Tim Sweeney renews attack on Microsoft's UWP

Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney has not been subtle in his denunciation of Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform, famously describing it as an attempt to create a “Microsoft-controlled distribution and commerce monopoly”. Despite Microsoft’s attempts to allay fears at its //Build/ conference last month, Sweeney still isn’t having a bar of the initiative.

Speaking at the GamesBeat Summit in California today, Sweeney likened Microsoft’s Windows 10 approach to Facebook. The latter platform was a lot more freewheeling back in its formative years, but has become increasingly locked down and monetised as time has passed.

“Nobody is adopting UWP except the small group of developers Microsoft is paying to do so,” he said, noting the absence of major titles like the GTA series. “It’s the same with the Windows store – it’s mostly ports of Android titles.”

Sweeney later whipped out a stunning metaphor. “If you throw a frog in boiling water, he’ll just hop out,” he said. “But if you put him in warm water and you slowly ramp up the temperature, he will not notice and he’ll be boiled. But a lot of frogs in the industry have already been boiled. Look at Facebook: Every company moved their brand presence to Facebook, sending out messages for their customers to receive. Now, you have to pay to send out your messages to people who chose to follow you. [You’ve become] a boiling frog.”

He believes that, while Microsoft has spoken about its willingness to maintain an open platform, it’s still capable of slowly nailing it down. “Microsoft has given itself the ability to force dash updates without your authorisation,” he said. “It will just update itself and you can’t do anything about it. They can change the rules of the game at any time.”

Sweeney also pointed out that most of the major breakthroughs on the PC have not been spearheaded by Microsoft, but instead by other innovators taking advantage of the open nature of the platform. 

“The GPU revolution started there, well before Microsoft adopted it. If that had relied on Microsoft initiative and Microsoft had actively blocked external drivers and apps supporting these things they didn’t approve of, it never would have happened,” he said. 

“The VR revolution that’s happening now – there’s no direct VR interface with Microsoft. If you tried to make it work with the UWP system present, it would never happen. Open platforms encourage innovation, and when you have a closed platform and a monopoly on commerce, it stifles it.”

We’ve already seen evidence that the UWP won’t be as open as we’ve come to expect: for example, “some, but not all” game mods will be accessible through the platform, on the basis of security concerns.

Shaun Prescott

Shaun Prescott is the Australian editor of PC Gamer. With over ten years experience covering the games industry, his work has appeared on GamesRadar+, TechRadar, The Guardian, PLAY Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald, and more. Specific interests include indie games, obscure Metroidvanias, speedrunning, experimental games and FPSs. He thinks Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed is an all-time classic that will receive its due critical reappraisal one day.