Microsoft says it is committed to supporting competing PC game stores and today announced it will distribute more titles from Xbox Game Studios through Valve's Steam marketplace. Normally, Microsoft has only distributed its games via Xbox Live on its game console platform and via its own Windows storefront on PC. Now Microsoft says it wants to better support the choice of players and let customers buy on more than one destination on PC.
"Our intention is to make our Xbox Game Studios PC games available in multiple stores, including our own Microsoft Store on Windows, at their launch. We believe you should choose where to buy your PC games," Xbox writes. chief Phil Spencer in a blog post in which he announces the shift in strategy. The move follows Microsoft's decision to publish the message Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Steam.
"We will continue to add to the more than 20 Xbox Game Studios titles on Steam, starting with Gears 5 and everything Age of Empires I, II and III: Definitive Editions, " Spencer explains. "We know that millions of PC gamers trust Steam as a great source to buy PC games and we've heard the feedback that PC gamers want to choose."
It is not an unusual move for Microsoft nowadays, certainly not since Spencer took over the Xbox division in 2014 under CEO Satya Nadella, who promoted him again in the autumn of 2017 to implement all Xbox and Windows 10 gaming initiatives.
The two have worked together to build a much more open and cooperative Microsoft, and that has led to a lot of truly player-friendly progress in the Xbox and Windows departments. Xbox games released by Microsoft can now be played on the PC for free, thanks to the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative, while Microsoft worked with Nintendo and game developers such as Epic and Psyonix to successfully exert pressure on Sony to become platform independent support display. The company is also pioneering a new business model for games with its Xbox Game Pass subscription, and the upcoming xCloud cloud gaming service is ready to introduce a whole new distribution model for game delivery and possibly a boost in the way games both financed and sold.
Striking in this case is that Microsoft is somewhat opposite to Epic Games, a company whose CEO Tim Sweeney once criticized Microsoft for his attempts to create a closed ecosystem with his Universal Windows Platform strategy, which tried all software, including PC games, to be distributed exclusively through its own shop front.
"Microsoft has a closed platform-in-a-platform built into Windows 10," Sweeney wrote in a 2015 version The Guardian, "As the first apparent step towards closing the consumer PC ecosystem and monopolizing app distribution and trading." Sweeney then asked Microsoft to let developers build games built with UWP in other stores. He even went so far as to say UWP "can, should, should and will die."
Now it is Epic that Steam is trying to replace with its own game store and finds itself embroiled in controversy, mainly because of the exclusivity contracts it secures with developers. Of course, Epic's approach is very different from Microsoft's when it did not have the Windows operating system and by no means had the level of power and control that Microsoft did when it tried to push UWP. But Epic, through the success of unparalleled power in the PC market, has grown to a level Fortnite, is discovering how hard it is to unseat Steam.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has completely abandoned that vision and instead embraces a much more open model. And it goes beyond gaming. Microsoft recently announced a partnership with Google to rebuild its Edge browser, once built on UWP, using the open-source Chromium framework.
"We also know that there are other stores on the PC and we are working to make more choice in which store you can find our Xbox Game Studios titles in the future," Spencer writes, indicating that Microsoft is ultimately his games publish in Epic's store. also. Spencer goes on to say that the company is committed to providing voice and text chat, friend lists, and cross-play on PC and console for all titles it publishes under Xbox Game Studios. "On Windows 10, you will find this functionality in the Xbox game bar, which we will continue to develop and expand," he adds.
In addition to this shift to support Steam and competing stores, Microsoft says it is also opening support in the Microsoft Store for games built as native Win32 apps. This is the predominant Windows app format and the format that UWP is effectively designed to replace. All of this is making UWP out of favor with game studios that have been forced in recent years to use the format to better access core features of Windows 10.
"We recognize that Win32 is the app format that game developers enjoy using and gamers enjoy playing, so we are happy to share that we will enable full support for native Win32 games in the Microsoft Store on Windows," writes Spencer. "This will unlock more options for developers and gamers, allowing the customization and control they are used to from the open Windows gaming ecosystem."