You're Being Lied To: Windows 8 Is Not That Bad For Gaming

Windows 8 is a threat to computer gaming. It's a "catastrophe" if you listen to Gabe Newell at Valve, or heads at a bunch of other major gaming companies. But the thing is, even though everyone in video games is yelling about Windows 8, they're not actually yelling about, well, gaming.

So what's actually going on here?

Metro Complaints

Let's start with Gabe Newell, the co-founder and boss at Valve, which owns the megapopular game distribution platform Steam. A few weeks back, he unleashed a polemic about Windows 8. He called it a "catastrophe for everyone in the PC space." Blizzard (Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo) and Notch of Mojang (Minecraft) piled on.

This gave voice to a lot of the concerns that people who haven't had a chance to use Windows 8 have had. But it also wasn't about really about playing video games, either. Mainly, it's been about Metro. Newell said of the new interface, "I think that they will basically rage quit computing after they use it. Things that used to be incredibly simple are now very complicated and hard." Which is, of course, not true at all.

Metro is mostly optional; you can revert to the familiar desktop at any time. Your Steam apps will work exactly the same as they always have. Were you really going through your file hierarchy in the Start Menu and selecting your Steam games like that? Or were you using shortcuts, or just launching through Steam? Because you can still do that. Windows 8 Doesn't change that. Or you can just press the Start key, and type out the first few letters of a game's name, just like the old Start Menu. Then press enter. Not much has changed.

They put my game in Accessories but I wanted it in Program Files and I can't believe that they cut my sandwich into squares when I specifically asked for triangles. And so on.

And for actually getting down to gaming? I mean, can we talk about that? Things run better on Windows 8. It's easier and lighter on hardware than Windows 7. Launching apps is basically no different, and in some ways easier. The start screen takes getting used to, yes, but in no way affects gamers while they are playing games. It seems tantamount to killing a restaurant that's making all of your favourite dishes better than ever because it hired a new maître d' who doesn't have his shit totally together.

Certified and the Windows Store

The more valid complaint is that Microsoft's policies and charges for certifying games has been prohibitively expensive. Additionally, people like Notch are worried that the arrival of the Windows store will mean heavy regulations that will negatively affect indie developers.

But how? Sandboxing, one of the more controversial parts of the walled garden approach Apple and Microsoft seem to be taking with desktop apps, doesn't really affect games in the same way it does general apps, since games don't require deep permissions as do-it-app apps.

Here's the key point to Metro apps and games: They're dirt simple for you, the user.

That matters. It matters a lot. Microsoft's ideal world isn't just a unified UI experience, but a frictionless marketplace for the entire platform. You know how Apple makes billions and billions and billions of dollars because its marketplace is so easy to use? And how its developers make way, way, way more money than other platforms' developers because of that? Yeah.

And forget certification and backend stuff and all the inside baseball stuff that we get bogged down in so often. Sure, that stuff has a real, tangible effect on the quality of games, but let's, for a minute, assume that a multi-billion-dollar industry won't just start shitting its pants all over the place and forget how to make good content because of a certification process.

So What We Are Really Talking About

So what's all this really about? Distribution. By creating a Windows Store that lets you buy and store all of your software in one place, Microsoft is moving in on Valve's territory in a big way. And everyone else seems worried that that will also mean Microsoft forcing them to live on that same, misappropriated territory.

Make no mistake: Valve and Blizzard and all the rest of the suddenly unsettled game companies don't give one good goddamn about Metro, or how it affects your day-to-days. They know you're not going anywhere. You didn't after Vista broke your computers, and you won't when Metro rearranges the furniture.

Valve's got even more at stake than you might realize; earlier this month, it announced its intention to start selling non-game apps in Steam. Which is great, except that the Windows Store is moving in on that front — and games too. Blizzard's disapproval has been a little overblown, but even just going on Executive VP of Game Design Rob Pardo's tweet agreeing with Newell, Blizzard has a deep interest in distribution as well, holding its games out of services like Steam, Origin, and the Mac App store.

But these aren't stupid people or companies. Valve and Blizzard are a lot of things, but they aren't stupid, or careless, most times. This isn't just blind, unthinking lashing out. It's something else.

It's fear.

See, this is Microsoft we're talking about. The gaming industry was able to mostly ignore the Mac App Store — with its sandboxing and 30 per cent cut — picking up traction with "newer" titles like Call of Duty 4 and RAGE, because lol gaming on a Mac. Didn't they just get DOOM 3 last month or something? But gaming on Windows? Uh oh. That's looks a lot more like the Microsoft that's been (mostly) kicking Sony and Nintendo's asses up and down the block for the better part of a decade. Microsoft knows gaming, and everyone else knows that it knows. So all this bemoaning Metro before the general public even gets its hands on Windows 8? Pre-emptive carpet bombing.

