How many of you have heard of the Microsoft Store? I don’t mean a physical retail location like the Apple Stores. I mean a digital store. If Steam’s operating system stats for its users are to be believed, about 34% of you might have heard of it since the Microsoft Store is only available to Windows 10 users.
I bring this up in the wake of the recent announcement that Microsoft is launching Quantum Break on PC alongside Xbox One. While Quantum Break will be the first game in Microsoft’s own renewed push towards making Windows a prominent gaming platform, the vast majority of PC gamers won’t be able to play it. That’s because Quantum Break won’t be coming to Steam but will be a Microsoft Store exclusive.
Microsoft’s choice to launch Quantum Break as a console exclusive rather than an Xbox One exclusive was at first heralded as good news. After all, bringing Quantum Break to PC meant that the game would be opened up to more gamers. I thought it was good news at first considering that I don’t have an Xbox One and am not in a rush to break my budget for one.
The problem is that exclusives exist on PC too. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s a statement of fact. Some games are exclusive to Steam, Origin, GOG or Uplay. Most games are purchased or unlocked on Steam but they’re still Steam exclusives if that’s the only place you can buy or play them, though that’s exceedingly rare now. Really, EA and Origin is the only home to PC exclusives and that’s for EA’s PC releases.
Granted, it’s not like locking the game to Windows 10 is directly Microsoft’s doing. The PC version of the game is built on DirectX 12 which is only on Windows 10. I’m sure possible for Microsoft to ask Remedy to make the game DirectX 11 compatible but I’m also not a programmer. How ingrained DirectX 12 is in the final product for console isn’t my field of expertise. Mine is financial and business analysis.
Putting Quantum Break only on the Microsoft Store is another matter. How hard would it have been to put it on Steam with a caveat that the game is only compatible with Windows 10? It would be like Fallout 3’s store page saying it’s not compatible with Windows 7. Apparently, that’s not in the cards for Microsoft for Quantum Break.
So how is Microsoft trying to launch Quantum Break on their store a bad idea? Well, they’re cutting out a large portion of the potential user base by trying to force people onto their new operating system. They’ve tried this before and it failed. For the launch of Windows Vista, Microsoft pushed Halo 2 as an operating system exclusive. VG Chartz estimates less than 100,000 copies were sold on PC compared to 8.5 million on Xbox. Suffice to say, Halo 2 on PC was a flop.
The other problem is that anecdotal evidence suggests that the Microsoft Store isn’t quite up to snuff yet. Customer reviews indicate that there are some issues with resolution, various NVIDIA functions and some peripherals. While every new service will inevitably go through teething problems, nobody wants to be the guinea pig for the Microsoft Store as a gaming client. Origin is only now starting to win support back after its early issues.
EA succeeded in driving people to Origin because they put franchises on there, not new games. I jumped aboard Origin for Mass Effect 3. Others went for Battlefield 4. Quantum Break has nothing but a bunch of pretty trailers to sell it. Maybe it’ll be the best game of 2016 but I’m not sure that’ll drive PC gamers to a new operating system and an unproven gaming client.
And these are the most basic of issues that gamers could have with the Microsoft Store. We don’t know about sales, social features, refunds, tech support and the other little add-ons to Steam, GOG and Origin that lead gamers to them.
If Microsoft announces the sales figures for Quantum Break on PC, I don’t think it’ll necessarily be a reflection of the game’s success but indicative of the future of the Microsoft Store as a PC gaming platform. Success for the Microsoft Store is good for all gamers because competition should benefit us all in the end. I’m just not seeing many signs that make me feel good about it.