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The Battle Between Windows 8 And Computer Game Developers

Game Developers Complain About Windows 8

While Windows 8 launches to great fanfare, a serious battle is raging behind the scenes between Microsoft and computer game developers. Many prominent names in the video game industry are quite upset over the restrictions imposed by Microsoft’s new closed distribution system.

In the future, any gamer who runs Windows 8 and wishes to install a game that integrates fully with the new user interface will only be able to download the application through the Windows Store. This will give Microsoft absolute control over which software will be available if users wish to enjoy all the advantages of the new operating system. Valve’s Managing Director Gabe Newell called this idea a “catastrophe for everyone in the PC space.”

Valve is the company that published the major hit game Portal and owns Steam, the world’s largest game distribution platform. Newell spent 13 years working on Windows as an employee of Microsoft and he knows his subject well. His overall impression of Windows 8 is causing him to think about Linux as a viable alternative:

“The big problem that is holding back Linux is games. People don’t realize how critical games are in driving consumer purchasing behavior.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well. It’s a hedging strategy. I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we’ll lose some of the top-tier PC/OEMs, who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.”

Newell is not the only game developer alarmed by Windows 8. According to Gamasutra, there are “other high-profile PC game backers, who vocalized their concerns about Windows 8, such as Blizzard’s Rob Pardo and Minecraft creator Marcus “notch” Persson. “Stop trying to ruin the PC as an open platform,” Persson told Microsoft, directly.”

In today’s world, no computer game can expect to succeed if it isn’t available for Windows. Now, to be fully compatible with Windows 8, every game is required to meet a strict set of standards established by Microsoft.

This raises some rather alarming questions. Many games are not rated for children and contain mature content. How would the PC game of the year for 2011, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, even get out of the door with the following standards issued by Microsoft:

Section 5.1:

Your app must not contain adult content, and metadata must be appropriate for everyone. Apps with a rating over PEGI 16, ESRB MATURE, or that contain content that would warrant such a rating, are not allowed.

Section 5.3:

Your app must not contain content or functionality that encourages, facilitates, or glamorizes illegal activity.

Section 5.6:

Your app must not contain content that encourages, facilitates or glamorizes excessive or irresponsible use of alcohol or tobacco products, drugs or weapons.

Section 5.8:

Your app must not contain excessive or gratuitous profanity.

Reading the regulations published by Microsoft, it is fair to ask how the majority of games now available would be approved for sale in the Windows Store. World Of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Elder Scrolls, Guild Wars 2 and Lord of The Rings Online are just a few of the major titles that fail most, if not all, of the sections listed. Titles like Grand Theft Auto, Hitman, and Assassin’s Creed will become distant memories.

Game industry veteran Casey Muratori asked an important question in his recent Gamasutra article, “This vision of a future Windows heavily censored by Microsoft is chilling. But how likely is it to actually occur?”

Muratori answered his own rhetorical question, as he continued:

“For Windows RT, the version of Windows for low-power tablets and phones, this future begins on October 26th. Each and every Windows RT device sold will only be able to run software from the Windows Store, and all Windows Store apps must follow the certification requirements quoted above, as well as dozens more. Windows RT users won’t have 10 or 20 years before they can no longer play the world’s most highly acclaimed games on their Windows devices. Those games will have been forbidden from day one.”

“But for Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, the versions that most desktop users will have, the timeline is not yet certain. Unlike Windows RT, these versions include the classic Windows desktop that still supports open distribution. Is it possible, then, that desktop users will never have to experience this future?”

“A brief examination of Microsoft’s own history suggests quite the opposite.”

