Epic Founder Thinks Microsoft Will Try to Slowly Break Steam

Microsoft "will force-patch Windows 10 to make Steam progressively worse and more broken."


Epic co-founder Tim Sweeney has been outspoken in his criticism of Microsoft in recent years, particularly when it comes to the topic of turning PCs into closed platforms. That continues with a new interview in which he suggests Microsoft may try to slowly break Steam to make its own Windows Store a more attractive option.

Speaking with Edge (as relayed by PC Gamer), Sweeney discussed the choice Windows software developers have in choosing between Win32 and Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform.

"Every Steam app--every PC game for the past few decades--has used Win32," he said. "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 an antidote to that. It's sandboxed--much more locked down."

He then described a concern he's brought up before, which is that Win32 apps could be phased out.

"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," he said. "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 maneuvers. 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."

And while he doesn't think Microsoft will simply stop Steam from working one day, he does think it could slowly be made more and more of a hassle to use.

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"Slowly, over the next five years, they will force-patch Windows 10 to make Steam progressively worse and more broken," he 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," he continued, perhaps referencing allegations of sabotaging QuickTime and Firefox. "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."

Earlier this year, Sweeney said Microsoft was attempting to "monopolize game development on PC" with the UWP initiative. Microsoft denied this, with Xbox boss Phil Spencer later saying, "We're not locking down the app framework to lock down people's ability to distribute games and applications on the platform."

Sweeney's criticism of Microsoft goes back further than UWP or Windows 10. In 2014, he talked about being unhappy with the "closed" nature of Windows 8, adding, "I genuinely worry about the future of Microsoft."

Sweeney is an influential figure in the industry. Epic, the company he co-founded and remains the chief executive officer of, develops both games and the popular Unreal Engine.

Microsoft, for its part, has maintained that UWP is a "fully open ecosystem," pointing to support for side-loading apps as evidence that it isn't trying to lock the platform down. It also cites benefits--like the ability to easily bring software to all Windows 10 platforms and Xbox Play Anywhere--as the reason why it should be viewed as a good thing for everyone.

Speaking with GameSpot recently, Sweeney did say he thinks UWP has "some great technical features," but reiterated that he worries about the way Microsft leverages updates to "take away fundamental rights you have to use their platform.

"[T]hat's a really nasty thing, Microsoft giving itself the mandatory power to change the rules on you at any time, and as a user, there's nothing you can do about it," he said. "You know, that's wrong. It's that culture that exists within Microsoft. I don't think everybody at Microsoft feels that way, but the culture that's driven by some of their executive leadership believes that it's not your PC, it's their PC, and they can do what they want with it, and they'll do whatever they can get away with. It's constantly figuring out what they can do without users going into open revolt and discovering more and more everyday where that boundary is."

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