Update: Thanks to everyone who’s pointed out the inaccuracies in this article. Instead of retracting this article entirely, Johanna has clarified some of her statements in a post.
The PC Master Race is facing a threat from Microsoft, a threat that both Valve’s Gabe Newell and Blizzard’s Rob Pardo have spoken out against. The threat is Windows 8. Earlier this week, Newell spoke at videogame conference Casual Connect, where he said Windows 8 was a, “a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space.” He went on to say, “I think that we’re going to lose some of the top-tier PC [original equipment manufacturers]. They’ll exit the market. I think margins are going to be destroyed for a bunch of people.” Pardo (Executive Vice President of Game Design) responded by tweeting, “nice interview with Gabe Newell—‘I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space*– not awesome for Blizzard either”.
Newell explained that he was trying to make Steam and Valve’s games compatible with Linux, as a way to make alternatives in case Windows 8 becomes a reality. But why is Windows 8 such a problem for developers and distributors of PC games (or everyone, for that matter)?
Former executive of Palm and Apple Michael Mace wrote a very thorough analysis of Windows 8 on his blog, Mobile Opportunity. He states:
From a user perspective, Microsoft Windows is being killed this fall and replaced by an entirely new OS that has a Windows 7 emulator tacked onto it… It combines an interesting new interface with baffling changes to Windows compatibility, and amateur mistakes in customer messaging. Add up all the changes, and I am very worried that Microsoft may be about to shoot itself in the foot spectacularly. Even the plain colorful graphics in Windows 8 that looked so cool when I first saw them are starting to look ominous to me, like the hotel decor in The Shining.
Windows 8 uses an interface known as “Metro”, which turns everything into an app. Windows 8 is trying so hard to be a tablet-compatible UI that it undermines itself. Business Insider writes:
Worst of all, the traditional desktop is buried — it’s just another Metro app — but there are still some things you can only do from the desktop, and some only from Metro. That means you have to switch between the two interfaces frequently. That’s not nearly as smooth as it should be.
This means that programs like Steam won’t be able to run on Windows 8 without turning itself into a Metro-friendly application. Furthermore, all of the applications will be full-screen, although you can adjust them to 1/3rd or 2/3rd of the screen, which isn’t really an improvement—forget about moving a window out of the way to view another, and forget about the Start button: there isn’t one, not even on the desktop. And for those of you with battle stations: Windows 8 doesn’t currently support multi-monitors, so forget about playing a game on one screen while browsing online on the other. One screen has to be devoted to Metro at all times.
In short, the primary issue with Windows 8 is that it’s not designed for PCs. It’s meant to be used with tablets, and then only Windows 8 compatible tablets (if you have a Vista-based system, you’re out of luck). Microsoft won’t even allow you to simply test the OS out and decide later—you can’t remove Windows 8 after you’ve installed it. You need to have the original installation disks that came with your computer and risk wiping your hard drive to do a new install from scratch.
Imagine, then, being a developer like Valve or EA that have programs like Steam or Origin, trying to decide whether they should invest the time and money into figuring out how to get their program to work with what is essentially a mentally disabled iPad in a PC’s body, especially when the future of the program is extremely uncertain.