The list of who isn't complaining about the catastrophe of Windows 8 is telling: Razer, Nvidia, AMD, and pretty much anyone else who isn't heavily vested in distribution. It seems like those companies would have as much to lose as anyone if they really thought that Windows 8 would deeply damage PC gaming. And yet, nothing.

Why Do We Care?

A few weeks ago, Grantland's Jay Caspian Kang wrote an oppressively smart piece about sports fans' illogical personification of their teams' owners' bank accounts as their own. That, in the dog pile of following all of the minutia of the modern 24-hour sports cycle, we have come to internalize our teams' financial situations instead of just saying, "Give me the best team possible; I don't care what it costs you."

That mindset is clearly not limited to sports.

It makes perfect sense that companies would be worried about a Windows platform that is also a marketplace. You don't just buy games for Xbox, you can buy games from Xbox. And it's great. Apply that same method to the PC, and everyone who's been working as middlemen, or methodically avoiding them, should rightly be nervous.

But that doesn't affect you. It won't affect the stuff you buy, just the bottom lines of the companies that make it. And sure, AAA games are about budget, but companies are already paying Steam for distribution. This scuffle is just about who gets to collect the vig.

The really great games have always been about ideas. And Apple's model has already proven that creative indie developers can thrive in a relatively closed, curated, first party distribution environment. Microsoft just needs to iron out a few issues to follow suit. And anyway, there's no indication that Microsoft even intends to close off competitors. It's got a mixed history when it comes to open platforms, but blindly assuming it's going to happen is wrongheaded.

So no, Windows 8 is not bad for gaming. Unless you're trying to distribute video games.

* Shut up. The UI is called Metro until Microsoft makes up its damn mind.


Comments

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    As someone who used the previews, it wasn't that bad exactly, in fact I found a few games ran better. That said, on a desktop having the whole start screen take over your computer, along with several apps, it's entirely frustrating. If I put Windows 8 on my desktop at all, chances are I'd have to modify the UI and default apps to remove/reduce the damage Modern UI does.

      What's so frustrating about the Start Screen? I find it far less frustrating than Win7's Start Menu and I love how customisable it is. The Modern UI damages nothing and actually improves some things. e.g. It seems obvious that the Charms Bar will eventually replace the System Tray and I already find it a better place to do those things. I'd miss the icons in the tray itself but not the stupid pop-ups.

        I really don't understand your hatred of Windows 7's start menu. Functionally it's exactly the same as it's always been with some added usability of being able to pin shortcuts to it. It's just that it doesn't expand constantly as you go deeper into the folder structure which I believe is a good thing. All of my shortcuts are tucked away in there out of sight, and that's the way I prefer to do things, not have icons cluttering my desktop and taskbar and taking up screen real estate, so I get the feeling I won't like Metro's basic design very much.

          No, it's not. It hides stuff behind the "All Programs" menu and nests them in at least one more layer of folders, making you go deeper to find things than you used to in XP. It also constrains it to a teeny-weeny little windows that means you also have to scroll furiously to find things. It's OK for pinned applications but if you need to look up a help document or something, it can be infuriating. OTOH, with earlier versions of Windows you could generally see everything at once and navigate to the thing you want much more efficiently. Win8 takes that even further, with just two levels of icons to navigate - the main Start Screen and All Apps - and it gives yo ua lot more control over what goes where.
          Before Vista/Win7, I never used to have desktop shortcuts or pinned icons on my Taskbar but I found it absolutely necessary when I started using Vista. Now I've made my own Rainmeter skin that does so much more than any of it, I don't really care but I still hate the Win7 Start Menu for making me go to such lengths.

    I am so confused Giz, one minute you are saying its rubbish for gaming and the next your saying we are being lied to. Who is lying to us here ? I understand you are all different reporters with different opinions but you wouldn't expect rolling stone for example to say on one page that Madonna is beautiful and on the next to have skanky drunken photos of her.

      Absolutely agree. It makes it seem like there is absolutely zero discussion between each author and no consensus on where the site is going. It makes it seem like these posts should appear on the individuals blogs,not Gizmodo's given they can't clearly both represent the view of the organisation (unless it doesn't have one, which if not the case should probably be more clearly stated).

        So what's the alternative? Decide on a position and get accused, quite rightly, of bias? I think it's great that they are happy to present both sides of a discussion and remain as neutral as they can.

          Present the article as the authors opinion more clearly, something which is easy to do. Instead you have two articles that plainly contradict one another that don't make a particular effort to distant the contant from Gizmodo and paint it as an opinion piece of the author. It doesn't help when you have one such as this which has (the very Gizmodo like) sensationalist heading "You're being lied to" when Gizmodo only days earlier was saying the exact same thing. As the post before me mentioned, many publications present a consistent view across authors.

