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Epic CEO accuses Microsoft of turning PC gaming into a walled Windows Store garden in weakly argued rant

Jared Newman | March 7, 2016
“The Universal Windows Platform can, should, must, and will die.”

A prominent game developer is sounding the alarm over Microsoft’s Windows Store and what it could mean for the future of PC gaming.

Tim Sweeney, co-founder and CEO of Epic Games, wrote in The Guardian that Microsoft is trying to monopolize PC games with the Universal Windows Platform and app store. “With its new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) initiative, Microsoft has built a closed platform-within-a-platform into Windows 10, as the first apparent step towards locking down the consumer PC ecosystem and monopolizing app distribution and commerce,” Sweeney wrote.

Although Sweeney said he’s not opposed to the Windows Store as a concept, he accused Microsoft of launching new features exclusively for UWP apps, and not allowing those apps to exist outside of the Windows Store. He suggests that Microsoft treat UWP apps the same way as traditional Win32 programs, so they can be distributed directly by publishers and third-party stores such as Valve and GOG.

“The ultimate danger here is that Microsoft continually improves UWP while neglecting and even degrading win32, over time making it harder for developers and publishers to escape from Microsoft’s new UWP commerce monopoly,” Sweeney wrote. “Ultimately, the open win32 Windows experience could be relegated to Enterprise and Developer editions of Windows.”

Real concerns, weakly-argued 

Sweeney’s editorial will likely go down easy for people who distrust Microsoft or dislike Windows 10. (For good measure, the essay even includes a brief detour into Windows 10’s advertising and other revenue-boosting hooks, which have little to do with Sweeney’s greater angle of openness.)

But upon closer reading, Sweeney’s arguments are strangely devoid of substance. Sweeney doesn’t give a single example of PC gaming features that are only available to UWP apps, nor does he name any desired tools that are unavailable as part of Win32. He also doesn’t present any evidence for his claim that Microsoft could discontinue Win32 programs for consumer versions of Windows. In fact, today Win32 is a much more powerful platform for PC games, which means the Windows Store is best avoided by developers and gamers alike.

Sweeney also undermines his own argument in a couple of ways. First he argues that UWP apps pose a grave threat to today’s vibrant Windows ecosystem, then he notes that Windows Store apps aren’t particularly popular. He also fails to articulate how Microsoft’s walled garden is any different than Valve’s Steam platform, aside from the fact that Microsoft controls it.

The entire editorial is reminiscent of when Markus “Notch” Persson, the creator of Minecraft, decried the closed nature of the Windows 8 app store back in 2012. Like Sweeney, Persson argued that Microsoft was trying to ruin the open nature of Windows by erecting a walled garden, while ignoring the reality that Win32 programs are a massive force. Then, as now, those programs are not going anywhere. (Besides, its a wee bit hypocritical for both developers to wave the anti-walled garden banner when they’ve both released games for iOS, the ultimate walled garden.)

 

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