Windows 10 Store is WORSE the GFWL: A Gaming Rant

Gabe Newell warned us about this. Back in 2012, the man behind Steam warned us all that the new format (now evolved into the Universal Windows Platform or UWP) was nothing but harmful to anyone writing software for Windows.

Back then when the threat wasn't so much real as possible, I could see what Gabe was talking about, but I didn't worry so much. After all, this was basically putting the same app on your phone as you did your PC. And as such you basically saw things that would be useful on your phone with the option to run most of it now on your PC, too. This meant stupid little things that you could for convenience add to your start menu easier at best, and cheap little nothings that couldn't survive anywhere BUT on a phone flooding the store. Still, the man said it himself back then.

"There's a strong temptation to close the platform," he said, "because they look at what they can accomplish when they limit the competitors' access to the platform, and they say, 'That's really exciting.'"

And if MS can make the Windows store THE place Windows 10 users go to get all their programs, they will be in a position to do just that. Why? Well, because of this new platform UWP. This new platform is a whole new executable format with Windows 10, and while it can be attractive to developers as it (in theory) allows for the same program to run across Windows 10, Xbox One, and Windows 10 phones (provided the power and interface to run it) greatly reducing any porting required, it is also completely and utterly under the thumb of Microsoft.

The reason is that the Windows store is the only place a UWP application can be distributed, meaning anyone who writes one is now cornered by Microsoft's one place online to sell their software... assuming Microsoft allows them to do it and doesn't deny them a place in the store. This means total control over the new format and any application written in it is now forced to adhere to one single store's rules, no matter what other places it might be welcomed to (or even trying to sell it on their own). And those rules include limitations on both what the developer can do and what they allow the end user to do. In short it's a walled garden.

Now this in it's own would be acceptable if annoying on it's own. After all, this is the PC we are talking about and there is nothing demanding you use this store. You do not have access to this store if you have not yet upgraded to Windows 10, and even if you have you don't like it for any reason, you can go elsewhere to any number of digital fronts as well as hunt down physical copies of most things (although that may prove more challenging or demanding you to import). As per the nature of the PC as an open platform, no one is forcing you to go to that store. But Microsoft understands this and we have seen the first wave of their response in the form of about 5 large games making their way to the store: Minecraft, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Gear of War Ultimate Edition, Killer Instinct, and Quantum Break. 

As a gamer, I’m kinda sad I have to say this, but for the sake of avoiding a mass acceptance of a closed ecosystem and the effect of that down the line for all of us, I could not be happier to see most of these attempts crash and burn. Rise of the TombRaider coming out both for the Windows store and in classic Win32 formats so gamers were able to directly compare the same game's lack of features and performance in the new format, striking early blows against it while Gears of War proved a shitty mess of janky pauses and no cross-platform multiplayer like they promised and dropped without ceremony for half price (you KNOW they knew how bad it was). And while Killer Instinct seems to fair much better, it was another quiet launch while Quantum Break came through showing off how little hardware the new format could actually take advantage of along side how many problems it causes (including DRM being tripped despite the game being bought from this store). In fact the ONLY game here that isn't a walking mess is Minecraft, and that's a serious concern.

If you know anything about the history of this game, you know it’s huge and that Notch sold it to Microsoft. As such, they have a beta for a Windows 10 version. And while I do like the idea that there is a JAVA free version of the game, in this case, it is a trojan horse. As it stands, the game is in beta, but it is half the price of the original and anyone with the original can get it free. Considering it’s the same game on the same platform with most of their audience able to reach it easily, what stops MS from just shutting down the original when the Windows 10 version goes gold? Since the game is not sold anywhere but the official site, and even the downloader requires a login since the game is primarily online, this would not be a hard thing from Microsoft to do. And with the game having sold over 23 MILLION copies for computer alone, that is a HUGE instant audience if they did so that they could point to when pushing other companies to take the money and write their game for UWP alone.

Suffice it to say, I really hope the store is dead for gaming before that day happens, I am overestimating the potential long-term impact, or the current line of failures slow down the process enough for a new open OS to take over. Otherwise, PC gaming will literally become the same as playing console without any of the advantages.


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