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Could Microsoft Vaporize Steam?

Microsoft's new Universal Windows Platform has been the technology giant's primary focus for a while now. Microsoft has been lobbying extremely hard to extend their technology domination from just the living room to the whole entire house. They want to extend their OS to cover gaming, entertainment, appliances, everything. Their transparent efforts to strongarm other companies out of a chance in the tech market have not gone without criticism, and Epic co-founder Tim Sweeney has come out about his main concerns, ones that are justifiably grim and potentially damaging. Sweeney is worried that Microsoft will gradually make Steam a more difficult platform to use so people will switch from Win32 apps (which is the entirety of Steam and its games) to UWP games, which are only available in the Microsoft Store. His primary concern is that Microsoft will turn the PC gaming market into a closed one; one that Microsoft will very quickly monopolize.

Every PC game for the last few decades has used Win32, and Sweeney explained that although it's responsible for the major PC gaming boom, it's also responsible for malware and viruses. UWP programs are sandboxed and is therefore much less susceptible to breaches of code and other malicious programming. He explained that Microsoft could use this as a drawing point and base this whole takeover off of a few benefits. Microsoft could slowly patch Windows 10 to progressively break Steam. Yes, actually break it. Although Microsoft probably won't break Steam in its entirety, they could break it enough to make the average gamer switch over to the Microsoft Store to purchase and play their games. At the same time, they would become the only source for releasing PC games and the only source to play them, therefore dominating the market.

Microsoft is no stranger to this type of behavior, and although the company claims that the purpose of UWP is not to phase out Win32 and Steam, it seems pretty obvious that it's a potential future intention. Microsoft is definitely trying to give themselves a sort of clean slate here - an attempt to become the future of technology and rake in a lot of dough in doing so. Phasing out Win32 and strongarming Steam out of commission wouldn't exactly be out-of-character for them. Although the company is going through what is, essentially, a renaissance, it's beginning to take a turn for the greedy. The idea of a universal platform to do everything certainly isn't a bad one, but Microsoft seems to be running the wrong way with it. Things like Xbox Play Anywhere and turning the Xbox One into more of an entertainment platform feels a little forced. What Microsoft is doing certainly isn't necessary, and there's really only one motivation behind it all: Money.

Of course the motivation is money, Microsoft is a company! Money matters more than anything when you're running a business. Money keeps the world afloat. Microsoft is getting a little carried away, however. Their attempts at dominating every technology market flounder, and this comes as no surprise. With the Xbox One S and their new streaming applications, they will most likely attempt to boot the likes of Netflix and Hulu out of the game, which will certainly not happen. They have also attempted to keep Windows 10 users away from Firefox and Chrome, because Edge certainly didn't take off. The Microsoft Store is a pretty lukewarm alternative to Steam, and I know I've never even touched it on my PC. Steam is a much more useful alternative, from its user interface to massive library of titles. If you ask anyone how they choose to use PC gaming, chances are not a lot of people are going to exuberantly exclaim "The Microsoft Store!" just like not a lot of people are going to say "EDGE!!!" when you ask them how they browse the web. Edge's demographic is bored housewives who go to use Facebook and Instagram and use the internet for absolutely nothing else. The bored housewife demographic is pretty slim on Windows 10 as well, considering most of them probably still use XP. "Hey, honey, the computer is telling me it doesn't get supported by Microsoft anymore and hasn't since 2014!"

Microsoft has a lot of control over your gaming experience if you are a PC gamer. Think about how behind Microsoft is in terms of programs. Edge is a very suboptimal internet browser, with Firefox and Chrome miles ahead of it in terms of speed, features; anything, really. I'm actually looking through my Windows applications now and none of them are useful; news, weather, mail? I've never touched these programs in my entire life and probably never will. I could easily just look at another news website that runs a lot faster and seems a lot more coherent than whatever Microsoft is throwing at me. Why on Earth would I ever switch to something else? Well, if my dependable programs started running slower and started crashing and Microsoft's didn't, I would switch over. Win32 programs are pretty much at the mercy of Microsoft; while browsers are definitely still at risk, the PC gaming market is ripe for a coup d'état by Microsoft. If they feel like they aren't making enough money and there's a lot more to be made in the PC gaming market, I definitely think they will render Win32 defective.

The technology giant has tried really hard to assert that this isn't their intention, and that side-loading applications and Xbox Play Anywhere are reasons why UWP aren't going to be a takeover front for the company. Microsoft can keep this facade up for as long as they need to, however, until Steam is a fundamentally broken system on Windows 10. Microsoft could easily take away side-loading at any moment and I really wouldn't be surprised if they chose to do so. There's a lot of money to be made out of the PC gaming market and it's all at the mercy of Microsoft. They have a lot of power, and considering how far they have extended their free upgrade system for Windows 10 they obviously want to get as many people on that OS as possible before they take over. It sounds like a bit of a conspiracy theory to say that, but Sweeney has said that he fears that Microsoft doesn't view it as your PC; it's their PC, and I can't say I disagree with him.

As most of us know, Microsoft is surely used to dominating the market, and now that they are starting to heavily lag behind I wouldn't put it past them to do something about it. They don't have to play catch-up in order to get ahead in the PC gaming market; if they slow down everyone else to be behind them, then that puts them ahead by default. There doesn't need to be any effort made here, they just need to break everything that doesn't get them a fat wad of cash, and heavily advertise everything that does bring in revenue. Although nothing significant has happened yet, cautions should be taken and preparations should ensue. Nothing has happened so far, but that doesn't mean the possibility of Microsoft screwing over every PC gamer isn't in the cards.

After all, if you were running a race and everyone except you had anvils tied to their stomachs, wouldn't you jump for joy at how easily you were going to win?
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