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Microsoft plans to sabotage Steam - Sweeney

Epic co-founder says Windows 10 updates will progressively break Valve's storefront, Microsoft acknowledges that UWP is a work in progress

Update: Microsoft has issued an amicable response to Tim Sweeney's criticisms, maintaining that UWP is an open platform while acknowledging that there is some room for improvement.

"Tim is a respected figure in the gaming world, and we value his feedback," a company representative told Game Informer. "The Universal Windows Platform is a fully open ecosystem that is available to every developer, and can be supported by any store. It's early, and we recognise there is still work to be done, but we want to make Windows the best development platform regardless of technologies used."

Original Story: Tim Sweeney has never been shy with his criticisms of Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform, but his jabs appear to be getting increasingly pointed. In March, he warned that there is a danger that Microsoft could neglect, and possibly even degrade Windows 10 support for standard Win32 apps over time. In a new interview with Edge (as covered by the magazine's sister site PC Gamer), Sweeney said the process has already begun, with Valve's Steam storefront as one of its first targets.

"Slowly, over the next five years, [Microsoft] will force-patch Windows 10 to make Steam progressively worse and more broken," Sweeney said. "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. It's only just starting to become visible. Microsoft might not be competent enough to succeed with their plan, but they're certainly trying."

If Microsoft can swing developers to use UWP instead of Win32, Sweeney warns that it will be trivial for the company to mandate such apps can only be distributed through the Windows Store, effectively turning Windows PCs into a closed platform.

"It won't be that one day they flip a switch that will break your Steam library - what they're trying to do is a series of sneaky manoeuvres. They make it more and more inconvenient to use the old apps, and, simultaneously, they try to become the only source for the new ones."

Microsoft has previously denied Sweeney's criticisms, insisting that UWP is "a fully open ecosystem available to every developer, that can be supported by any store."

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Latest comments (27)

Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
Gabe and the gang's "look and sound of good enough" and nigh zero I vestment in the quality of their service seems to do that just fine. When you have to be forced by courts to have a customer service phone line for a $4 billion company, give me a break. Steam succeeds mostly on forward momentum

All Microsoft has to do is guarantee to grandfather your Steam keys and they're halfway there push a button and they all port just like Ultraviolet.
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Al Nelson Producer, Tripwire Interactive2 years ago
The strategy described here is so effective, it has made Internet Explorer and Edge, the only technically viable and so, most popular browsers in the world [sarcasm]...And Xbone...and BTW, would you like a better deal of cards in Windows Solitaire in trade for watching a commercial? No? Win10 - the panhandler of operating systems.

Though, Steam, the defacto standard, is showing its age. They sure could spruce it up a bit. I guess that Valve, lassez faire, no managers, no schedules system moves in mysterious ways.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Al Nelson on 27th July 2016 12:02am

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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus2 years ago
This is bar room pontificating. Not news, and not even really sourceable.
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Show all comments (27)
Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd2 years ago
@Al Nelson It took years of antitrust action to stop Microsoft from tightly integrating Internet Explorer to Windows and several more years for Chrome and Firefox to win back market share.

Steadily making it less convenient to use alternatives is the strategy Microsoft used to try to kill off competing office software, browsers and media players on Windows, and it's a valid concern when they've spend the past 4-5 years outlining their plans for a walled garden.
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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 2 years ago
What the hell has he been smoking? Lately he is making a lot of weird statements..
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
All Microsoft has to do is guarantee to grandfather your Steam keys and they're halfway there push a button and they all port just like Ultraviolet.
Aha ha! Really? MS can promise all they want, but reworking Win32 apps to UWP is going to be on the developers and publishers. And do you really think MS is going to finance everyone from Activision to Jo Blow to make UWP versions of Win32 apps and games? Unless they can literally push a button and have them port across without any bugs or broken features, then it won't happen. And it'll be impossible due to how tightly some games are wound into Steamworks (VAC, Steam Controller, Achievements).

