Microsoft is finally getting into the PC gaming space in a big way, but they’re still pretty inexperienced, all things considered, and they have a lot to work on. Right now, if you’re buying a PC game, the Windows Store is not the place to do it. Xbox head Phil Spencer acknowledged the problems.
How to Geek outlines the problems in greater detail, but here’s the short version.
When you download a game from Steam, GOG, or EA Origin, the game downloads as an EXE file, just as Windows applications have for decades. When you download it from the Windows Store, it downloads as a UAP file, or Universal Application Platform file. So you’re literally downloading a different file. These UAP files have some limitations. They run in a protected environment, and this seems to put some barriers between the game and the hardware.
Right now, Windows Store games don’t support SLI or CrossFire. If you own two video cards, Windows Store games can only use one of them. That second water-cooled GeForce 980 Ti you just splurged on is going to sit idle.
Next, vsync is always on. In some games, this isn’t so bad, but in any game that requires precision, it’s going to be devastating. Vsync makes games look smoother, but it introduces input lag.
Third, the game always runs in what’s called Borderless Fullscreen mode. This prevents your video card and the game from fully linking up, meaning you’re not squeezing every ounce of power out of them. This is an option on other platforms, and is sometimes necessary or preferable for running a game. In Windows Store games, it’s not an option – it’s just always on.
There are some software issues, too. These files are protected, so mods will not work on them, period. Visual overlays like Fraps Steam’s overlay, and others will not work. You also won’t be able to use Fraps to record your gameplay. The Steam Controller won’t work with the game right now, either.
Oof. That’s a list of some pretty serious issues that are going to affect the most passionate gamers and the ones that likely spend the most money. They’re also issues that affect the way the game runs in a very basic way, so they’re going to be tough to ignore.
If you purchased Rise of the Tomb Raider through the Window Store, you’re already experiencing this stuff. Most users purchased that one through Steam, so likely very few are seeing it. Come April 5, though, that’s going to be a different story. The upcoming action title Quantum Break was recently announced for PC release, and all Xbox Store pre-orders get a copy of the game via the Windows Store. Further, the game is simply not available on Steam or other services. If you want to play the game on PC, you’re going through the Windows Store. The release of Quantum Break is going to highlight each of these problems.
Phil Spencer had this to say when a fan linked him to How to Geek‘s piece:
@BigMouthGamer We know lists like this include features PC gamers want to see from us, we appreciate the feedback and have plans to improve
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) February 26, 2016
Microsoft’s Director of Program Management, Mike Ybarra, made a similar promise:
@darkhand12345 SLI and Crossfire work, games just need to support it just as always. We will fix vsync.
— Mike Ybarra (@XboxQwik) February 28, 2016
Microsoft has become an incredibly responsive company in the gaming space, and it is making a big deal of its newfound interest in PC gaming, so it’s not likely these problems will linger for too long. It also puts into contrast how new the company, as it exists now at least, is to PC gaming despite being in it in different ways for at least a quarter century.
I don’t think they’ll have these fixed in time for Quantum Break‘s release, most likely, but it’s good to see Microsoft executives acknowledging the issues, instead of letting them become running jokes like they had with Microsoft’s previous gaming service, Games for Windows Live. That is, if nothing else, a demonstration of change.