Microsoft’s E3 Windows 10 push doesn’t remove the stigma of UWP

Microsoft’s E3 Windows 10 push doesn’t remove the stigma of UWP

Anybody watching Microsoft’s E3 2016 conference through a PC lens (high resolution, naturally) will have noticed that, for Microsoft, ‘PC’ now emphatically means ‘Windows 10’. The company are extremely keen to push the operating system, the Windows 10 store, and the ‘Universal Windows Platform’ (UWP) driving all this cross-device, cross-platform stuff. As a result, we’re getting more games that would traditionally have been reserved for Xbox exclusivity. That’s good. Great, even. But we’re also seeing more titles that would previously have had a broader PC digital release (Steam/GOG etc) restricted to Windows 10. That’s not so good.

Whether the plan has always been to use Xbox One games to drive people to the Windows 10 store is best known to Microsoft, but the recent suggestions from former Lionhead employees that both the store and the operating system numbers are under-performing could be what’s pushing this surge of titles.

Microsoft’s main hurdle in getting PC users interested in their Windows 10 store is that, as a platform, it lacks basic features players have come to expect as standard. Games running through the UWP system are currently hampered by restrictions that are considered laughable (or worrying) by most informed PC players.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition out on Windows 10, has AMD problems
Hopefully the release of Gears 4 goes a bit better than this.

Early efforts like Rise of the Tomb Raider and the Gears of War: Ultimate Edition were severely undermined by issues like forced borderless fullscreen, the incompatibly of overlay programs (FRAPS and the like), and the lack of any SLI or Crossfire functions. Quantum Break (released in April) took until June to release a patch that enabled the use of Gsync and FreeSync, and allowed players to turn off V-Sync. That’s basic stuff which should’ve been supported at launch, but Remedy instead had to struggle with UWP to implement straightforward options after the fact. Meanwhile, Quantum Break is still seeing atrocious performance problems a couple of months after launch.

Longer-term, there are major, legitimate concerns about UWP’s compatibility with modding, as the security structure prevents external programs (even benign ones) from interfering with the games. So no SweetFX, and no access to the .exe file for straightforward FOV or resolution fixes. If a game is ballsed up on Windows 10’s store, it’s currently much harder for PC communities to help sort it out.

It’s fair to note that things have slowly improved for the Windows 10 store (Quantum Break may still run appallingly and cost a lot of money, but hey, you can switch off V-Sync!), and some games have managed to pull off a more successful launch. Killer Instinct and Forza 6: Apex, for example, seem to have appeared reasonably problem-free. But certain aspects of UWP, it’s restrictive philosophy on a platform famed for its openness, appear to be endemic.

Forza Motorsport 6: Apex PC system requirements, open beta in May
Forza 6: Apex, actually not terrible on Windows 10.

That’s the base of skepticism and hostility Microsoft will encounter with every Windows 10 exclusive release. Nobody with a desire to play the best possible PC version of a game would ever opt for a Windows 10 store release. If you happen to own an Xbox One and purchased a ‘Play Anywhere’ branded digital game, then obviously the free Windows 10 copy is a lovely bonus no matter your feelings on UWP. But the only instance where a PC-exclusive user would choose to go for a Windows 10 store version is if there is literally no other choice.

Presumably, this is Microsoft’s plan. Remove all the other options by force, so people have to begrudgingly get Windows 10 versions of the games they want to play through gritted teeth. That’s not exactly a great way to build your audience. You probably want people seeing E3 and saying “great, Forza Horizon 3 on PC!” And hey, it is pretty great to have Forza Horizon for the PC. No doubt. It’s just that part of every PC owner’s mind is following up with the sentence “… shame it’s only on the fucking Windows 10 store”.

More so in the case of games like Dead Rising 4 and State of Decay 2, where prior entries in the series were available through Steam on all (recent) operating systems. In those cases, Microsoft’s Windows 10 obsession is going to actively upset people. They could previously play State of Decay how they wanted. Now they not only have to be using Windows 10, but the rubbish UWP store as well.

dead rising 4 (1)
Frank West represents Microsoft and the zombies represent mods.

