Microsoft Receives Backlash for PC and Xbox One Gaming Plans
In the past few years, the console gaming space has changed immensely. For example, adapting to the rising popularity of eSports and livestreaming, both Sony and Microsoft’s consoles the PS4 and the Xbox One allow players to stream their gameplay to the web. Meanwhile, as more gamers ditch traditional retail purchases and opt to download their games instead, both consoles come equipped with far more hard drive space than their predecessors (the PS3 and Xbox 360) did at launch. These adaptations have been widely supported by the industry and gamers themselves, but as Microsoft suggests that another console gaming shakeup could be on the way, not everyone is best pleased.
During the Microsoft spring showcase event, Xbox boss Phil Spencer suggested that he would like consoles to be upgradeable, as PCs are. Spencer explained that “consoles lock the hardware and the software platforms together at the beginning of the generation. Then you ride the generation out for seven or so years, while other ecosystems are getting better, faster, stronger” and that in the future, it’s possible that Xbox One owners will be able to get optional hardware upgrades.
While some console gamers won’t be fond of the idea that they may end up being locked out of certain games if they can only be played with the use of those optional hardware upgrades, it was Spencer’s comments about software that have really caught some flak. The Xbox boss explained that Microsoft is currently “building out a complete gaming ecosystem for Universal Windows Applications” which will work on top of the existing Universal Windows Platform (which allows developers to create game that work on all Windows devices).
Epic Games co-founder Tim Sweeney isn’t fond of UWP, though, having now written an op-ed against it. Sweeney says that Microsoft is moving “against the entire PC industry” and that the UWP is a “closed” system. To use UWP, developers have to release their games on Microsoft’s Windows Store as well as go through Microsoft’s certification process which means that “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. It is possible for developers to release their games elsewhere, says Sweeney, but doing so requires the dev to go through a lot of menus and options and digging through the “settings-burying UI” to enable ‘side-loading’, a feature which Sweeney says Microsoft can turn off at any time.
Microsoft has responded to Sweeney’s comments, saying that UWP “is a fully open ecosystem, available to every developer, that can be supported by any store” and that it continues 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”. Unfortunately, with Sweeney being such an influential figure in games (Epic Games also created massively popular Xbox and PC franchise Gears of War, before selling it to Microsoft in 2014) this argument is unlikely to go away soon.
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