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Epic CEO: How Microsoft is plotting to cripple Steam and seize control of PC gaming

Jared Newman | July 27, 2016
Tim Sweeney claims Microsoft will intentionally cripple Steam through bugs while pushing the Universal Windows Platform.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney still thinks Microsoft is trying to destroy the PC as an open platform, only now his claims are getting wilder.

Speaking to Edge magazine (via PCGamer), Sweeney posited that Microsoft will slowly introduce bugs into competing PC game stores such as Steam. Meanwhile, the company will push the Windows Store (and Universal Windows Platform) as an alternative, so that eventually no one will want to use Steam anymore.

Lest you think that was an unfair paraphrasing of Sweeney’s remarks, here’s the direct quote:

Slowly, over the next five years, they will force-patch Windows 10 to make Steam progressively worse and more broken. They’ll never completely break it, but will continue to break it until, in five years, people are so fed up that Steam is buggy that the Windows Store seems like an ideal alternative. That’s exactly what they did to their previous competitors in other areas. Now they’re doing it to Steam.

Sweeney at least deserves credit for articulating precisely how he thinks the PC’s openness will die, as that wasn’t the case with some of his previous remarks. The only problem is that his ideas still don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Illogical leaps

To understand why Sweeney is wrong, we need to break down the two parts of his argument.

The first is that Microsoft will somehow convince everyone to fully adopt the Universal Windows Platform—that is, Microsoft’s new framework for apps that run on PCs, phones, tablets, and game consoles—at the expense of traditional Win32 desktop programs. “If they can succeed in doing that then it’s a small leap to forcing all apps and games to be distributed through the Windows Store. Once we reach that point, the PC has become a closed platform,” Sweeney said.

While it’s true that Microsoft is pushing for developers to adopt UWP, it’s important to understand that this is not a binary choice. Developers can take a Win32 program and package it within UWP, allowing for some basic Windows 10 features such as push notifications and Live Tiles. Over time, developers can convert more of their code to take advantage of more UWP features, and eventually distribute their software in the Windows Store.

tomb raider windows store
Rise of the Tomb Raider in the Windows Store.

But ultimately, developers still decide which UWP features they adopt—if they adopt UWP at all—and where their software is distributed. (Microsoft has stated repeatedly that UWP apps can be sold in any store, not just its own.) For Sweeney’s doomsday scenario to play out, Microsoft would have to suddenly declare that all Windows software must conform to the most rigid set of UWP rules and live inside the Windows Store. That’s not going to make any sense as long as Win32 has features that UWP does not, and as long as there’s an audience for other PC gaming platforms, such as Steam, GOG, Blizzard’s BattleNet, EA’s Origin, and Ubisoft’s Uplay.


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