Getting these titles on PC is, itself, terrific. It’s never a bad thing to be able to play games on more platforms, so hearing that Gears of War 4, State of Decay 2, Dead Rising 4, Crackdown 3, Scalebound, and Forza Horizon 3 will be joining things like Halo Wars 2 and ReCore on the PC release list is very welcome news. Cross-play is an inclusive and practical concept too. Getting more players in these games for multiplayer sessions will probably only strengthen them (especially as most of these shouldn’t see a mis-match between gamepad and mouse control).

But there’s always a catch with Microsoft. In this instance it’s attempting to push Windows 10 and UWP through brute force, instead of addressing (really addressing, not trimming around the edges) the fundamental issues PC players have with those systems. That’s setting up these games for another round of scrutinised launches where, again, a few of them are going to come up short on technical and performance grounds. PC users are not going to flock to versions of games that fall short of expected standards. People who genuinely want these titles will always be weighing up whether that desire supercedes the inherent down-side to owning them through the Windows 10 store.

Without significant change, that’s the best response to Windows 10 exclusives Microsoft can hope for right now. A queue of disgruntled PC users wishing they were buying the game on Steam or GOG instead. The rest probably won’t be buying at all.

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    • Em_ptySkin

      “The rest probably won’t be buying at all.”

      Ding Ding Ding! They don’t need my money and I don’t want my money going to a corporation that actively promotes eugenics.

      • waswat

        “a corporation that actively promotes eugenics.”

        I’m sorry, but google isn’t helping me on this and English isn’t my native tongue… Do you mind explaining what you mean with eugenics in this sentence?

        • Em_ptySkin

          Bill Gates as well as his father promote eugenics. Gates’ father was on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations supports and funds many eugenics programs, from food control in the third world, to biotechnology in the first world. They are not good people.

          • Neutrino .

            That’s idiotic. Planned Parenthood isn’t anything to do with eugenics, I’m forced to conclude you don’t actually know what eugenics is. And the Gates foundation gives more money in aid to the third world than most governments.

            I have no idea what kind of a nutter you are, religious, conspiracy theorist, end of the world tinfoil hat wearing bunker dweller or whatever, but please for the sake of the rest of us educate yourself.

            P.S. For what it’s worth I’m no MS fanboy and think that as a corporation their strategy wrt PC is downright obnoxious.

            • Em_ptySkin

              You should read:

              “’Family planning’ itself was a relatively new term developed in 1942 by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America as a more palatable term for ‘birth control,’ and this specifically meant artificial birth control. From the outset of the family planning movement…certain leaders…wanted to include sterilization and abortion under the rubric of ‘family planning.’ … many of the consequences of federal family planning were intended…proponents…sought to reduce the rate of population growth…in the United States…and this did, indeed, happen.” Donald T. Critchlow, Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Government in Modern America, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 8-10. ; Paul Lombardo, ed., A Century of Eugenics: From the Indiana Experiment to the Human Genome Era, Indiana University Press, 2011. ; “Declining global fertility is in large measure a testimony to the success of family planning and related efforts to improve the education of women. Most projections of future fertility decline assume the continuation of these programs. These declines could slow if support for these programs is not maintained. … Even in some countries where fertility is low, increased access to contraception is needed to reduce the heavy reliance on abortion.” – Julie Da Vanzo & David M. Adamson, “Family Planning in Developing Countries: An Unfinished Success Story,” RAND Corporation, Population Matters Issue Paper 176, 1998, pp. 2-3.

              • Neutrino .

                I have literally no idea what you think your point is.

                Family planning is a pseudonym for birth control, which, in various forms, is something women have practised for millenia as a way of ensuring they don’t end up with more children than they can feed or raise effectively.

                Eugenics is selectively breeding specific traits for various reasons including but not limited to health or racial purity.

                Family planning != eugenics.

              • Em_ptySkin

                You didn’t read those books, did you? That’s okay. I’ll wait. I accept apologies, money; you can lick my shoes; whatever you want. Like I said, I’ll wait.

    • wrap

      I don’t think UWP itself is a problem and technical issues will be fixed over time. Other operating systems has similar features (although not forced to users) and personally I think that is the right direction to go.

      To me much bigger problem is Windows Store exclusive games. So far there has not been 3rd party games but I guess that is just matter of time. Windows Store games are bind to MS technologies and therefore a vendor lock-in the users to MS technologies. If one wants to change to operating system or even version of Windows and play those games – well, no go.

