Update July 27, 2016: We reached out to Microsoft for a response to the comments made by Sweeney and they replied.
Following Sweeney's accusations that Microsoft could perhaps try force people over to their platform by weakening others, the company have responded, albeit indirectly.
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“As stated previously, the Universal Windows Platform is an open ecosystem that is available to every developer, and can be supported by any store," a Microsoft spokeseperson told us. "With the UWP in its infancy, we recognise areas of improvement and aim to make Windows the best development platform regardless of technologies used.”
Update July 26, 2016: Tim Sweeney's been decrying Microsoft's treatment of the Windows platform again, including a not insignificant amount of doomsaying.
Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney has long been a detractor of Windows 10, the Universal Windows Platform and Microsoft in general. Now, in an interview with Edge, he's gotten even more savage than normal.
First, Sweeney's explanantion of the differences between the UWP system and the current one - Win32.
"There are two programming interfaces for Windows and every app has to choose one of them," he says. "Every Steam app – every PC game for the past few decades – has used Win32. It’s been both responsible for the vibrant software market we have now, but also for malware. Any program can be a virus. Universal Windows Platform is seen as an antidote to that. It’s sandboxed – much more locked down."
So what's the problem? Well, Sweeney sees a possible future where Microsoft start to lock things down by "phasing out" Win32 apps by convincing everyone to use UWP.
"If they can succeed in doing that then it’s a small leap to forcing all apps and games to be distributed through the Windows Store. Once we reach that point, the PC has become a closed platform. It won’t be that one day they flip a switch that will break your Steam library – what they’re trying to do is a series of sneaky manoeuvres. They make it more and more inconvenient to use the old apps, and, simultaneously, they try to become the only source for the new ones."
As for Steam, Sweeney says that Microsoft are going to target it through deliberately bad patches.
"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. It’s only just starting to become visible. Microsoft might not be competent enough to succeed with their plan, but they’re certainly trying."
This does seem to assume that Valve wouldn't be able to fix Steam to work despite Microsoft, and that the Microsoft store wouldn't be a legitimately good option. Closing off the ecosystem would also prevent, for example, businesses creating apps for use in-house - doesn't seem like a great business move. We've contacted Microsoft for comment on Sweeney's thoughts.
Original story April 1, 2016: At their //Build/ conference, Microsoft are diving deep into the techy side of their business. It’s not all directly related to games, but much of it deals with the backend programming that supports what we play. Specifically they’ve been talking about their new Universal Windows Platform app model that’s proved controversial so far. Epic’s Tim Sweeney, who has been the loudest industry figure discussing UWP in recent weeks, has said on Twitter that while he likes what Microsoft are saying now about the system, they need to fully commit to it being open to use by developers and won’t change in the future.
At //Build/, group program manager for the UWP project Andrew Clinick gave an hour-long talk about why they’re making it, what it’s for and how it will help developers.
On Twitter, Sweeney reacted with cautious optimism, seeming pleased with what Clinick was saying about what was possible with UWP.
However, what he wants out of Microsoft is a total commitment that the open nature of UWP will remain, and won’t be patched out later. Them just saying it isn’t enough for him, and he has specific demands that were detailed in a VentureBeat post.
He says Epic still won't be targeting UWP with the current plans until he's satisfied that Microsoft won't pull the code-rug from under their digi-legs. A fair position to be in when you're talking about games developed by massive numbers of people, and a pretty large standing down from last month.