Friday, March 04, 2016

Is Microsoft Monopolizing Future PC Games?

Tim Sweeney, co-founder of Epic Games, is on a mission to fight Microsoft and bringing his cause to the people. The crime? Microsoft wants to monopolize PC games by controlling sales.

Earlier this week Phil Spencer, head of the XBox division at Microsoft, announced that the XBox One and PC will unify to create one ecosystem under the Windows 10 Universal Windows Applications (UWA). They are shifting their development strategy to the UWA to ensure cross-platform use. Anything made under UWA will allow for release on Windows 10, XBox One, Smartphones, Tablets, anything with the UWA makes the process less of a hassle - not exactly seamless but much easier then coding has been previously. For gamers, that means a better chance at backwards compatibility on some of those older games that can't seem to make the leap from XBox to XBox One. It also has radical implications for the hardware sales model, which has always been that the games have to fit the hardware, it can never change. But with UWA, you can make these dynamic products for PC and they can be converted to fit the hardware of the time. And over time, in theory, older games built with UWA can be played as newer hardware is released.

In theory, it sounds good. Easier transmission of games to multiple platforms without worry of compatibility issues down the line? Initially, the concern is that the XBox One would become a PC-hybrid that would require you to do hardware upgrades. I mean...eventually. Just like a PC, you can only work off of older hardware for so long before you have to upgrade. Which means dumping more money into your XBox One instead of buying a new console. And as I've found through my years of tech support, only a fraction of the population is capable of doing their own hardware repairs. So! They get to spend even more money handing off their system to a repair center to do the upgrades. That doesn't sound so pocket-change friendly as buying a new console, when you look at the pricing over time.

Sweeney sees another, larger issue, that needs to be addressed: with the UWA, Microsoft will effectively lock in the PC market to their sales teams, as only games sold with UWA have to use the Microsoft Store platform - which comes with a 30% usage fee on every game purchased. Essentially, developers would be locked in by using the UWA to only selling their items through Microsoft and Windows-based platforms and that's it not giving the true freedom developers need to create their products. When you think of online game platforms like Steam and EA's Origin, that's a pretty tall order to give away 30% of your profits to keep your games on Windows.

Microsoft did respond to Sweeney's comments, that the tools are open to anyone who wants to use them, there's no vetting process for developers, and they can be side-loaded for use with other systems. And...that's about it. No other detail given on if Microsoft is requiring UWA users to sell their games on their store, and their store alone. I think they need to come up with a press release, and fast. This would be a huge deterrent for a number of developers from using Windows 10 in the future, and shift their focus Sony. Or not? Even in 2011 there were 1.25 Billion Windows PC's in the world, and they made up nearly the entire market on computer sales and usage. You can't go into an office today without seeing a PC with Windows running the helm. PC is king and you will get the largest gaming audience by smacking your title to Windows. Microsoft's large audience would monopolize the business with UWA. You have to use it to make games in the future, and you have to put it onto their store to sell it - for the time being.

Let's see what Microsoft's follow-up response will be.

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