An Epic battle brewing: Developer vows to fight Microsoft on “walled garden” Windows Store

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Tim Sweeney, co-founder of Epic Games, the creator of the Gears of War series of Xbox and PC titles, recently wrote an article about Microsoft’s move to “monopolize games development on PC” with the advent of the Universal Windows Platform (UWP).

Epic Games is behind Microsoft’s exclusive Gears of War franchise, and Sweeney is a highly-respected member of the games industry. Sweeney sees the UWP as a move by Microsoft to strong-arm game developers into the “walled garden” of the Windows Store, which means that game developers would end up losing some game revenue as a result.

“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.”

Basically, Sweeney is saying that while launching new features that are exclusive to UWP might be an interesting draw for game developers, forcing them to use the Windows Store is a bad idea. Sweeney is not against the UWP or the Windows Store, Sweeney believes that UWP needs to be more open and allow game developers to use the Windows Store, but also be able to sell their games directly to gamers through their own websites, or through other game stores like Steam.

Sweeney created his own guidelines on how UWP and the Windows Store should operate:

  • 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.

Despite Sweeney’s objections to UWP, he does credit Microsoft’s Phil Spencer for being open to Sweeney’s problems and concerns about UWP. However, it seems that even after listening to Sweeney’s objections and input, Microsoft went ahead with their plans anyway.

“Microsoft’s intentions must be judged by Microsoft’s actions, not Microsoft’s words. Their actions speak plainly enough: they are working to turn today’s open PC ecosystem into a closed, Microsoft-controlled distribution and commerce monopoly, over time, in a series of steps of which we’re seeing the very first. Unless Microsoft changes course, all of the independent companies comprising the PC ecosystem have a decision to make: to oppose this, or cede control of their existing customer relationships and commerce to Microsoft’s exclusive control.”

Sweeney’s article raises some valid points on Microsoft’s UWP stance and raises the alarm for other game developers looking to use the Windows Store. Do you think Sweeney is right about UWP? Let us know in the comments.