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Microsoft hires the man who made Steam great, signals renewed interest in PC gaming

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Jason Holtman spent the last eight years turning Valve's Steam digital distribution platform into a veritable cornucopia of PC games. Starting this month, however, he'll be working at Microsoft on the company's Windows gaming strategy. "Yes, I have joined Microsoft where I will be focusing on making Windows a great platform for gaming and interactive entertainment," he told GamesIndustry International. "I think there is a lot of opportunity for Microsoft to deliver the games and entertainment customers want and to work with developers to make that happen, so I'm excited to be here." Holtman left Valve in February under mysterious circumstances, along with up to 25 other employees.

Good news for PC gaming

The move isn't just significant because of Holtman's history of convincing practically every major game publisher to trust Valve with their digital sales, but also because Microsoft has largely ignored PC gaming in recent years, putting the majority of its muscle towards promoting Xbox instead. The few times Microsoft has turned an eye towards PC games, such as with its Games for Windows Live initiative, the company has been accused of facilitating shoddy ports of Xbox titles and of locking down games with obtrusive DRM mechanisms.

With Windows 8's built-in games store, not to mention a new generation of Xbox games designed to run on PC components, Microsoft has a chance to own the relationship with PC gamers once again. Valve seemed to see that as a threat, distancing itself from Windows, making efforts to build for Mac and Linux, drawing up blueprints for its own Steam Box game console, and launching the cross-platform Steamworks SDK to provide Games for Windows Live-like features (like online matchmaking and license key activation) without the need for Microsoft. Just today, the publishers of Batman: Arkham Origins and Ultra Street Fighter IV announced they were dropping Games for Windows Live in favor of the Valve alternative.

Now that Valve's former director of business development is working for Microsoft, though, we're curious to see if the company behind Xbox can make PC games more attractive as well.