The Windows Store still sucks

Even after the new Creator's Update, Microsoft's digital storefront is a mess.

The Windows 10 Creators Update rolled out last week, and for the most part, we're pretty happy with it. There's a nice new Night Light setting that adjusts color temperature at different times of day to help reduce eye strain, troubleshooters and security features have all been moved into central hubs, and though we haven't had a chance to extensively test it yet, Game Mode is a promising new feature that could potentially help players on lower-spec systems. 

But there's one area of the update that really let us down: the Windows Store. To be clear, the Creators Update didn't really change anything about the Windows Store—but that's the problem. The Windows Store is still a mess.

First off, the Store UI is downright abysmal. The store homepage is a hodgepodge of apps, movies and albums, and assorted games (mostly Microsoft-published). There's nothing to help distinguish a big game like Rise of the Tomb Raider from a free slot machine app or a pop music album on the homepage.

The games section isn't much better, with little obvious curation and no good way to browse for games. There's a list of genres at the bottom of the page, but once you click one you're lost in a sea of crappy mobile ports that make the games we'd actually want to play difficult to find. The "Top Paid" section of the Games storefront seems to offer the most useful offerings, but even then Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3 sit alongside the likes of Bejeweled Live, a $3 Wheel of Fortune game, and an assortment of cartoony "Toca Life" apps.

Seriously, what is this mix?

Even worse, the Windows Store has a track record of glitchy behavior. In a recent NeoGAF thread about the Windows Store, many users reported various download issues—the most egregious being that large downloads would restart from zero if they disconnected or encountered an error. One poster said a download of Forza Horizon 3 ran into a hitch with 49GB out of the total 52GB download completed. Instead of picking up where it left off, the whole thing restarted from the beginning. We weren't able to replicate the issue ourselves, but we had other issues in the past getting games to download—in one case, we needed to upgrade to the Windows 10 Anniversary update, but the store didn't give us that information. Enough users have reported downloads timing out and starting over that we trust it's more than an isolated incident.

Given that the whole Creators Update is focused on, well, creators, it would have been nice to see Microsoft give them some support in the form of a functional place to sell their creations. We love Steam, but competition can be a good thing—GOG devotes more attention to older games than Steam, and its Galaxy client lets you roll back game patches to earlier builds, a great feature Steam still lacks. A better Windows Store would benefit everyone. Instead, we got the introduction of digital books and a Dolby Atmos app in the store (seriously, that's what Microsoft highlighted as "What's new in the Windows Store with the Creators Update).

I'm not suggesting the Windows Store is or even should be a replacement for digital storefronts like Steam or GOG. If recent Microsoft-published games like Halo Wars and Voodoo Vince getting released on Steam indicate a trend, maybe the Windows Store's days are numbered. But if Microsoft is still committed to the store, it would be nice to have some actual useful functionality in a thing that comes pre-loaded on our machines—especially if we're forced to use it for UWP games like Forza and Halo for the foreseeable future.

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