Windows 8 Marketplace Will Not Carry PEGI 18+ Games

By Adam Smith on October 11th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

The Windows 8 regulations state that any game rated above PEGI 16+ will not be available through the Windows digital store. Given the number of hugely commercial titles that fall in that bracket, Microsoft appear not only to be shooting themselves in the foot but sawing off their leg as well, but this could be much more than an odd business decision. What if it’s not just about sales but about distribution and the open nature of the platform as a whole? Let’s get ready to grumble.

I haven’t used Windows 8 and haven’t been particularly outspoken as the conversation as to how ‘closed’ a platform it might be rumbles on. I’ve been holding to the opinion that even if the Windows Store is the method by which purchases integrate with the new user interface, I’ll be found over in the classic Windows mode, which appears to be as open as ever.

That’s not to say that the presence of a cloistered area within the operating system – a closed and controlled front – hadn’t bothered me before now, but I was willing to wait until I could see precisely how intrusive it was before complaining too loudly. The latest regulations revealed change all that. Digging through the Windows 8 app certification requirements, Casey Muratori highlights section 5.1:

Your app must not contain adult content, and metadata must be appropriate for everyone. Apps with a rating over PEGI 16, ESRB MATURE, or that contain content that would warrant such a rating, are not allowed.

In Europe, the Windows 8 Store, and by connection the new Windows 8 interface, will not sell or support any game with more than a 16+ PEGI rating. In the US, Microsoft are only disinterested in games rated Mature, which makes the American store less exclusive, although still problematic. Exactly why it’s problematic should be clear – Windows is the gateway through which the majority of people access all other software on their PCs and its creator is taking steps toward making it a more narrow and protected gateway than ever before.

It’s hugely, massively, leviathantically important to stress that all software can still be purchased elsewhere and run on a Windows 8 machine. It’s not going to be like the iOS update situation, whereby Google Maps was gone for good, irretrievable, and you suddenly found that your favourite restaurant was at the bottom of a lake. Windows 8 will still offer a more traditional Windows experience, concealed behind the curtain, just as DOS kept its place within Windows 95. It may be useful to remember how that change began. At first, Windows was a graphical interface running within DOS and then DOS was a command line interface integrated (and eventually emulated) within later versions of Windows. It’s still there, although third party solutions are generally needed to create an environment suitable for older games.

I hated losing DOS functionality, to the extent that I was like the guy who only buys music on vinyl and claims that any other medium loses “97% of the vibes”. I was an insufferable little urchin back then and now that I’m older and lazier, I barely ever look a command prompt in the cursor. But what if the move to Windows 95 had come with similar regulations as to what software would actually work on the new system? The command prompt would be a workaround, not simply a preference but a requirement to play some of the most significant games of past, present and future. Why now, when the operating system is on the verge of its biggest shift since Win 95, are these measures being brought into place? Muratori actually looks back to 1990 and Windows 3.0 for the beginning of the shift. I’ll admit, I was nine years old then and had an Atari ST so I’m a child of ’95.

From a commercial perspective, it seems counter-intuitive, completely opposed to the perhaps arcane capitalist imperative of making lots and lots of money. Microsoft are, generally, quite good at that. In fact, it’s odd to be writing about Microsoft apparently squandering opportunities to sell things rather than writing about their grim-faced determination to sell all of the things no matter what the consequences might be. Through their inbuilt store, a thing that will no doubt greet millions of people whenever they turn on their computer, Microsoft are refusing to sell almost every major FPS and plenty of other commercial and critical successes. No Dishonored for the store, not in Europe, just to pick a recent/upcoming (#nooceans) examples.

At the very least, I’d hope Microsoft explain the decision, or even decide on a less restrictive policy. Brand management is suggested as one possibility as to why the company may not want to have its own store associated with violence, sex and drugs, but then the Fable series, published by Microsoft Game Studios, is just about suitable for sale, although it does contain ‘realistic looking violence’, ‘nudity’ and ‘teaches gambling’. Maybe all of that belongs with the Microsoft-exclusive chainsaw-guns on the next Xbox, a Microsoft device, yes, but for gamers, part of a different brand identity separate from the clean lines of Windows future.

If the Windows Store somehow becomes the recognised front of PC gaming, it’s even possible that developers will be encouraged to self-censor in order to gain access to it as a channel. For all the variety in cinematic releases, the pursuit of wider distribution, more so in the US than in Europe, has had an influence on film-makers and without direct access to their audience creators will always have to navigate the filters of whatever channels they use to expose their work. Any move to add content-related filters – rather than technical ones – to a system that formerly had nothing of the sort, threatens to create a two tier distribution model, and the existence of such strict regulations is far from encouraging.

Windows 8 will let us avoid all of these restrictions and regulations, but that doesn’t mean their presence shouldn’t be questioned and it certainly doesn’t mean they can’t be criticised. Having the option to avoid an undesirable aspect of a system doesn’t remove that aspect and nor does it necessarily query and challenge the reasons behind the existence of that aspect. We should – and shall – do both of those things.

, , .

236 Comments »

  1. Tei says:

    This is very bad. Well, this kinda implements at OS level censorship. I imagine this disallow any future for this shop to become the standard of the OS, BECAUSE PEOPLE WITH MORE THAN 18 YEARS USE WINDOWS, hence the possibility of people with more than 18 years wanting to buy games.

