Tim Sweeney, programmer and co-founder of Epic Games, says that “we must fight” Microsoft and their Universal Windows Platform (UWP) initiative, which makes certain Windows 10 features only available to developers who agree to sell their game via the official Windows Store.
This is from an op-ed in The Guardian where Sweeney outlines his objections, arguing that “this is the most aggressive move Microsoft has ever made” and that “Microsoft is moving against the entire PC industry – including consumers (and gamers in particular), software developers such as Epic Games, publishers like EA and Activision, and distributors like Valve and Good Old Games.”
The UWP is a software platform designed to allow developers to create programs that run on both Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile, without needing to be re-written for each type of device. Sweeney’s issue is that to use the platform and certain other Windows features, you must sell your product through the Windows store – and thus give Microsoft 30% of your revenue. Sweeney writes:
It’s true that if you dig far enough into Microsoft’s settings-burying UI, you can find a way to install these apps by enabling “side-loading”. But in turning this off by default, Microsoft is unfairly disadvantaging the competition. Bigger-picture, this is a feature Microsoft can revoke at any time using Windows 10’s forced-update process.
He goes on to explain the things Microsoft must do if UWP is to succeed: allow UWP applications to be downloaded from anywhere, not just the Windows store; allow anyone to sell UWP applications, including Steam and GOG; allow creators and consumers to continue to have a direct relationship with one another, without Microsoft sitting as an unwelcome middleman. He goes on to argue in favour of open ecosystems, and to say that in the case of the Windows Store, “Microsoft’s situation, however, is an embarrassment.”
In another Guardian story, Microsoft disagreed with Sweeney’s interpretation of what they were doing, saying in part that:
“The Universal Windows Platform is a fully open ecosystem, available to every developer, that can be supported by any store. We continue to make improvements for developers; for example, in the Windows 10 November Update, we enabled people to easily side-load apps by default, with no UX required.”
This isn’t the first time that a developer has criticised Microsoft’s practices, but I can’t think of another instance of a developer writing a full op-ed in a major news outlet about it. As one of the founders of Epic and the original architect of the Unreal Engine, Sweeney has a lot of credibility, too.
More credibility, arguably, than Microsoft, who have neglected the PC games space for years and whose promises to enter the arena have been either hollow or met with the suspicion that they’d force things upon people that people didn’t want. I wonder why.