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The Gears of War developer rails agains Microsoft's encroaching monopoly. Image via Microsoft/Epic Games.
The Gears of War developer rails agains Microsoft’s encroaching monopoly. Image via Microsoft/Epic Games.

The new Windows Store may be nice for consumers who don’t know where to turn for new software, but for some game developers, it is a walled garden where Microsoft takes a hefty percentage of every sale and limits communication with customers.

That’s the message Epic Games co-founder Tim Sweeney sent with an op-ed in The Guardian today titled “Microsoft wants to monopolise games development on PC. We must fight it.”

Image via Epic Games
Epic Games co-founder Tim Sweeney. Image via Epic Games.

“Microsoft has launched new PC Windows features exclusively in [Universal Windows Platform], and is effectively telling developers you can use these Windows features only if you submit to the control of our locked-down UWP ecosystem,” Sweeney said. “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, whose Epic Games developed the popular Unreal Engine and created Gears of War before Microsoft purchased it in 2014, worried that developers won’t develop for the newer system, which he claims is much more closed off than the win32 system that came before it.

He also worried that Microsoft is burying the toggle that lets users side-load games—that is, load them from outside the Windows Store—which means most users won’t be able to download apps from outside sources. And, as GeekWire has noted before, the Windows Store doesn’t have a very robust selection, missing apps like Photoshop and FIFA 2016.

“Microsoft’s intentions must be judged by Microsoft’s actions, not Microsoft’s words,” he said. “Their actions speak plainly enough: they are working to turn today’s open PC ecosystem into a closed, Microsoft-controlled distribution and commerce monopoly, over time, in a series of steps of which we’re seeing the very first. ”

But Microsoft responded that some of Sweeney’s complaints aren’t a problem anymore, and future improvements should solve any lingering issues.

“The Universal Windows Platform is a fully open ecosystem, available to every developer, that can be supported by any store,” a Microsoft spokesperson 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.”

Xbox head Phil Spencer also claimed that Windows will remain open.

Sweeney responded that he’s looking forward to future opening of the platform.

The solution, according to Sweeney, is to allow users to download UWP apps from anywhere, allow other companies to run stores that sell UWP apps (like Steam and Good Old Games), and that companies will be able to interact with and sell to fans “without Microsoft forcing everyone into its formative in-app commerce monopoly and taking a 30% cut.”

“Windows 10 is [Microsoft’s] last real chance to maintain relevance,” gaming industry veteran Andre Vrignaud said. “They’re trying to use the existing Windows marketshare to create a closed application ecosystem that they can monetize in the future (as opposed to directly monetizing Windows licenses, which is already a dead business).”

Vrignaud expects Microsoft is trying to follow in Apple’s App Store model, using money from purchases to drive revenue.

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