Microsoft is trying to “monopolise” PC gaming development with its new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) scheme, so says Epic Games co-founder Tim Sweeney.
Sweeney — who believes UWP is an affront to gamers, developers, game publishers and distributors alike — passionately argued against it in a piece for the Guardian.
Windows 10 saw the introduction of Microsoft’s initiative, which proposes a common platform to allow software and games to work on any device running the new OS – from phones through tablets to the Xbox, laptops and computers.
As such, it’s designed to be a good thing for developers who can more easily tout their wares across a broader range of devices and therefore a larger audience.
However, Sweeney’s beef stems from the fact that UWP apps need to go through the Windows Store – you can’t just download them from, say, a publisher’s website, or run any updates for them, or conduct any sales of them outside of Microsoft’s official store.
Because of this locked-down nature, Redmond is interfering with the rights of game developers and publishers to have a direct relationship with their customers, he argues.
Sweeney said: “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.”
He further observed: “In my view, this is the most aggressive move Microsoft has ever made.”
Sweeney admits that the more savvy Windows 10 user can dig into OS settings and enable side-loading to install these apps, but this is hard to find and by default, things are very much set up to disadvantage Redmond’s competitors. (He also broadly criticises the way Windows 10 buries many important options and settings besides side-loading – like privacy controls for example).
And of course there’s no guarantee that side-loading won’t be switched off in the future. It’s the path Microsoft is going to tread going forward that’s worrying Sweeney, and he foresees the potential further pushing of smart new features in UWP while Win32 apps are neglected.
Sweeney says that Microsoft must open up UWP – so that a UWP app can be downloaded from the web, and third-party stores like Steam – or else “PC UWP can, should, must and will, die as a result of industry backlash”.
We’d agree that Microsoft needs to address these concerns and provide at least some assurances that we aren’t heading down a rather dark road where developer and consumer freedoms alike are sacrificed to push the Windows Store.