Tim Sweeney: MS plans to make Steam 'progressively worse' & buggy via Win10 updates


GAF's Bob Woodward
Jun 8, 2004
So the latest issue of Edge has a pretty interesting interview with Tim Sweeney. It touches on lots of other subjects, Epic's history, Unreal Engine's business model evolution, etc. etc.

But this jumped out - it also addresses his recent warnings about Microsoft's plans for the Windows software ecosystem. He adds some more colour here...

How exactly do you think Microsoft is locking down the PC to make it a closed platform?

There are two programming interfaces for Windows and every app has to choose one of them. Every Steam app - every PC game for the past few decades - has used Win32. It's been both responsible for the vibrant software market we have now, but also for malware. Any program can be a virus. Universal Windows Platform is seen as the antidote to that. It's sandboxed - much more locked down. The risk here is that, if Microsoft convinces everyone to use UWP, then they phase out Win32 apps. 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 maneauvres. 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.

Given that Steam is so widespread and popular, how could Microsoft truly win that battle, in terms of games at least?

Slowly, over the next 5 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.

Isn't it the case that Microsoft is simply mimicking Apple's model, given how lucrative it's proven to be for software distribution?

Sure, that's the motivation. They're trying to copy Apple's model, but they realise you can't just flip a switch. It has to be achieved in small step changes.
Earlier in the interview he says

They've 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.
Though this was published in the most recent Edge, I was wondering about the age of the interview and if these thoughts were still current. Per Twitter:

Jun 8, 2010
This honestly seems like boogeyman nonsense.

MS is going to actively deter people away from one of the major reason they use Win10. Sure.
May 12, 2015
Is this the same Epic Games fellow that jumped the gun by going to the press with all the issues he had with UWP right before Build when Microsoft started talking to developers and press about how those issues were being addressed?


I am Korean.
Jul 29, 2005
After trying to run Street Fighter V and getting nothing but a stupid error code and a rather useless "fix" off Capcom's support section (Just SysWow64 everything!) on Steam, I believe Sweeney.
Nov 12, 2013
Given that Sweeney and his company are responsible for the creation of arguably the most popular game engine in history, and given Microsoft's history in regards to the PC as a gaming platform, I'm willing to give Sweeney the benefit of the doubt to an extent.

However, the way he is using the word "will" in exchange for the words "may" or "could" is a little dubious.


PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 PS4 Xbone PS4 PS4
Mar 10, 2005
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.
If they do that I will stop buying PC games. It's as simple as that.
Apr 26, 2013
This sounds like a bunch of nonsense. I don't wanna be that guy, but I was not at all an MS fan (as far as gaming) until Phil came along. When you listen to him talk, he's a real genuine dude and you can tell he wants the gaming community to succeed as a whole. I can never imagine a world where Phil would allow all this garbage Tim is speculating to actually happen.

Like whoever said it above, this is some straight chicken little type shit. MS still has a ways to go, but Phil has done a lot of fine work in earning respect from the community. He deserves to get more faith than this.
Steams running fine for me on latest insider builds if not snappier. I don't know.

But lol, I find Steam more stable then some of the Xbox UWP games I play.

#idarb takes like 5min to load on top of the extra loading animation they use on game boot up.
ROTR doesn't switch between fullscreen and windowed mode properly.
Halo Spartan Strike doesn't recognise my keyboard.

And I had these listed problems before I decided to join the insider programme
Apr 26, 2012
Victoria, BC
Steam (the client itself, not the service) has felt pretty crap for a while now to me. I mean, it works, but it feels dated as is. They did a decent job with big picture though, I think. This whole thing sounds too conspiracy for me, but even if MS were to gradually destroy it, it might make Valve do something with their piles of money for once.
Dec 15, 2011
People joke about this,but MS did this on the past, so is not rare for them to try again.
Unless they manage to magically only disable Steam and every game on PC, this would break EVERY Win32 application and destroy the point of Windows backwards compatibility.

Is Microsoft really going to massively upend its business customers and prevent customers from running programs like Office, Visual Studio, Photoshop and Maya?

Wouldn't a move like that kill MS' complete B2B operation?
Nov 13, 2013
Which other competitors is he talking about?
I mean, I could see this happening since MS would love everybody to use UWA. But I can't see how they will phase out Win32 in only 5 years.
Dec 5, 2008
Regina SK Canada
Like whoever said it above, this is some straight chicken little type shit. MS still has a ways to go, but Phil has done a lot of fine work in earning respect from the community. He deserves to get more faith than this.
They have tons of ways to go and they don't deserve faith because they have did similar things in the past. I don't believe they are doing this exact thing but MS has to earn the faith and so far they haven't.
Nov 9, 2012
I think the immediate danger of this is vastly overstated, but the long term effects of Microsoft attempting to go more vertical with their software delivery structure can't be ignored. They see successful models out there where companies like Apple, Google, and Valve are making money hand over fist by taking greater than retail chunks out of the software pie, and they want in. Hard to blame them really, but the end result may be that Windows becomes less friendly to alternative software distribution at some point on the horizon.

Valve is trying and failing to improve the environment for software developers on Linux, but if Vulkan takes off they may have better luck. That seems to be the only viable alternative to Microsoft at this point, and modern Linux desktops are pretty polished these days. There's still a long way to go before driver and hardware compatibility can compete, but I'd love to be able to wave goodbye to Windows and switch over to Linux Mint full time.
Jun 20, 2010
Its weird how so many people seem to push back against this when it seems fairly obvious. Its what any public trading company would do in microsoft's position and I have little doubt it is also what microsoft will try to do. And hopefully fail, naturally.