Microsoft Accused of Monopolising PC Development by Epic Games

"Universal Windows Platform can, should, must, and will die as a result of industry backlash."


[Update] Microsoft has responded to Tim Sweeney's criticism of the Universal Windows Platform:

"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," it explained.

"We want to make Windows the best development platform regardless of technologies used, and offer tools to help developers with existing code bases of HTML/JavaScript, .NET and Win32, C+ + and Objective-C bring their code to Windows, and integrate UWP capabilities. With Xamarin, UWP developers can not only reach all Windows 10 devices, but they can now use a large percentage of their C# code to deliver a fully native mobile app experiences for iOS and Android. We’ll have more to share at Build."[Update Ends]

Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney has described Microsoft's new Universal Windows Platform initiative as the "first step towards locking down the consumer PC ecosystem" and believes the platform holder is trying to "monopolise game development on PC."

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"With its new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) initiative, Microsoft has built a closed platform-within-a-platform into Windows 10," Sweeney said in an editorial posted on The Guardian.

"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."

Microsoft's UWP initiative allows developers to create applications that scale across all Windows 10 devices. Applications that take advantage of this are only available through the new Windows App Store. The Xbox One is considered to be a Windows 10 device and, previously, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said it will get universal apps.

Sweeney's objection, it seems, is that by making Windows features such as UWP exclusive to applications distributed through its store, the traditional form of software acquisition--namely downloading an executable from a website and installing it--is being discouraged.

"Microsoft has launched new PC Windows features exclusively in UWP, and is effectively telling developers you can use these Windows features only if you submit to the control of our locked-down UWP ecosystem," he said.

"They're curtailing users' freedom to install full-featured PC software, and subverting the rights of developers and publishers to maintain a direct relationship with their customers."

According to Sweeney, the Universal Windows Platform is locked down and "by default it's impossible to download UWP apps from websites of publishers and developers, to install them, update them, and conduct commerce in them outside of the Windows Store."

He continued: "Microsoft structuring its operating system to advantage its own store while unfairly disadvantaging competing app stores, as well as developers and publishers who distribute games directly to their customers."

As Sweeney notes, it is possible to enable "side-loading" of applications, which bypasses the Windows app store to install software, but says the need to do this is "unfairly disadvantaging the competition."

The Epic Games exec called on Microsoft to make its platform as open as today's win32 system, which is currently used by the majority of developers. He drew a comparison between Microsoft's vision and Google's "clever but conniving" Android application store, which he described as "technically open, but practically closed."

Universal Windows Platform can, should, must, and will, die as a result of industry backlash

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games

"Valve's Steam distribution service is booming with over 100m users, and publishers like Adobe, Autodesk, Blizzard, Riot Games and EA are operating highly successful businesses selling their games and content directly to consumers," he said.

"Microsoft's situation, however, is an embarrassment. Seven months after the launch of Windows Store alongside Windows 10, the place remains devoid of the top third-party games and signature applications that define the PC experience. Where's Photoshop? Grand Theft Auto V? FIFA 16? There are some PC ports of what were great mobile games, and some weirder things, such as the Windows 10 port of the Android port of the PC version of Grand Theft Auto from 2004.

He added: "The good PC stuff isn't there, with the exception of Microsoft's own software products. Does Microsoft really think that independent PC developers and publishers, who cherish their freedom and their direct customer relationships, are going to sign up for this current UWP fiasco?"

Sweeney has said the Universal Windows Platform "can, should, must, and will die as a result of industry backlash" if Microsoft doesn't commit to opening it up.

"Gamers, developers, publishers simply cannot trust the PC UWP 'platform' so long as Microsoft gives evasive, ambiguous and sneaky answers to questions about UWP's future, as if it's a PR issue. This isn't a PR issue, it's an existential issue for Microsoft, a first-class determinant of Microsoft's future role in the world."

GameSpot has reached out to Microsoft for a comment.

Epic Games has a long history of PC game development, releasing popular games such as Unreal Tournament. It also partnered with Microsoft to create the hugely successful Gears of War franchise. In January 2014, Microsoft acquired the rights to the property from Epic.

Chinese company Tencent, which also owns League of Legends developer Riot Games, acquired 40 percent of the Epic Games in March 2013. It appointed two representatives to the Epic board of directors.

Xbox boss Phil Spencer recently said Universal Windows Platform could pave the way for upgradable game consoles. Microsoft believes it could do this as "a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform," could allow for improvements to hardware to be made "without invalidating the games that run on that platform."

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