I agree that a Ultraviolet-like system would be the way forward, but MS aren't going to be the ones to do it... At least, not alone. A conglomerate of publishers and distributors, sure, but not just MS.
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Murray Lorden Game Designer & Developer, MUZBOZ2 years ago
Valve have been gently massaging the Linux escape system for several years now, and it's been kind of slow, but I think basically, if Microsoft ramp up any sort of funny business, Valve will be ramping up it's encouragement to get people OFF Windows. Now I know that would be quite a crazy ask, but... if anyone could cause a swell of people to move away from Windows, it's Valve and Steam.

And if Linux started to get a lot more users, I think we'd actually see a fairly quick (5 - 10 year) shift to have 1000000% more software being released by that platform. I can imagine a future, 10 years from now, where the appeal of a more open OS, like Linux, could be the major player in the market.

I think for most people, computers need to be easy to use, need to do everything you want, without going into some command line, etc. I think Linux is getting there. And Apple and Microsoft might be going deeper and deeper into walled / proprietary bad places.

We'll see! Interesting times. :)
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Murray Lorden Game Designer & Developer, MUZBOZ2 years ago
But as people have mentioned, it's still all quite hypothetical. Obviously Windows would LIKE it if everything went through the Windows Store, so they got a tasty cut of the dollars.

But I don't think Microsoft are really THAT against an open platform. Windows has always thrived because it's fairly open.

It would be tricky being a massive corporation that makes the foundational software upon which everything else runs, and feel somehow "still not part of the cool gang". Like, no one really goes to the Windows Store, do they? Poor old Microsoft. :)

So many people there. I'm sure there's plenty of good ideas that come up, and many probably get lost in the mix. Xbox has been a reasonable success for them. And Microsoft is currently the only one making an OS that runs across desktop PCs and tablets, as well as Xbox and mobile. And I think that's a good thing to be doing. So, you know, it's easy to criticise them, especially if they seem to be over-reaching and "a bit grabby". But you know, they're alllriiiiight... :)
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
@Morvillle All they have to do is honor them for versions on the Windows store. Which don't have to be UWP. The key is your rights to the game just like cross buy works (automatically behind the scenes). The love of Steam is first and foremost about everything being in one place.

With Ultraviolet your key carries entitlements, which may or may not be supported by the vendor you're accessing the movie through. Some have bonus materials, others don't. Some lack HD versions of detain titles, or director's cuts.
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Paul Shirley Programmers 2 years ago
@Jeff completely missing the point. Doesn't matter if you can get a key from the store, that doesn't make the game magically immune to platform degradation, doesn't magically convert it to UWP and won't supply missing Steam features if it could. DirectX is already being neglected to death on Win32, it's just the start of degrading it in favour of UWP. Or whatever they decide to change to next.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
Paul you've missed what I'm saying. There's nothing stopping them running existing program through packager for th there's nothing stopping them running existing program through packager store e windows store. Re-read what I wrote, particularly the second paragraph.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
With Ultraviolet your key carries entitlements, which may or may not be supported by the vendor you're accessing the movie through. Some have bonus materials, others don't. Some lack HD versions of detain titles, or director's cuts.
So why would people choose MS's "grandfathered" versions of games which lack features, when they could just use Steam? And why would devs and pubs go-along with this, when it would just irritate users? Gamers are an irritable bunch at the best of times, but saying to them "Hey, go to the MS store where you can get a free key for this game to use, but you won't have access to your Steam Controller, Steam Friends, Steam Cards, Steam Wallet..." Well, you can see where I'm going. Yeah, MS could sort some deal for games like that, but why would anyone other than MS agree to it? Only MS stand to gain from it. And it's fairly plain to see that MS are giving up on money-hatting games, if the XBone exclusives are anything to go by.

