How DOOM motivated Gabe Newell and a shotgun-toting Bill Gates to forge PC gaming as we know it today

It has rained a lot, a lot since the release of the first DOOM. The trio of developers John Carmac, Tom Hall Y John Romero offered a visceral game, inherited from the first Wolfenstein 3D and attractive enough to survive almost 3 decades; but the most important thing is that it popularized the FPS (First Person Shooter) genre in 1993 and laid the foundations for the PC as gaming platform. It seems somewhat preposterous to state outright that the current PC is thanks to a single game, but it is not the first time that we have seen that the success of a title marks the future of a console or a whole industry.

Although today the Microsoft system prevails in gaming computers – if we look at the Steam data about the hardware and software of users of the platform—, 30 years ago they worked with a lightweight software, capable of being housed on a single diskette with just 1.44 MB of storage and with a code-based interface. We talk about MS-DOSthe archaic version of Windows that took over computers in the 80s and 90s.

The DOS family system released in 1981 was crude and very limited in its use. It worked with just 109 commands with which to move around the system and use its capabilities. They were classic computers, most of them with just 16 MB of RAM and 500 MB of storage, but enough to run DOOM. id Software’s bet was not a console-seller, but a computer-seller This first title in the saga broke everything and was crowned with 20 million players just two years after its launch. In fact, by 1995, DOOM was installed on more computers that the operating system itself Windows 95.

The popularity of DOOM led Bill Gates to consider buying his studio before making a native version of Windows 95.

How could this be possible if Windows 95 was the evolution of MS-DOS? In fact, it is easy to explain if we imagine a similiar situation with Fortnite, for example. Reducing it to the extreme, if the multiplayer most profitable in recent years were available only on PS3 and Xbox 360, even with the current PS5 and Series X/S on the market, most users would crown their set-up with the seventh generation of consoles. We are talking about a boom effect, an experience that marked a before and after and that led the MS-DOS operating system, which was more than a decade old, to prevail over Windows 95; something that pissed me off Gabe Newell.

Doom Ms Two

In nineteen ninety fiveeven with DOOM II: Hell on Earth In the market, people were still flocking to the original DOOM, so the then producer and developer of the first three versions of Windows, just 33 years old, made the decision to put together a small team to carry DOOM to Windows 95 under the approval of John Carmack. As Newell himself recounted for GamesRadar in 2007the idea was to make a version that would arrive under the name of DOOM 95, completely free and under the technology flagship of the moment for Microsoft: DirectX.

My break into the gaming industry was when I was working on Windows in the old days of DOS extenders and pirated config.sys boot disks. I was the producer of the first three releases of Windows. It was common knowledge that it was not possible to write a good game on Windows due to, well, unidentified technical reasons. This was annoying, so I decided to find a more technically advanced PC game and we would port it to Windows to prove that there was no reason games shouldn’t be Windows applications.

Newell wanted to make it clear with this version of DOOM that Windows PCs were the perfect platform to make the biggest games of the contemporary and future market work, all this to put aside MS-DOS and be the alternative to Linux or Mac OS. The idea was to develop the perfect tools, power DirectX by ditching the WinG API from classic Windows builds, and release a fully functional version of a modern classic (at least back then); all in a matter of one year.

Bill Gates Doom 1

The truth is that the desire and the delusion of a very young Gaben were enough to motivate the small team, but Microsoft a lot was played, very much looking to make a system attractive with the most popular game of the moment. A situation that could have squandered Windows as a software capable of running games and who knows, maybe the open source Linux system would have prevailed. East “what if?” failed to materialize and just a year later, Gabe Newell managed to prove the viability of Windows, even without direct profit.

But where does it come in? Bill Gates, director and founder of Microsoft, in this equation? The truth is that the vision of the video game has always been a “show” when it comes to announcing new releases with great fanfare, and if Shigeru Miyamoto appeared in the E3 2004 with Link’s sword and shield to announce The Legend of Zelda: Twilight PrincessGates did the same, 8 years earlier, and with a shotgun in the hand.

The idea was to make the viewer see that 3 years after its release, DOOM could now be played on the best possible platform. Therefore, to make the millionaire Bill Gates appear, on everyone’s lips thanks to his famous “tidal wave of the internet” -an memorandum where he described the means by which information technology was going to change society and the economy as a whole—was the most sensible bet. Gates, happy, casual, surrounded by chromakey and singing the praises of Windows 95 for the video game, starred in a successful spot and put history on track for his benefit. The rest is history.

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How DOOM motivated Gabe Newell and a shotgun-toting Bill Gates to forge PC gaming as we know it today