This week, Microsoft has touted a new initiative that they have said will unify platforms, making it easier to for developers to release games on both PC and Xbox One. But at least one major developer isn't thrilled with Microsoft's plans. In an opinion piece published in The Guardian last night, Epic Games co-founder Tim Sweeney absolutely railed against Microsoft, calling upon other developers to fight against the corporation for "moving against the entire PC industry". Specifically, Sweeney criticised Microsoft's new Universal Windows Platform, which allows developers to build games and apps that can run across all of Microsoft's hardware including Windows 10, Xbox One and any Windows-branded tablets and phones.
The problem, Sweeney wrote, is that with UWP, Microsoft has created a closed ecosystem where developers must use the Windows Store and go through Microsoft's certification processes to release games on that platform. Sweeney said he sees this as contrary to the spirit of PC development — a huge blow for Microsoft, as Epic is one of the biggest companies in the space. Epic is best known not just for their developer toolset, the Unreal Engine, but for creating the popular Xbox franchise Gears of War, which Microsoft purchased in 2014.
"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," Sweeney wrote.
Microsoft disagrees with this assessment. Windows vice president Kevin Gallo told The Guardian in a response to Sweeney's op-ed that Microsoft is not, in fact, building a closed platform. "The Universal Windows Platform is a fully open ecosystem, available to every developer, that can be supported by any store," he said. "We continue 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."
Sweeney had criticised Microsoft for making it difficult and confusing to install UWP-developed apps outside of the Windows Store, pointing out that any user who wants to do so would have to dig through a series of convoluted menus and options. "It's true that if you dig far enough into Microsoft's settings-burying UI, you can find a way to install these apps by enabling 'side-loading,'" Sweeney wrote. "But in turning this off by default, Microsoft is unfairly disadvantaging the competition. Bigger-picture, this is a feature Microsoft can revoke at any time using Windows 10's forced-update process."
The whole op-ed is brutal and worth reading, encouraging developers and customers to fight against Microsoft's new initiative.
"As the founder of a major Windows game developer and technology supplier, this is an op-ed I hoped I would never feel compelled to write," Sweeney wrote. "But Epic has prided itself on providing software directly to customers ever since I started mailing floppy disks in 1991. We wouldn't let Microsoft close down the PC platform overnight without a fight, and therefore we won't sit silently by while Microsoft embarks on a series of sneaky manoeuvre aimed at achieving this over a period of several years."