Edit: Ironically, if MS actually competed on features, rather than trying to bull Valve out the market, they'd be in a prime position to do the "Ultraviolet" scheme above.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 28th July 2016 11:05pm

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Paul Jace Merchandiser 2 years ago
This is some tinfoil hattery, if you ask me.
The main thing missing from this story is a picture of a tinfoil hat, preferably on Mr. Sweeney's head. But if that's not possible a picture of a tinfoil hat-wearing cat will get across the same message loud and clear.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 years ago
Steam is a hypercharged commerce machine, that will relentlessly shoot buzzwords at you: pre-order, early-access, public-beta, f2p, midweek sale, weekend-sale, special sale, game suggestions for you, your friends play this, etc.

Open the Windows 10 store and you will see Disney Crossy Road and Microsoft Bingo.

Why would any PC game developer go for UWP? Is there an advantage to limiting yourself to the Windows store?
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
@morville.

I'm not saying they have to. They can also do what they do with their x360 porting and develop something to mostly automate such tasks. It's really not that big a deal compared to that to change over steam to live. Again the big issue is getting people to boot live instead. Of steam, and they're playing the long game.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
Why would any PC game developer go for UWP? Is there an advantage to limiting yourself to the Windows store?
Well, it's been extrapolated that Rise of the Tomb Raider sold 15,000 copies on Windows Store, so I'm going to go with.... No? :D

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 29th July 2016 10:17am

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
Except UWP doesn't limit you to the Windows store,

The only thing it proves is that people are used to Steam and like having all their games in one place. The question that needs to be asked is a must-have title that is ONLY on Windows store, how many won't buy it because it's not on Steam, and how you convert the vast majority of those holdouts.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
Except UWP doesn't limit you to the Windows store,
Show me a UWP app that's available outside of Windows Store. The whole point of UWP is that it's ingrained into Windows, so even when UWP apps become available elsewhere, still the only real winner is MS. Just like Steam-activatable games tie the consumer into Steam, so UWP ties the user into WinStore. And, again, only MS truly benefit from that.
The question that needs to be asked is a must-have title that is ONLY on Windows store, how many won't buy it because it's not on Steam, and how you convert the vast majority of those holdouts.
Well, currently there's Quantum Break, Gears of War Ultimate and Killer Instinct that are Winstore/UWP exclusive. PC gamers (on the whole) care for none of these MS owned IP. So, as it stands, it would need a large third-party title that already has a following on PC to become Winstore exclusive, I think. And why would Square or Activision, say, go exclusive to a store with less eyes, less features, less promotion? Everyone saw the poor sales of XBone Rise of The Tomb Raider (relative to PC) and people no longer believe MS's money can offset the lost sales.

Honestly, I think itch.io is a bigger "true" threat to Steam. MS may try to bull Valve out the industry, but itch.io is the one that third parties will shift to rather than MS.

IMO, of course. :D
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robert troughton Managing Director, Coconut Lizard2 years ago
I think the only way that Windows Store would ever realistically take over from Steam is if the users truly preferred it. Chrome has a large install base because many users prefer it. If the day comes when users prefer Windows Store over Steam, who really cares..? So developers would pay the cut to Microsoft instead of Valve...
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
@morville Tomb Raider was a poor example if for no other reason than its release timing was awful. It came out the same day as Fallout 4 and within a week of Call of Duty and Battlefront , is it that shocking it got stomped? Alan Wake got moved directly onto Red Dead's release day and likewise got its ass kicked. . Tomb Raider simply isn't in those games orbit.

It's a poor choice to prove your point. Like I said, how many people will refuse to use it.