    This is kinda the thing doomsayers where warning about, only this this this come from Microsoft.

  2. Xzi says:

    Windows 8 is complete shit before even mentioning how closed-platform it’s becoming. Windows 8 I think is unique in that it was named for the age you have to be currently in order to approve of the design choices. It’s just an attempt by Micro$oft to attract the iPhone-using derps with a similarly childish and simple interface. The rest of us can ignore it and wait until Windows 9 inevitably returns to a more professional and useful state.

    I can’t seriously be the only one that’s reminded of this toy when seeing the icon size of Win8 and Apple OSes: http://v006o.popscreen.com/bWNITk9PVzR5d0Ex_o_the-cow-says-moo.jpg

    “I NEED AN ICON WIF A GIANT GEAR COZ I DUN KNO WOT CONTROL PANEL MEANZ.”

    • Premium User Badge

      GiantPotato says:

      The icons are simple and large so that they can be easily distinguished at arm’s length or when the screen is at an angle, which is a common way to use tablets.

      On a desktop machine, though, they look pretty ridiculous.

  3. rawrty says:

    As a Linux user, I find this to be good news. The more restrictive Windows becomes, the more people will seek out better alternatives.

    With the steam and source engine going Linux native, Desura offering Linux games, and bundles that support Linux, it seems publishers and developers are starting to see that Linux is a viable gaming platform.

    Now I don’t think Windows 8 is going to cause a massive switch or anything, but if Windows continues down this path I think it will definitely result in Linux seeing a larger share of the gaming market.

    • Solidstate89 says:

      If a “mass exodus” ever occurs from Windows; believe me, it won’t ever be going to Linux. It’ll be straight into Apple’s open maw.

      • Beelzebud says:

        That may be true for some, but I think those people already have moved to Apple. The thing is that OSX doesn’t run on PCs, so someone who wants to build their own machine, or get a good gaming machine for a thousand+ dollars less than a Mac, is going to move to Linux if they move at all. Most will stay on Windows 7. It’s not like this is a mandatory update.

        • FuzzyPuffin says:

          OS X is running on my PC. I use it for everything except gaming. Granted, doing this will always be a niche, as you must be at least moderately tech-savvy to get it to work.

          I agree that a “mass exodus” is unlikely, though I could see multiplatforming being more popular in the future (Mac laptop for everyday work, PC for expandability/power/gaming. )

  4. Premium User Badge

    Continuity says:

    I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t trigger some antitrust suits. I can’t be the only one that remembers when Microsoft got their knuckles wrapped for bundling internet explorer with windows… this goes exponentially further.

    • Brun says:

      Does it? iOS does exactly the same thing that Microsoft is doing and it has yet to face any antitrust action (as far as I’m aware) for its app store. For this reason, I doubt they’ll face any antitrust action in the US. The EU is more complicated as they seem to be happy to hold double standards over trade issues and give European companies special treatment. I also think the original Internet Explorer action against Microsoft was absolutely bogus and should never have occurred in the first place.

    • Solidstate89 says:

      How do you even jump that large of a canyon to believe this is even Anti-Trust suit category? What monopoly are they taking advantage of? How many people are using Windows 8? How many people are purchasing from the store right now? The answer is effectively 0. This is simply restricting content, not abuse. You think Steam allows AO games? Go try and find one.

  5. pilouuuu says:

    Haha Microsoft doesn’t give a f**k about PC gaming. In fact I think they want to destroy it to force people to buy their console toys.

  6. TwwIX says:

    Looks like i will finally be switching to Linux for my next OS.

  7. Hahaha says:

    Trust you lot to ignore the post with the following info

    “3.8 Your app must meet the basic performance criteria on a low-power computer
    The app must launch in 5 seconds or less
    The app must suspend in 2 seconds or less”

  8. Hardmood says:

    i never was interested in ms windows other than an os, which works. a base for applications to run its functions.
    the more open the better.
    although apple had a pretty nice os and applications were far more intuitive and smooth, but i always hated the attitude,and even more their following douchebags. no adoubt about never buying their overpriced shit.

    the more ms tryin to copy that attitude and its businessmodels (sharply controlled one tbh…)
    the more i have no problems to say bb windows, funny time but…fuckoff now.

    hope steam will not end up like this, under this.

    • DrGonzo says:

      It’s no different, it has an added layer for your mum to use so she doesn’t get confused. Other than that it’s windows, but sleeker, faster and easier to use.

  9. DrGonzo says:

    “If the Windows Store somehow becomes the recognised front of PC gaming, it’s even possible that developers will be encouraged to self-censor in order to gain access to it as a channel.”

    Woah, you produced that one straight out of your arse.

    This is my big problem with all these articles. You are actually making things up there.

    You can’t name any actual reasons why this is bad. It’s hating Windows 8 for what you think Windows 9 may be. There are no real facts here beyond they don’t want 16+ rated games, the rest is your imagination.

    I will make up my own just as likely theory. This is great, as it means MS have no intention to damage other stores like Steam as they realise how much it would damage Windows. Doubt that article would get as many hits though.