Windows 8 is not the end of PC gaming, it’s the beginning
PC gaming is dead, or near death, or dying. These statements have been said many, many times over and yet PC gaming continues on year after year. The latest thing to be cited as the end of PC gaming is Microsoft’s completely new OS, Windows 8. Many journalists, developers, publishers – basically anyone on the internet – have taken Microsoft to task for some of the new restrictions it has placed within its operating system. However, I don’t think this is the dawn of the PC gaming apocalypse, I think this marks a new beginning and a return to greatness.
So what is it that has all of these people up in arms around Windows 8? To put it simply it’s all about control. With Windows 8, Microsoft has decided to roll out an app store similar to its main competitor Apple, and for apps to be included within this store they will need to meet a set of guidelines and be approved by Microsoft. Some of these guidelines include restrictions in terms of content. For example, apps cannot contain content rated as Mature by the ESRB or Pegi 16. It is this fact that has ignited fire among some in the world of PC gaming, citing that Microsoft is killing the open platform of Windows and robbing consumers of mature experiences. This is simply not true.
What they aren’t telling consumers, or maybe not even realizing themselves, is that the Windows Store is geared specifically for applications that want to take advantage of the new Windows 8 UI. However, Windows 8 contains a desktop just like every Windows release since 3.1 and from there you can install applications just like you always have. So, unless games like Skyrim are looking to take advantage of live tiles or swipe controls exclusive to the Windows 8 UI, they will be able to be developed, sold, installed and consumed with no interference from Microsoft whatsoever.
Some PC gaming powerhouses like Valve and Mojang have gone as far as to lobby up the possibility of abandoning Microsoft altogether. It begs the question though, if these companies are so concerned with the open platform why is it that Steam and Minecraft are available for OSX and iOS? Two of the most locked down platforms around. The guidelines and requirements to publish to Apple’s App Store are similar to those for Windows 8, including the restriction on mature content. Yet, you can buy Minecraft Pocket Edition there no problem at all. So what makes Microsoft different? I think it has to do with Microsoft wanting a cut of sales through its app store (again, just like Apple) and these companies don’t want to give up their control to gain exposure.
Windows 7 makes up almost 40 percent market share of all operating systems used in the world today. If you include older versions of Windows, Microsoft controls almost 84 percent. To put that into context, Apple only accounts for about eight percent (OSX and iOS combined). The iPhone and iPad have exposed millions of newcomers to the joys of gaming through the App Store, and now Windows can do the same on a much larger scale. And for the first time, Microsoft is making a huge effort to push people to upgrade to Windows 8, which means there is all of a sudden a lot of built-in exposure for PC gaming. This is why I think we may see a rebirth in PC gaming, because it will be readily available and easy for so many people. Hardcore gaming aficionados can still play all the titles they love and use services like Steam, but it is imperative that we don’t ostracize a whole new group of possible gaming enthusiasts just because they would prefer to use the convenience of the built-in app store.
Even the new Windows 8 UI is simple to set up to play any game you like. All you have to do is install it in desktop mode and then pin the icon to the start screen. That’s it. Now it’s as simple as clicking the tile and Windows launches it right from the desktop.
There is a lot of speculation about what Microsoft is trying to accomplish with Windows 8. People will tell you that the Windows Store represents a first step towards an environment completely controlled by Microsoft. However, I don’t think this is true. I think Microsoft is trying to create a more stable and reliable Windows experience. This has been the most publicized fault of Windows for years. The only way to guarantee these experiences is to try to control the quality of hardware and software that uses the OS and the companies that create them. This doesn’t mean a Microsoft-dominated future, just a little more stringent requirements for stability.
Windows 8 and Microsoft are trying to make gaming at home easier for everyone. They want a PC in the office, but also in the living room for streaming media and playing games. Most of all, Microsoft wants an experience that is great for all of its users. To assume the largest computer software manufacturer in the world would somehow benefit from removing the ability of brilliant companies to create applications for its operating system is crazy. It doesn’t make business sense and it certainly doesn’t make any common sense either.