Wouldn't it be great if PC gamers could engage in multiplayer battles with console users on the same servers? Microsoft thought so... until it witnessed the outcome. So says this post on the blog of Rahul Sood, former head of Voodoo PC and now CTO of HP's gaming division.
According to Sood's sources, Microsoft was working on a project that would have allowed PC and Xbox gamers to compete with each other online. This endeavor was reportedly a secret one, and it was undertaken "many many months ago," possibly with the original Xbox rather than the 360. There was only one problem: even "mediocre" PC gamers had little problem mopping the floor with the very best from the console crowd.
Microsoft equipped the console folks with a standard controller and let PC users play with a keyboard and mouse. Combine that with shooters like Gears of War and Unreal, the two games named by Sood's post, and the outcome of this cross-platform experiment is hardly surprising. As PC gamers have known for years, the precision and responsiveness offered by console controllers pales in comparison to the tried and true keyboard and mouse. All the skill in the world is going to have a hard time overcoming a sub-par input device.
Obviously, this wasn't the sort of result Microsoft would have wanted at a time when it was working to gain a foothold in the console market. The project was eventually killed, and online multiplayer games have continued to segregate PC and console gamers since.
I've tried on many occasions to get into first-person shooters on the Xbox, but the controller always ends up ruining the experience and driving me back to the PC. Dual analog sticks are certainly ideal for other types of games, but not when the crosshair sits in the center of the screen.