A few months ago, Tim Sweeney, co-founder of Epic Games, the studio behind the Gears of War and Unreal franchises, was in the news for criticising Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP).
UWP is a programming application for Windows 10 developers that lets them create a single version of software to run across all Windows devices including PCs, smartphones, tablets, and the Xbox One.
"Microsoft has launched new PC Windows features exclusively in UWP, and is effectively telling developers you can use these Windows features only if you submit to the control of our locked-down UWP ecosystem," he wrote in the Guardian at the time. "They're curtailing users' freedom to install full-featured PC software, and subverting the rights of developers and publishers to maintain a direct relationship with their customers."
Now Sweeney alleges that Microsoft plans to make Steam - the world's largest PC gaming platform, "progressively worse and more broken."
"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 seem 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 are certainly trying," Sweeney said in an interview with Edge Magazine (via NeoGAF).
Sweeney says the outcome of this would be forcing every app and game to be sold through the Windows Store alone.
"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," he claims.
Early on in the interview he says that Microsoft has been "able to [start] this via some sneaky PR moves. They make a bunch of statements that sound vaguely like they're promising openness but really they're not promising anything of the sort."
This isn't the first time Microsoft has run afoul of PC game developers. When Windows 8 was launched, Valve's Gabe Newell referred to it as "this giant sadness" while its Games for Windows Live service was seen as an abomination by both consumers and game makers alike.
If Sweeney's allegations are true, it means that PC gaming as we know it, in its current form will cease to exist over time, giving Microsoft a monopoly in terms of digital distribution and commerce much like how Apple's App Store operates. This would mean flexibility and choice - two of the biggest reasons for gamers to flock to the PC as a gaming platform, as well user generated content or mods as they're known would have no place in Microsoft's scheme of things.
All of this is perhaps indicative of how troubled the dialogue between the company and its development partners has become. More so when you consider that Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive Gears of War 4, which runs on Epic's Unreal Engine 4, is one of the year's most anticipated games.