      PC is becoming more and more closed environment and Microsoft is pushing it hard to that direction. Unfortunately most of the PC gamers and especially gaming media seems to be just fine with that. There is no coming back once things are tied to closed technologies.

      Valve tries to push PC gaming more open direction; Vulkan / OpenGL (+SDK), SteamOS, etc. and no one seems to care. That’s very unfortunate.

      • Asgard

        “To me much bigger problem is Windows Store exclusive games. So far there has not been 3rd party games but I guess that is just matter of time.”

        EA and Ubisoft both have their own stores so they don’t have to give 30% cut of sales to Valve or MS or anyone else. I don’t see this is going to change.

        And what comes to Valve, they are trying to push gaming into Valve-direction. They clearly want to be the middle-man platform inside all other platforms, so that other platforms would be smaller and weaker and they would have more power. They are not doing charity – billion dollar business instead.

        • wrap

          Valve is no perfect, but at least they don’t tie tightly their system/games any particular operating system nor does EA, Ubisoft, etc. Technologies Valve is pushing forward; Vulkan, OpenGL, SDL, etc. are open and multi-platform technologies. Their work benefits *everyone*.

          Microsoft is pushing their proprietary and closed technologies forward and tries to tie users tightly to their (latest) system – gamers doesn’t have even change to use DX12 with older Windows versions. Unfortunately PC gamers doesn’t seem to care.

          • Asgard

            So where is DOTA and CS:GO from Windows Store, Origin or UPlay? Valve is pushing those things because there is not really any other options on the planet outside MS-world. Competing technologies benefit *everyone*, not picking one technology no matter how “open” it is.

            • wrap

              What I mean is that for example DOTA, CS:GO and many other games in Steam works on PC operating systems; Linux, Windows (and OSX). Windows Store exclusive games are not going to be anywhere else than in PC+Windows. That’s huge difference.

              Vulkan, OpenGL, etc. are very used and works on many different platforms; Windows, Linux/Android, *BSD, OSX, etc. Many more than D3D. Making games using open standards is way to go if we want PC be open.

              MS-world is exactly what PC should get rid of. Of course Microsoft does everything that doesn’t happen. It is sad to see PC gamers accept MS-world but in the same time struggle with huge UI changes, privacy issues, DX12 etc. limitation issues, etc. I personally think PC should be free and open but it feels more and more restricted. Not only software, but hardware as well; Secure Boot, Management Engine, etc.

            • wrap

              > “Competing technologies benefit *everyone*, not picking one technology no matter how “open” it is.”

              How does using DirectX in games helps non-Windows platforms? How does using DX12 help Windows 7, 8.1 users?

              • Asgard

                It doesn’t and you are missing the point.

                When we had DX 9-11 alone for almost ten years, there was hardly any development on the API. This was bad for PC gamers. And if we had Vulcan or OpenGL only going forward the situation would be the same.

                Vulcan happened because DX on PC didn’t offer what graphics APIs offer on consoles. DX12 happened because Vulcan happened. And this is the positive cycle which in the end benefit everyone no matter if you use DX or what ever. Competition drive innovation.

              • wrap

                Competition is required but not good reason enough to lock PC gaming to one operating system. There are other factors that drives Vulkan forward – need. Vulkan is not just about PC but mobile, IVI, TV, etc. (btw. Qualcomm posted some Vulkan tutorials to their youtube channel today).

                No, I don’t want Windows going anywhere. I think it is essential that PC users has possibility to choose their OS they want to use for gaming. PC should be about openness and freedom, but it is more and more all but that.

            • Sir_Brizz

              > Competing technologies benefit *everyone*, not picking one technology no matter how “open” it is.

              This is really wrong, though. Competing open technologies benefit everyone, closed and proprietary technologies only benefit the owners of that technology.

              The reason a Vulkan _needs_ to exist is because the alternative is much, much worse. A closed and proprietary gaming platform. Microsoft would love it if Vulkan dies and goes away. Their goal is that everyone is forced to use their tech and that end users are then locked into their platform.

              If DX was an open platform that competed with Vulkan, that would be a good thing. It is definitely a good thing to have competition. But when the options are closed and proprietary and free and open the latter is far more important every time.

