It says a lot about Windows 8 that Microsoft finds itself in the position of having to defend its newest desktop operating system. Aside from the criticisms leveled against the OS from desktop users who use their PC for work or some other productive tasks, gamers and game companies have also been voicing concerns about the platform.
Valve co-founder and Managing Director Gabe Newell has called Windows 8 a "catastrophe for everyone in the PC space." Newell was speaking at the Casual Connect videogame conference when he made that statement. He has since refined his statement to make it clear he was referring to the Windows 8 app store. Valve has begun to implement its Steam platform for Linux, as an alternative and "hedge" against a possible Windows 8 disaster. It has also just announced that Steam will begin selling creativity and productivity software in addition to games.
This week, a Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat that the company believes Windows 8 is "ideal" for gaming. VentureBeat quoted the spokesperson:
“With Xbox on Windows 8, we created easy entry points into the types of entertainment that you’ll enjoy, including games. The Games app prominently features your avatar, profile, friends and Gamerscore and allows you to explore your friends’ avatars.”
Windows-based PC gaming has been a mainstay of the gaming industry for decades now. If Microsoft thinks that PC gamers want Xbox avatars and achievements, it may be in for a rude awakening. While some gamers will certainly enjoy the ability to sync their PC gaming experience to the Xbox 360 console, many PC gamers will not want to organize their gaming habits through a console or tablet-like interface.
Much of the concern from the gaming industry, however, is the fear that Microsoft might lock Windows gaming behind licensing walls, the way it does for Xbox gaming. While some developers would have no issues publishing their titles through a Windows 8 store, smaller, more independent developers could face the same frustrations they run into with the Xbox LIVE Arcade. Polytron, the indie game developer of Fez, voiced these frustrations in a twitter conversation with Minecraft developer Markus "Notch" Persson. Persson phrased the concerns well during an AMA with the Reddit Minecraft community:
"I hope we can keep a lot of open and free platforms around. If Microsoft decides to lock down Windows 8, it would be very very bad for Indie games and competition in general.
If we can keep open platforms around, there's going to be a lot of very interesting games in ten years, mixed in with the huge AAA games that we all love."
With Windows 8, Microsoft has the power to flip the PC gaming world on its head. It also has the responsibility, though, to keep the platform open enough for developers who cannot afford an app store approval process. If Microsoft does codify a console-like gaming experience into Windows 8, Newell may end up being the harbinger for a future Linux gaming boom.