Windows gaming pioneer Eric Engstrom dies at 55

His work on DirectX cleared a path for the Xbox.

The gaming world recently lost one of its most quietly influential figures. The Wall Street Journal has learned that Microsoft engineer Eric Engstrom died on December 1st at the age of 55 from complications following an injury. Engstrom, along with Alex St. John and Craig Eisler, played a key role in developing DirectX — the programming interface that made serious Windows gaming viable and cleared a path for the Xbox.

St. John tapped Engstrom in 1994 to help make gaming in the upcoming Windows 95 operating system practical. At the time, developers preferred the low overhead and greater control DOS offered over Windows 3.1. In addition to working on the project, Engstrom helped St. John advocate for the eventual DirectX platform despite a lack of support from Microsoft itself. Windows leader Brad Silverberg even had to fight to keep Engstrom, St. John and Eisler employed.

You might know what happened next. Although it took a while, DirectX made Windows the go-to platform for PC gaming. It also gave Microsoft the foundations for the Xbox and even the Windows CE variant that powered Sega’s Dreamcast.

This wasn’t Engstrom’s only contribution. He participated in the early cellphone industry through his Wildseed startup, and contributed to Windows Mobile as well as ads for Microsoft’s online services. Still, there’s little doubt that he left his most enduring mark on the gaming industry. DirectX remains the foundation for many games on Windows 10 and the Xbox Series X, and it’s likely to remain relevant for years to come. Engstrom will be missed.