Epic Games CEO: Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform is a ‘fiasco’ which must die

Before you buy a game via the Windows Store, know that version will severely limit your PC gaming options.

Gears of War Ultimate Edition
Credit: Microsoft

Before you purchase a game via the Windows Store, stop and consider the ramifications. That “universal app” version of the game has multiple limitations when compared to the same game sold via Steam.

Modding is one of the reasons to even use a PC for gaming, but you might as well kiss that goodbye if you buy the game from Microsoft’s store. If you are a PC gamer who dropped the dough for multiple graphic cards, too bad so sad as games sold via the Windows Store currently don’t support Nvidia SLI (Scalable Link Interface) or AMD Crossfire. There are plenty of other shortcomings such as V-sync always being on and no executable file – as in forget about adding it to Steam; the game runs in “borderless fullscreen mode” which means the windowed game “can’t have exclusive access to your graphics cards” and you can’t get top performance from your high dollar graphics card. These reasons and more led to gamers being advised against purchasing Rise of the Tomb Raider from the Windows Store.

Gabe Newell, top dog at Valve, previously warned it was a “a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space” and now Epic Games cofounder Tim Sweeney called Microsoft’s locked-down Universal Windows Platform (UWP) a “fiasco.”

Sweeney blistered Microsoft, saying Microsoft’s “aggressive” move to UWP is a move “against the entire PC industry – including consumers (and gamers in particular), software developers such as Epic Games, publishers like EA and Activision, and distributors like Valve and Good Old Games.”

The UWP initiative is a “closed platform-within-a-platform” in Windows 10. He explained:

Microsoft has launched new PC Windows features exclusively in UWP, and is effectively telling developers you can use these Windows features only if you submit to the control of our locked-down UWP ecosystem. They’re curtailing users’ freedom to install full-featured PC software, and subverting the rights of developers and publishers to maintain a direct relationship with their customers.

According to Sweeney, UWP is “locked down, and by default it’s impossible to download UWP apps from the websites of publishers and developers, to install them, update them, and conduct commerce in them outside of the Windows Store.”

Although you can enable side-loading if you dig around in “Microsoft’s settings-burying UI,” it’s off by default; this, Sweeney asserted, and trying to change pro-Microsoft Windows 10 default-enabled options, makes it a “deliberately anti-customer experience: the options are there, but good luck finding them.”

He didn’t stop there, commenting on the poor choices of “good PC stuff” to be found in the Windows Store. “Does Microsoft really think that independent PC developers and publishers, who cherish their freedom and their direct customer relationships, are going to sign up for this current UWP fiasco?”

Of course Epic Games has a vested interest, but if Microsoft doesn’t open up PC UWP, Sweeney said, it “can, should, must and will, die as a result of industry backlash. Gamers, developers, publishers simply cannot trust the PC UWP ‘platform’ so long as Microsoft gives evasive, ambiguous and sneaky answers to questions about UWP’s future, as if it’s a PR issue.”

Microsoft’s intentions must be judged by Microsoft’s actions, not Microsoft’s words. Their actions speak plainly enough: they are working to turn today’s open PC ecosystem into a closed, Microsoft-controlled distribution and commerce monopoly, over time, in a series of steps of which we’re seeing the very first. Unless Microsoft changes course, all of the independent companies comprising the PC ecosystem have a decision to make: to oppose this, or cede control of their existing customer relationships and commerce to Microsoft’s exclusive control.

In response, top dog of Xbox Phil Spencer said UWP is a “fully open ecosystem” that Microsoft “plans to improve.” Microsoft, Spencer said, will reveal the “next steps” for UWP at its upcoming Build conference.

So again, before you buy a UWP game from the Windows Store, be aware of the limitations of that version as compared to the same game via other outlets such as Steam. If you want to embrace such shortcomings, then you might as well just game via a console.

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