Casey concludes his article with some serious food for thought. It is obvious that Steve Ballmer and the other executives at Microsoft need to be the first people to partake of the meal:

“The success of Windows 8 in the tablet and phone space is far, far from a sure thing. Does Microsoft really want to go into that battle without some of their biggest assets? Do they want the likes of Valve, controller of over 50 percent of all PC game sales, deciding to throw their weight behind Linux because the Windows 8 ecosystem completely prohibits third-party app stores like their flagship Steam? Do they really want the launch of Windows 8 plagued by story after story of notable developers coming out against the platform? And above all, are they willing to risk alienating developers to the point where they actively promote and foster competing operating systems as their flagship platforms because Windows no longer offers them the freedom to develop and distribute their software the way they choose?”

“Hopefully, for everyone’s sake, they will realize the only sane answer to all of these questions is “no.””

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15 Responses to “The Battle Between Windows 8 And Computer Game Developers”

  1. Nic Patchett

    Its not that restrictive I am using it right now. there is a possibility in the future that windows could choose to do that with windows 9+ but all not being certified means is it installs the same way it has on your pc for 12+ years and that you cant have fancy picture tiles for it. its just an icon. for example I have steam installed right now on my windows 8 pc and played l4d the other night. gabe newels quotes were from what is concerns were for the future of windows not windows 8. blizzards response was that if everything they feared came to pass they would leave.

  2. Nic Patchett

    right now its an interface that is unified across the xbox the pc,tablets, and windows phone the only one of those that is truly closed are the phone and the tablet as they run windows rt. Rt was designed for those specific. the windows 8 is still the same as ever with a few tech bugs like all new programs. (though I've not experienced the ones that are being complained about).

    Now disliking the interface is totally fine it is not for everyone hell if you don't have any of the other systems that interface with the new parts Id suggest sticking to windows 7 it adds nothing new for you.

  3. Brian Dawe

    Windows 8 runs all my legacy apps and games fine Gabe is just crying because the app store will provide the only realistic alternative to steam and he doesn't like it. As for blizzard they have bigger problems whilst I think that the monthly fee is value for money they have lost their way and the other fees they're charges are insanely expensive to move my old characters and change faction they want to charge me £350 lol I stoppped playing WoW because blizzard are more worried about ripping you off than they are about making a challenging game that people want to play. They have lost a 3rd of their player base since their peak maybe they should focus on that. The app store in windows is just that for apps and mobile games yeah you will be able to buy book and movie but that's just ms catching up with the rest of the world. Core games will still be purchased by the gamers regardless. You can still install all you other programs in the normal way the app store doesn't stop you from installing software or running steam or warcraft.

  4. Clinton Knight

    Version 6.2 is just a modified version of its previous incarnations. Not much to be surprised about here, Gates wanted a long time ago to get to the point that you rented Microsoft software, just another step that direction. How do you stop it? Do not buy it.

    Alternately speaking, this is just one more reason to get ready for multi boot PC's. Future of gaming, Linux. Future of business productivity… A bit of a toss up. Can't really see anyone screaming to the fore front of that race. Seems like everyone is looking at each other and shrugging their shoulders there. Apple dropped enterprise support and since then Linux servers are the back bone of most entities. Windows is rapidly useful only in the sense that it is familiar to most people. Which is why Win8 is getting such a back lash.

    Pick your poison, perhaps a yet to be named victor will arrive… Or console gaming is the future of gaming and always will be.

  5. Brian Dawe

    tbh windows 8 isn't a fail os yeah the front is different but in most games it's just a shade quicker than 7 and if you want the windows 7 experience just install classic shell and voila no more metro/notro. The metro/notro or whatever were calling it today interface is counter intuitive in places on a PC with a keyboard and mouse and MS should of given you the option to not use it but tbh they'd be dammed for putting that option in and they're dammed by some for not so which is the lesser of two evils? With classic shell you don't have to use it. On a touch screen however its very good and the cross platform integration can only be a good thing.

  6. Robert Styles

    Im yet to really try it out. At first glance it just looks like win7 with this metro thing bolted on, like a media centre mode. Which is probably what they should have done instead of a totally separate OS.

    If you can set it to a windows 7 UI mode I'll probably upgrade, but not otherwise, not on my pc anyway.