Microsoft is going to have to step up its game if it hopes to supplant the competition with UWP for developers and gamers.
When it comes to application developers, Microsoft has one primary strategic plan—get them to use the Universal Windows Platform (UWP). If you take the time to look through the videos of the various seminars at the Build 2016 conference, you will see UWP at the forefront of just about every presentation.
More applications developed for UWP means more users downloading those apps from the Microsoft Store, which means more Windows 10 devices, which means more users tied into the Microsoft ecosystem, which means an increasing need for cloud services, which means more profits for the company's coffers.
The plan has its merits, but the key to the whole concept is getting developers to use the Universal Windows Platform. However, this is not as simple a task as it may seem, especially when it comes to game developers.
Games are a problem
Game developers creating topnotch games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Tom Clancy's: The Division use every available bit of performance your computer can provide to make the games as compelling as they can be. Any code that does not serve that purpose, like UWP protocols for example, is considered interference.
Many game developers seek to avoid restrictions found in the operating system or platform when they can. However, a game written under the UWP will have to abide by any rules or restrictions maintained by the platform. It is a subtle, but often critical, distinction. It requires a different approach to game development and, as we all know, some people really hate change.
To overcome this aversion to changing the way game developers do things, Microsoft has been offering the development community some proverbial "carrots" to entice them toward the UWP.
On May 10, 2016, Microsoft announced that the UWP will now support both Freesync from AMD and G-Sync from NVIDIA. Computer displays with this technology can be used by games to control the frequency rate at which images are shown. By adjusting the rate depending on what the game is displaying, the technology can improve the experience for users.
These technologies were not supported before because under the Universal Windows Platform, the frequency rate was locked and could not be adjusted on the fly as needed. This is a perfect example of a restriction that game developers, and hardware manufacturers for that matter, abhor.
Resistance to the UWP for games is also coming from the consumer side of the equation. Many games today have imbedded structures and tools that can be used to make modifications (mods) to how the game looks and plays. It is a feature that increases community engagement and the overall longevity of the game itself. Unfortunately, the ability to mod games sold under the UWP is currently quite limited.
At Build 2016, Microsoft made a big deal about modding in the keynote address. The company is well aware that computer gamers will not purchase games from the Microsoft Store if they can't be modded because of UWP restrictions. In fact, to compete with the likes of Steam and GOG.com, Microsoft must create a modding infrastructure within the Windows Store itself.
There's a chicken-or-egg aspect to this scenario. Gamers won't use the Microsoft Store to purchase games if there is no modding infrastructure—and developers won't create games under the UWP unless there are gamers in the Microsoft Store to buy them. Microsoft will have to create the modding framework and persuade gamers and developers to use it.
The success of the Microsoft Store is vital to the overall success of Microsoft, and in no situation is this more evident than with gaming. Electronic gaming on the personal computer and Xbox is big business, potentially driving consumers to the Microsoft Store in droves.
Microsoft has to do everything in its power to make the user experience for gamers better than the competition's. If the company can't accomplish this, developers and gamers are not going to change their buying habits, and the Microsoft Store will suffer. This is going to be a tough strategy to implement, to say the least.
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