Epic’s Tim Sweeney Launches Scathing Attack On Universal Windows Platform

Microsoft have been pushing hard with Windows 10 and their efforts to unify their various platforms under one banner and with plenty of common ground between them. So the Xbox One runs with Windows 10 technology underneath the hood, Windows 10 itself continues in its predecessor’s vein of running on both desktops and tablet, and we have the recent spate of Xbox One exclusives also making their way to PC.

However, writing in The Guardian, Epic Games’ cofounder Tim Sweeney has set out his stall against one key part of this, the Universal Windows Platform and its demands of software developers. A key point is that he’s not against Microsoft having a Windows Store, nor their attempts to unify and bridge the gap between console and PC, but rather the potentially damaging effect that this can have on PC gaming.

He writes, “The specific problem here is that Microsoft’s shiny new ‘Universal Windows Platform’ 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.”

Further, he’s concerned that Microsoft will continue to develop UWP at the expense of the established win32 equivalents. Such a move would effectively force developers toward using UWP and a new closed garden, without the current freedoms that they have. So he calls upon them to change tack.

If UWP is to gain the support of major PC game and application developers, it must be as open a platform as today’s predominant win32 API, which is used by all major PC games and applications. To the PC ecosystem, opening UWP means the following:

  • That any PC Windows user can download and install a UWP application from the web, just as we can do now with win32 applications. No new hassle, no insidious warnings about venturing outside of Microsoft’s walled garden, and no change to Windows’ default settings required.
  • That any company can operate a store for PC Windows games and apps in UWP format – as Valve, Good Old Games, Epic Games, EA, and Ubi Soft do today with the win32 format, and that Windows will not impede or obstruct these apps stores, relegating them to second-class citizenship.
  • That users, developers, and publishers will always be free to engage in direct commerce with each other, without Microsoft forcing everyone into its formative in-app commerce monopoly and taking a 30% cut.

It’s a rather damning piece from a major figure in the games industry, and one who has been talking directly with Microsoft about this potential issue for the last 18 months. It’s well worth a read, and a fascinating insight into where Microsoft seem to be heading over the next few years, for better or for worse.

Source: The Guardian

10 Comments

  1. So what’s the upside to Microsoft doing this, is it to stop piracy & virus/malware loaded apps? It sounds quite like the apple app store where they control content & get a nice cut of every sale.

    • Lots of reasons combined, but the main one is to have more control over their platform, in a manner not too dissimilar to Apple – more like iOS than OSX here, though there’s always the worry. So yeah, Microsoft get to be the gatekeeper and they get the associated revenue.

      So Microsoft want to get as many people as possible to upgrade to Windows 10, which is seen as a long term new brand that can be incrementally improved on. So there’s things like DirectX 12 being W10 only, there’s the promise of universal apps, the potential for cross-platform gaming and so on, Xbox One games coming to Windows, etc. etc.

      A lot of that sounds good from a consumer point of view, but if UWP isn’t open in the same way that win32 is, that will negatively impact the market and consumer choice as a whole.

      • Thanks for the explanation, I’m not particularly knowledgeable on the pc side of gaming but his rant struck me as quite ott.

        At least they can make it more open as time goes by.

    • It’s more like the Android way of doing things. You can download apps from Google (with one of the main benefits there being they’ll all just helpfully install on a new device with absolutely zero effort required), or you can install them from anywhere else.

      Except Android doesn’t let you do that by default (sensibly), but makes sure you’re deliberately accepting the risks by forcing you to change the relevant option should you ever try it.

      Apple would rather you didn’t have that option at all (as would Amazon with the forked version of Android on their tablets)

      MS don’t seem to be trying to force things through the Windows store. The option was possibly a bit hidden, but less hidden now (as MS have pointed out in their response). And it only affects UWP apps anyway.

      So the last 2 of his main points there are already taken care of. Anyone can install UWP apps purchased from wherever they want.

      His first point is kind of true? There are warnings if you try and install UWP apps from elsewhere? And that’s kind of sensible. A bit of warning to stop people installing all sorts of crap from all over the place? And a “yes, I’m a grown up, I know what I’m up to, let me do it without warning” option in place?

      I think he’s talking bollocks, really. Possibly a worst case scenario that already appears to be getting less and less likely. Unless anything changes, such as killing off the XBox as a separate brand and turning it into just another part of Windows. Even then, I don’t think there’s too much to worry about.

  2. Fascinating stuff and one I support. He makes some very fair points.

  3. Interesting and good to hear someone being vocal about Windows apps. Onedrive makes Windows 10 brilliant for me and reflects the open and flexible nature of Windows that I’ve grown up with. The store however is quite frankly full of shit, I only really use the Edge, News and Weather apps, Kindle too but that’s also a bit flakey. Microsoft need to be strict with their QA and could do a much better job of getting the likes of Facebook and YouTube to put more effort in. Windows 10 is great, the apps are awful.

  4. Although I agree with him, I think its a bit hypocritical considering the locked down, closed environments they release their games on (Xbox, IOS).

    However, I read an interesting comment in a related article that suggests that Microsoft is re-positioning itself to compete with Valve as gaming is one of the few remaining reasons to use Windows and its mostly controlled by Valve (who are experimenting in various ways of removing their reliance on Windows).

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the next iteration of the Xbox brand is Microsoft’s version of a “Steam Machine”..

    • Xbox exclusives are suddenly coming to PC, Windows 10 has some XBox stuff in, they’ve been talking about the XBox having hardware upgrades…

      Yeah, it sounds like the XBox has a proper console is going to be killed off fairly soon. It could just turn into a list of minimum specifications for any PC to be able to play “xbox” games, or they might sell a cheap PC pretending to be an XBox. Or let other companies make them.

      I can’t see an XBoxTwo happening. Leaving PS5/whatevernintendodonext/PCs in a few years time.

  5. Sounds quite scary. Microsoft was so messed up and left behind by their competition in every possible way during the Ballmer years that they are now getting desperate. Who knows what they’re trying to do just to keep some of those disappointed customers they’re still left with?

    I broke out of the Apple jail that’s come over us on mobiles some years back, I really hope we’re not going down that path on PCs. I welcome the statement as a wake-up call.

  6. There’s also the recent information about DirectX 12 that states it will be locked at 60fps max with Vsync forced on all the time. So if you spent lots of money on a high refresh-rate monitor or a monitor with G-sync technology it will be entirely useless in DX12 games. Pretty big kick in the balls.

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