There’s big drama in the PC gaming industry this week as Epic CEO Tim Sweeney claims that Microsoft may try to intentionally cripple Steam in order to push forward its new Windows gaming platform.
That report comes from an interview with Edge magazine, as originally reported by PC Gamer.
Sweeney believes that Microsoft will try to slowly destroy the PC as an open platform, locking it down and preventing third party software like Steam from being viable options on the platform.
Then, Microsoft will promote its own option, the Universal Windows Platform and the Windows Store, as a strong alternative solution. Eventually, nobody will want to use Steam anymore.
We’re not exaggerating Sweeney’s remarks. That’s genuinely what he believes. Here’s the full quote:
“Slowly, over the next five years, they will force-patch Windows 10 to make Steam progressively worse and more broken. They’ll never completely break it, but will continue to break it until, in five years, people are so fed up that Steam is buggy that the Windows Store seems like an ideal alternative. That’s exactly what they did to their previous competitors in other areas. Now they’re doing it to Steam.”
Is Microsoft really filled with so many evil geniuses that it thinks this plan could work? Clearly, Sweeney doesn’t have a high opinion of Microsoft. We’ll have to see if Steam starts developing mysterious bugs over the next few years – then we’ll start getting suspicious.
Meanwhile, most of the gaming industry responded with skepticism.
It Doesn’t Appear to Be True
PCWorld.com did a great breakdown of why Sweeney is probably wrong in his statement. PCWorld argued that Microsoft’s UWP isn’t an “all or nothing” alternative to Steam. Instead, it can work in conjunction with Steam (and other Win32 desktop programs).
Basically, the Universal Windows Platform allows developers to integrate Windows 10 features into their games, including Live Tiles and push notifications. Developers can take a Win32 program (like a normal PC game) and package it within UWP to allow the addition of Windows 10 features. It’s not a binary option of “should I choose Steam or UWP?”
Ultimately, it’s unclear if Microsoft sees Steam as a competitor or a partner. Life might be easier for Microsoft if Steam disappeared. However, Steam users are some of the most ardent Windows 10 users in the world (they were the first demographic to reach 50% Windows 10 adoption, for example).
I’m going to take the more optimistic side here and state that Microsoft understands the PC does well when it keeps everyone – including partners, PC gamers, and developers – as happy as possible.