Windows Store Has Terrible Support for Games & Microsoft Needs To Fix It
Microsoft is finally pushing AAA games on its Windows Store. Rise of the Tomb Raider, released just a couple of weeks ago, is just the first one in a list that will certainly grow over time as Microsoft is trying to build a solid competitor to Valve's Steam, as complicated as that may be.
More competition in any market is always good for customers. However, right now the games published on Windows Store have so many issues that gamers are already being scared off the platform.
Let's take Rise of the Tomb Raider as an example. The Windows Store version of the game is an app built with the Universal Windows Platform, an app architecture first introduced with Windows 10. The main goal of the UWP (designed as an extension of Windows Runtime) is to allow developers to create applications that can run on multiple devices such as PC, phones, tablets or even Xbox One; this obviously fits Microsoft's overall strategy about a larger, interconnected Windows ecosystem.
The big problem is that UWP apps have severe limitations right now when it comes to gaming. For instance, there is no way to enable Exclusive Fullscreen mode as Borderless Fullscreen is enforced. While the latter mode is useful to go back easily to Windows via Alt-Tab, it should be an option (just like in every PC game) rather than an obligation, mostly because it brings certain disadvantages.
Borderless Fullscreen mode generally brings a slight performance loss, for starters, and more importantly it enforces V-Sync; Nixxes, the studio responsible for the PC version of Rise of the Tomb Raider, confirmed that there is currently no way to prevent this in the UWP framework.
Enforcing V-Sync brings another share of issues to the table. Again, this should be an option rather than an obligation as in any PC game; V-Sync introduces input lag, as most of you already know, and there are better options nowadays to prevent tearing. For instance, NVIDIA's GSYNC cannot be enabled as long as V-Sync is enforced, and people have paid a significant premium when they bought their displays specifically to use GSYNC.
There's more, anyway. NVIDIA SLI & AMD CrossFire aren't supported, much to the dismay of those of you who own multiple discrete GPUs; there is no compatibility with several overlay programs either, such as Afterburner, FRAPS and even the popular post-processing injector ReShade. Finally, downloads are inexplicably slow and even patches are being rolled with a substantial delay (maybe Microsoft is running them through some kind of certification, though this is just a guess).
It's important to note that the blame rests squarely on Microsoft and the limitations imposed by the UWP framework. In fact, the Steam version of Rise of the Tomb Raider suffers from none of the aforementioned issues.
While PC gamers can just choose to get the latest adventure of Lara Croft on Valve's Steam, this will not be possible for Quantum Break (recently confirmed to be launching on PC as well on April 5): Aaron Greenberg, Head of Marketing at Xbox, confirmed during the latest Major Nelson podcast that Quantum Break will be a Windows Store exclusive.
Clearly, Microsoft intends for Quantum Break to be a killer application for Windows 10 and its Store. I don't blame them for doing so at all, it's only sound business sense. However, they do need to fix the issues listed in this article if they want to be taken seriously in their effort of regaining the trust of PC gamers.
They are evidently getting serious about supporting PC gaming in terms of lineup, with ReCore, Fable Legends, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Quantum Break, Halo Wars 2, Killer Instinct and Sea of Thieves all scheduled to release this year. Throwing all of that away because of a lousy development platform would be naive of them and disappointing for us.
Besides, it would be a true shame for those who own a 4K display not to be able to witness Quantum Break (the first DX12 only game) at its best graphics quality with smooth gameplay, and we'll very much need technologies like GSYNC and SLI/CrossFire for that purpose.