As expected, Remedy’s Quantum Break will only be available on PC through Microsoft’s Windows 10 store. Aaron Greenberg has confirmed that it won’t be coming to Steam.
While that doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility of it happening in future (after all, Quantum Break itself was an Xbox One “exclusive” until recently), it’s pretty safe to assume that Microsoft want to use this game to drive as many as possible towards Windows 10 and their own storefront. Remedy’s title won’t do that on its own, but it’s evidently a piece of Microsoft’s plan to build up a “Windows 10 exclusive” library that they hope will be irresistible.
This all no doubt makes sense from Microsoft’s perspective (they have a new service, they want push everybody into using it), but it’s not great for all of us, nor, I’d suggest for Remedy themselves.
Quantum Break is going to utilise DirectX 12, so it has to be on Windows 10. Microsoft’s insistence on restricting DX12 to their new operating system already reduces a game’s potential audience a considerable amount, though the offer of a (limited) free upgrade for those on 7, 8 and 8.1 seems to have had the desired effect. The latest Steam hardware and software survey puts Windows 10 usage at just under 33%. Not at all bad for a new OS.
But by keeping it to the Windows Store, the audience will narrow much further. Microsoft is actively sacrificing a significant number of sales in the name of pushing its digital shop. If I were working for Remedy, I’m not sure how I’d feel about that. No doubt the studio has received some financial renumeration (read: a fat wad of cash) to make up the inevitable shortfall, but it must be galling to know that so many more people could be playing and enjoying the title when it launches on PC.
The PC version of Remedy’s Alan Wake (release on Steam) made its development cost back within 48 hours. Rise of the Tomb Raider, which had timed Xbox One exclusivity through a deal with Microsoft, has sold around 470,000 copies on Valve’s store according to SteamSpy figures. If you want to sell big on PC, Steam is basically impossible to overlook.
I can’t find any reliable numbers for copies of RotTR sold through the Windows Store, but if it’s anywhere near that figure I’d be very surprised indeed.
Steam is hardly a flawless platform, but preventing Quantum Break from being sold there (or on GOG, or any of the others) will stop a huge number of players from getting the game. Rather than rely on unique selling points, like cross-saves with the Xbox One (assuming that would be a WinStore only feature), to persuade people into opting for their version, Microsoft have instead decided to just leave people no other choice.
The Rise of the Tomb Raider release has given us a glimpse of why that’s bad news for players, by revealing some of the Windows Store’s shortcomings. Have a read through some of the comments and ratings on the game to see tales of encrypted directories, and the inability to apply external effects like SweetFX, ReShade, or even basic anti-aliasing through Nvidia or AMD’s own applications.
This kind of aggressive rejection of straightforward tweaking and modding doesn’t bode at all well for future releases through the Store. One of the PC’s great strengths is the flexibility it gives players in adapting their visual settings, but the Windows Store seems dead set against allowing this.
Games For Windows Live turned into such a disaster for Microsoft that a majority of those games ended up patching out the GfWL aspects and replaced them with Steamworks stuff. The GfWL initiative died due to lack of support, unhelpful DRM practices, and a patching process seemingly designed to be as convoluted and broken as possible. The Windows Store isn’t exactly at that point yet, but starting from a basis of restriction and exclusivity is not going to endear it to many users.
If this is Microsoft’s great new plan to support PC gaming, I don’t predict a glorious, decade-long reign for the Windows 10 Store. Quantum Break may turn out to be spectacular, but, unfortunately, it’s only going to be hurt by this association.