In the latest issue of legendary gaming magazine Edge, Tim Sweeney (co-founder of Epic Games, developers of the Unreal Engine) has claimed that Microsoft may gradually destabilise third-party software, primarily Steam, to turn the PC into a closed platform. This would force everyone to use the Universal Windows Program.
Every Steam app – every PC game for the past few decades – has used Win32. It’s been both responsible for the vibrant software market we have now, but also for malware. Any program can be a virus. Universal Windows Platform is seen as the antidote to that. It’s sandboxed – much more locked down. The risk here is that, if Microsoft convinces everyone to use UWP, then they phase out Win32 apps. If they can succeed in doing that then it’s a small leap to forcing all apps and games to be distributed through the Windows store. Once we reach that point, the PC has become 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.
Sounds insane right? How in God’s name could Microsoft bring down something as ubiquitous with gamers and developers as Steam? Well Tim believes that Microsoft has a plan for that:
Slowly, over the next 5 years, they will force-patch Windows 10 to make Steam progressively worse and more broken. 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 seem 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 are certainly trying.
It is very easy to declare that Tim Sweeney is being paranoid or even scare-mongering. But Microsoft does have a history of doing things like this. Just look up Embrace, Extend, Extinguish on Wikipedia, it is a process whereby Microsoft makes sure a program is compatible with a competing product, then bolts on extra things through updates until it is only compatible with Microsoft’s own programs. This then forces everyone to do it Microsoft’s way or they can get fucked, basically. At least, I think that is how it would work.
Of course, this could be all a load of hogwash dreamt up by Tim Sweeney in order to push people towards Steam and Epic Games’ own platform. But he is a well respected Game Developer who has had a strong relationship with Microsoft in the past, so there must be some precedence to what he is saying.