              > So where is DOTA and CS:GO from Windows Store, Origin or UPlay?

              Nobody will deny that Valve’s own games are closed off to other PC gaming platforms, but they have the best and most popular platform available right now. There’s no doubt that if they didn’t, they would be looking at getting their games onto other platforms and not jealously blocking themselves off.

              Ubisoft has their own platform but they also sell all of their games on Steam. I have no problem with this arrangement and have bought many Ubi games through Steam.

              EA is too jealous of Valve’s position. And as such I have not bought an EA game since Mass Effect 3. And what we are seeing with EA is that only their established franchises are enjoying any success on PC now. If they want their games to be successful on PC, they need to rethink their strategy. But in reality they don’t give two craps if they are successful on PC at all.

      • DrearierSpider

        “I don’t think UWP itself is a problem.”

        UWP is actually a huge problem, as it was created first and foremost to restrict distribution and control of software in such a way that Microsoft has more control over it than content creators and end users. I’ve linked below an article where Durante (modder most well known for creating DSFix for Dark Souls) explains in detail the specific restrictions of UWP, but also why it’s another of Microsoft’s seeming attempts at monopolizing the PC market (at least as a long term strategy). One particular quote sums it up perfectly.

        “I’ve boiled it all down to two questions, one from the user and one from the developer perspective:

        -Can I, as the administrator of my PC, grant any application—regardless of its source—the ability to do anything it damn well pleases on the entire system—including to other applications and UWAs—without either myself or the developer of the application having to interact with Microsoft at all or overcome unnecessary hurdles?

        -Can I, as an application developer, freely distribute my UWA to users by any means I deem adequate, without going through Microsoft and without any disadvantages in terms of features or user experience compared to selling them on their store?

        The answer to both of these question is currently a resounding ‘No.'”

        • Asgard

          Sure UWP has some disadvantages against 20 years old API set but this article totally misses the fact that there are advantages too, like:
          – Developers have direct access to many types of hardware where they would otherwise need proprietary APIs
          – UWP has superior touch support
          – UWP apps run on more device types than just PCs
          – So while Win32 applications can be purchased from multiple sources, they cannot be used on any other platform than x86/x64 Windows PC. UWP is not restricted to a PC and on other device types also
          – Often times AAA game developers _want_ to restrict modding (and tampering for cheating) on their games so in that sense these restrictions also represent a useful feature
          – UWP app cannot bloat your PC, its file system or registry
          – UWP app cannot install additional bloatware which run on background as updater services or what ever

          You are telling just one side on the topic. Personally I haven’t bought a single game from Windows Store yet because it is not currently competitive platform. But that may very well change in the future as MS continues to tackle the issues and come up with new features.

          • DrearierSpider

            You make some good points, but on the note of running on multiple devices, you have to keep in mind you’re still restricted to Microsoft’s proprietary ecosystem. Their new Xbox Play Anywhere feature will undoubtedly represent great value for certain developers and consumers, but in the realm of PC and mobile you also limit yourself to WIndows 10 PC’s and Windows Phones only. Now that Vulkan is looking like a very competitive, open source graphics API (whereas OpenGL was very far behind DirectX), it’ll be much easier to create applications for multiple platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, etc.) The mobile market is key, as it’s looking to become the biggest sector of gaming as far as revenue, and Windows is an almost negligible portion of it.

            Sure, your Win32 applications will still only work on Windows PC’s, but the ability to support Vulkan within those will definitely represent more value to certain developers than being locked into the Windows/Xbox ecosystem.

            From my personal standpoint, Microsoft’s history with PC gaming coupled with UWP’s current drawbacks gives me every reason to believe that UWP becoming the norm would be very, very bad for PC gaming. I simply cannot support a system where Microsoft is the gatekeeper at such a restrictive level.

            • Gavin Williams

              “but in the realm of PC and mobile you also limit yourself to WIndows 10 PC’s and Windows Phones only” — Developers are not restricted to Windows if they use UWP. Where did you even get that idea? It’s up to the developer to choose what platforms they sell their game on. To make it every clear – I can make a UWP game on Windows and also release on Mac. There is nothing stopping me from doing that.

              Microsoft are the gatekeeper of their own operating system and ecosystem. Just like Apple are for theirs and Google for theirs etc etc.

