The world’s biggest PC video game makers aren’t very happy about Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8. Speaking with one-time Microsoft Game Studios chief, Ed Fries, at a Casual Connect earlier this week, Valve’s Gabe Newell described Microsoft’s plans as a “catastrophe.”
“Windows 8 is kind of a catastrophe for everybody in the PC space,” said Newell, “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. If that’s true, it’s going to be a good idea to have alternative to hedge against that eventuality.”
Newell says this is why Valve is pushing hard to bring its games, its Source engine, and the Steam digital distribution platform to the Linux operating system.
Is he alone in thinking that Windows 8 will be a disaster for the PC gaming industry? Blizzard’s Rob Pardo doesn’t think so. The StarCraft designer and current vice president of game design at Diablo III studio Blizzard said that he believes Microsoft’s new operating system will also be a thorn in his company’s side.
Pardo Tweeted on Wednesday, “Nice interview with Gabe Newell—‘I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space’—not awesome for Blizzard either.”
The belief in the development community is that Microsoft will make Windows 8 a closed system, an operating system that seeks to more stringently control, much in the way that Apple does with Mac OS X and the iOS platform. This would allow Microsoft to better monitor the quality of applications running on its platform, but it will also wall off the most widely used operating system in the world from myriad developers. PC game makers use Windows because of the openness of the platform and its ubiquity. If Microsoft takes that openness away, what will developers do?
Windows 8 won’t be released until October of this year, so Microsoft still has time to decide exactly how free game and application makers will be to use the system. Valve and Blizzard are, by sales and reputation, the biggest PC game makers in the world and their influence over Microsoft’s platform isn’t insignificant. If Blizzard and others follow Valve to Linux platforms, what will Microsoft do to lure them back? Will PC gaming become increasingly based on streaming and browser-based solutions?