Best Biy offers 20% off and often a $10 gift certificate on top of it.i pay $37.99 for most triple A games. A hell of a lot of people started shopping there for that that Amazon has emulated it. Couple that with grandfathering Steam keys and it's a viable plan of atta k. Again, we have no idea what the true situation is until something gargantuan is only on WS. Mocrosoft's money is better spent doing what they're already doing, making sure games support the native Xbox features, like offering 360 games in the future including grandfathered rights. Steam is a house of cards someone is going to topple, and frankly I'd prefer the entire industry move to a universal rights platform so you can shop where you want like UV.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
Well, it depends upon your view (obviously. :p ). Quantum Break had no promotion specific to the Windows release. Same with GoW Ultimate. To me, this is indicative of MS not having a clue how to market games outside of XBox hardware and bundles - Rise of the Tomb Raider had MS money in it, and they failed just as much to promote it. They could create a marketing juggernaut for their IP releases on PC (QB, KI, GoW), but they haven't, which tells me they lack confidence. That said, the new Dead Rising game is a timed-exclusive for WinStore, so I don't think we'll have long to wait to see how they really push a game that PC gamers care about.

In any event, I think we're both on the same page with regards to the wider industry - large-scale PC gaming distribution should not be the sole domain of a single company, be it Valve, MS, EA or Ubisoft. :)
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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 2 years ago
hmmmm. What did microsoft do on mobile? They could have decided their best apps like office, outlook, skype and so on worked only with WindowsPhone, make that into a closed system of sorts aswell and force consumers to their platform if they valued the software.
But no, they didnt go that route, they made their all their "killer" apps for iOS and Android aswell. That goes against the walled garden approach that for example Robin clarke mentioned above? Why would Ms in this case go a completely different route? Try to force people to their store? I just donmt buy it....i need more convincing.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 years ago
What is the point of Outlook, if companies stop using Exchange because Microsoft thinks it is cute to ignore all mobile devices? If people do not use Office, it will affect Microsoft's bottom line far more than with just a few Office copies sold less. There are a ton of user CALs to consider as well. Office costs money to buy, but it also costs Microsoft money to make. User CALs cost nothing and companies need them before they can even think of rolling out Outlook to everybody. There is a giant incentive to keep people hooked on Outlook, so companies are hooked on Exchange. So when forced to move by the popularity of something else than Windows, Microsoft will move.

By contrast, Microsoft's stabs at bigger video gaming market shares do not have to be measured at all. There is no grown ecosystem of big IT departments reluctant to change. You are dope one generation and obsolescent the next; total in the moment consumerism tyranny fueled by nothing but snap decisions from customers who will never know any consequence. Worst case for a consumer buying the wrong console? Nothing.

So no matter what the business facing division did in the past, it will not work for gaming division in the future.
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Paul Shirley Programmers 2 years ago
@Aleksi They could have decided their best apps like office, outlook, skype and so on worked only with WindowsPhone

The timeline suggest that's exactly what Ballmer tried, with only Nokia and Windows devices getting Office from 2007 till June 2013. The Android+IOS versions launched just before he announced his resignation. By then WP7 had failed, WP8 was in trouble and Microsoft were desperate for any way into mobile, something even Ballmer could no longer ignore. Also worth remembering office on Apple desktops is part of the existing scheme to avoid monopoly sanctions by supporting Apple as a competitor they could point to.

Today's Microsoft finally remembered you can still make money on someone else's platform, that cloud lock in is nearly as effective as platform lock in. If they can achieve both platform and cloud lock in for even part of the market even better.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
Windows update fucked up fonts in russian steam client, M$ never learns
windows update changed my steam font?
Two posts from Neogaf. Cocking-up fonts is not something MS would do on purpose specifically to screw with Steam/Steam users (too many knock-on effects for other software, I should think), but it's interesting that this has occurred so soon after what Tim Sweeney said.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 2nd August 2016 8:25pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
@ Jeff

Interestingly, MS seem to have proven their confusion about gaming once more. Quantum Break (MS owned IP and UWP WinStore exclusive) has just been announced for Steam, with a physical retail release that activates on Steam, and requires Windows 7 (not 10).

I can't help but think that if they hired you to head their gaming division, they'd at least have a clear business plan and direction. :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 10th August 2016 7:02pm

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