Newell’s opposition of Windows 8 and their Metro UI.  It has gotten to the point that they will not support the OS with Minecraft and Steam accessibility.

Xbox 360 UI
Xbox 360 UI – So sleek, So nice, Kinect Integration. I just don’t like how they have games in the middle. That was definitely a business (marketing) choice rather than a design choice.

Here is the post:

“Market has changed in the last couple of years. Microsoft has always been reliant on desktop PC’s and their monopoly (once they got it). They focused on software and were pretty happy with the things as they were. Executives weren’t willing to go out of their comfort zone and explore new markets. They only acted once competitors succeeded in different markets (Xbox, Zune), even then, it was always a half-assed attempt that got abandoned in favor of bigger and better things (Xbox is pretty much the only exception, maybe along with .Net).

Apple on the other hand started out as a hardware company. Like Microsoft they stuck with what they knew, this almost made them bankrupt a few times, but they were able to survive long enough to see the hardware rejuvenation era (cheap labor, basically). They (just Jobs at this point) realized they can’t survive with just sticking to what they know, so Apple started to buyout lots of talent to expand their product portfolio. Which led to the Ipod and Itunes. Since Apple produced closed platforms since the dawn of time, these new products had a closed ecosystem as well. Fast forward to Iphone and the age of 3G, WiFi, always on internet (not to mention brilliant ad campaigns), they became hugely successful because they were the first to mass-market the advances of the technology to non-tech-savvy population.

This is incredibly alien to Microsoft. In the last 10 years, they’ve witnessed the creation of the biggest market ever, but they weren’t willing to do anything about it. Now that the Apple have become the biggest corporation in human history, they woke up.

They woke up, because this kind of market shift happened before to many other industries. Cinemas, were the dominant form of visual entertainment, now everyone has a big screen TV and can watch any film they’d like via DVDs/Blu-rays. Cinemas are still big, all around the world. New movies always come first to the movie theaters, but the sheer number of people who have TVs at home just dwarfs it. Effectively, cinemas have become a niche product. Still profitable, but not as profitable as others. I wrote this as an example that this kind of shift happened before and everyone can relate to it someway, it’s not meant to be a perfect representation of current events mind you.

It’s simple, Microsoft doesn’t want to become a niche developer (still big, profitable with stable growth, but a niche compared to other markets). They want to exploit this new market, and they are late to the party already. They need to act, and they need to act fast, otherwise it may be too late (if it isn’t already).

Cue in Windows Phone 7. It should have worked, but didn’t. If you ask any WP7 user, one thing they are sure to complain about, is the lack of selection on the software side (apps, needs apps). Microsoft knew this would happen, so they tried to lure their desktop developers with known tools (C#, XNA, .Net, familiar development environments). It should have worked it theory, but they realized, at this point, it became a chicken in the egg problem. Developers don’t make apps because there aren’t enough users, there aren’t enough users because there aren’t enough apps.

Things are starting to look grim now. They tried and failed (miserably). They didn’t have enough developer support to jump-start the platforms. It’s time to abuse their monopoly. Result is Metro Modern UI. Having a mandatory tablet/phone like environment in the desktop, will force developers to support it. Windows market is huge, they are bringing the monopoly in full force, even if a tiny fraction of developers support the new UI, it’ll create bazjillion of apps, ready for the prime time in mobile market.

To recap, they are trying to leverage their desktop monopoly, by coercing them into developing mobile (Windows RT) compatible software, so that when WP8 finally hits the market, it’ll have bazjillions of apps ready at the Windows Store.

This is bad, because they want to go with Apply way (rather than Windows Android way) with this. They are on their way to create one of the biggest closed platforms in the history of mankind (or so they think), and they are willing to sacrifice everything for it.”

Importance

I am sure that sounds like boring business stuff, but there is still some importance here.

Windows 8 UI
Windows 8 UI

When designing game engines we think about the user experience and other things.  As an OS developer Microsoft is thinking about expanding their brand to all tech platforms.  They still have the user in mind, along with some businessy political warblegarble stuff we don’t really care about (market share, loosing money, blah blah).  Microsoft has already implemented this Metro UI with the Xbox 360’s dashboard UI.  We know that they want to expand to the mobile market, but their current attempts have been less rewarding as their past projects.  So by creating a UI that is similar in look, style and function throughout all their platforms you would think that would be a good idea right?  It seems like the developers don’t think so.

It seems like Microsoft is looking at their competition and looking at what markets they are heading into and figuring out where to go.  This can only suck for us because Microsoft is following the wrong competition! Apple! NOOOOOooooo!  Microsoft is focusing their efforts in the Mobile and Tablet market.  I personally sit directly on top of the fence that is between liking and hating touchscreen mobile devices and tablets.  I find tablets very useful for turning mundane tasks we used to accomplish via mouse and keyboard into an interactive and ‘fun’ experience.

I wish Microsoft would be following the direction of Valve, Ouya, Oculus Rift, Google Glasses and so on.  This idea of a connected system that gives a lot of freedom to the user rather than pigeonholing them into something.  User experience, innovative tech that we can use as tools to entertain, build, advance; these are things we should be focusing on.  Apple and Microsoft are looking for the most profitable market tested products.  The only usefulness of a tablet device is to help bridge the gap between PC’s and Mobile Device.

Summary

I think Game Engine developers should focus on developing their game engines to be platform-independent and be able to support any input device (Kinect, PS Move, MIDI keyboard, NES Zapper).  Once all game developers have access to a single platform, making games will be super simple.  However, that may not be the best idea.  If it allows for anyone to make a game, then I might be out of a future job…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s