    • Asgard

      If Store really is so bad that games don’t sell there, publishers wont go for it for long. And MS cant keep buying exclusives forever if they go nowhere with them. So I wouldn’t worry about it too much. However, if games do sell there, then you are wrong about what majority of PC gamers feel about it. We will see in the coming year.

      Of course gaming on UWP has to evolve and at least for now it has been evolving quite fast. It has been less than a year of W10 and only 6 months of AAA titles on the store, and we are getting all this cross-functionality with X1, G-Sync, FreeSync, more graphics settings, ability to choose install location, … Year from now its probably even much better.

      The benefit of MS at least trying is that we are going to get a lot of AAA titles on PC that we would not otherwise have. And its early days folks.

      • Sir_Brizz

        It’s not like gamers will necessarily pick what is best for them. I own Steam games that were released in 2004 that still work 4 OS versions later with very little to no tweaking whatsoever.

        I own GFWL games that were released in 2009 that are completely broken and cannot be played at all on Windows 10.

        Microsoft is always going to lean far more towards the GFWL model than the normal Steam or historically open PC model than is good for anyone. There is no reason to doubt that the Windows Store will only last as long as Microsoft believes they can be successful with it and no longer.

        UWP just makes it easier for them to kill games faster like they do on consoles and Windows Store is a means towards that end. Windows Store is basically the Xbox platform for PC. I’m fine with MS bringing more games to PC, but I want them brought in the right way so that I can continue playing them almost forever. Anything that makes it harder for games to keep working and for the community to fix them when they inevitably are out of support and break is a bad thing. This is a major problem with UWP.

        • Gavin Williams

          Talk about cherry picking your examples. There are plenty of games that don’t work anymore that aren’t from GFWL.

          And UWP is nothing like GFWL.

          • Sir_Brizz

            There are very few games that cannot be made to work that aren’t using dilapidated and broken service middlewares like Gamespy and GFWL.

            UWP and GFWL are similar in the fact that they are both inherently DRM systems that don’t always require the DRM features to be enabled, but any game/app that uses them will be unusable in a few years when Microsoft moves on to something else.

            Fortunately it looks like they won’t be able to keep their “exclusives” with Quantum Break already making a break for steam. :p

    • ΨΦ

      After screwing up in the console market, I guess they have now decided to also completely ruin PC gaming. If those overpaid executives at MS had any vision whatsoever, they would have skipped on the whole Xbox nonsense altogether and instead would be running the #1 online store (a la Steam), and making billions worldwide. While they were stumbling around in the console market, others took advantage of MS’ absence and filled the void.

      MS is Aesop’s ‘greedy dog’, that barked on its own reflection and even lost the bone that it already had. They’re like the psycho boyfriend that dumped you for someone else, went around making a mockery of you in public for years, then ruined the life of their other girlfriend (console gamers), and now has returned and wants you back… at gunpoint.

      Their current display of fascism reminds me of when they tried to force their IE with their OS. As I recall, ultimately it didn’t work out very well for them.

    • Dixiedevil

      With their console and PC merging into one, it makes me think Scorpio will be more like a Steam Machine than console, running the Win10 version of the game. Knowing Microsoft, this will be another DRM grab.

    • rochyroch

      I find it really hard to forget & i don’t think i could ever forgive MS for their previous efforts for the ‘PC Gamers’

    • Amir

      Forza 6 is not that issue free as you might think, it suffers from MemoryLeak issues as well but compare to the rest of the games on winstore it’s better.

      It is good that we get those game as you said in the article and MS can release them on whatever they want but well, they don’t get my money by these restrictions and forcing UWP on me, i simply igrore them or voice my opinon against them, maybe someday they fix their awful store or close it down just like GFWL.

      Very Nice Article, hope more PC gaming sites do these kinds of stuff instead of being a marketing tool for MS or practices like that.

      • Sir_Brizz

        IMO if they think they can bring back charging for Live on Windows, they will do it in a heartbeat.

    • Dr. Manhattan

      Fuck UWP. It must die. Fuck the Windows Store too.

      • Gavin Williams

        Thanks for dropping by Gabe.

        • Dr. Manhattan

          No, I’m Joe Belfiore.

          Sent from my iPhone

          Just testing™