          They often have articles where five or six people are asked the same question and express a view. It is clear whose view it is and it would work a heck of a lot better than two contradicting articles written in this manner. This approach they chose save them from bias either.

          Heck, another approach would be to put the two views in the one article rather than each article pretending the other doesn't exist. It doesn't look like they are accommodating multiple angles at all, rather their staff aren't talking about who is writing what.

          You can only present both sides of a discussion in the one article, if you do one article saying one thing and then a separate article saying the opposite you are actually saying that both points are correct, which in some cases may be true but in this case can not be. Windows 8 can either be good for gaming or not be good for gaming, it can't be both. Many people here read these articles to obtain information that will help them in decisions on purchasing products, if a person reads in an article that windows 8 is not good for gaming and does nor see a later article that it is, that is what they will believe. I think the point is that the journalists need to investigate the subject more thoroughly before publishing there reports.

          THIS^ why is having two different opinions bad? i will sometimes go to Fox News, just to get a taste of what the crazies are hearing, just because it makes me think about my own beliefs.

    Yeah, having used the RTM Windows 8.. the Start screen system isn't any worse to use than Windows 7 was (if you mainly play games).
    Windows 7 Method A: Click system tray Steam icon, click library, click game, click play.. game is now playing.
    Windows 8 Method A: Click Steam tile, click library, click game, click play. Game is now playing.
    Winner: Same number of clicks, so I say Windows 8 wins this one, it's faster to click a large square tile on the Start screen than the small one in the system tray.

    Windows 7 Method B:
    Double Click game icon on Desktop. Game is now playing.
    Windows 8 Method B:
    Single Click game tile on Start screen. Game is now playing.
    Winner: Gonna have to go with Win 8 on this one too. Less clicks. =D

    I think the article is spot on. It's not about usability, it's about the Windows app store.

    One thing I can think of that will be impacted is Blizzards Warden program that monitors for cheating etc.. that's probably going to be harder to get working with Metro games (but they can still launch it as a desktop unsandboxed process.. so might be fine still?)

      @D
      "One thing I can think of that will be impacted is Blizzards Warden program"

      As Metro apps are signed and can't be modified from the published version doesn't this preclude any cheats being side loaded? Unless Microsoft approve and publish the cheat version? Then Blizzard has visibility of this anyway and just blocks that version.

      Or am I wrong?

      "Windows 7 Method B:
      Double Click game icon on Desktop. Game is now playing.
      Windows 8 Method B:
      Single Click game tile on Start screen. Game is now playing.
      Winner: Gonna have to go with Win 8 on this one too. Less clicks. =D"

      Unless you've set Windows 7 to open applications with single click, which you've been able to do since Windows 98.

        True.. so.. No winner on that point, but at least win 8 isn't worse ;)

        Single click on start screen if you've set it up that way...setting up everything in Win8 requires a bit more work than Win7, so gonna have to go with Win7 for overall less clicks.

      In a steam windows 8 method you could display all your installed titles within a tile, then just click once on the game you want.

    From what I've heard windows 8 is just a service pack for windows 7 with a shitty square interface. I heard from a friend that they have now locked the feature where you can go to desktop view and it is now metro only.

      You're friend is wrong.

        lol I was literally going to type that. There is no way they would ever do that. Cheers

      Well then your friend doesn't know what he's talking about. Firstly it is not a service pack, its a new version, and secondly you can still switch over and use the desktop interface, the only difference is that Windows boots into the 'Metro' interface which is just a glorified start menu. From there you can switch to the good old desktop.

      No....I am using Desktop view right now. You and your friend are misinformed. There is a cut down tablet version (RT) of Windows 8 that is just metro. There are some big improvements to the underlying code so no it is not just a service pack. Why don't you do some research on it rather than just believe what some dude tells you? Start here > http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/

        Windows RT has access to the desktop as well, just not desktop apps. It's mostly for file management and the control panel I think.

        Windows RT definitely has the desktop still. The main difference between RT and the full Windows 8 is RT cannot run old-style applications, everything has to be delivered to it via the App Store.

        Basically think of RT as being iOS to Win8's OSX.

    I will not be getting Windows 8 simply because its a touch screen tablet os not a Desktop OS. Windows 7 ftw

      Than you will be missing out on many good features and improvements for no other reason than being too stubborn to change. I use Win8 everyday on Desktop and i reckon i spend about 10 seconds of my day in Metro

      I partially agree with you in the sense that I don't like the idea of a touch screen oriented/style being imposed on my desktop PC. I am not a fan of the tablet style environment primarily because I do IT support for the PC's at my work place that is running XP on most machines and 7 on others.

        Nothing is imposed on anyone. Every single desktop feature from Windows 7 remains in Windows 8. It's just that, once again, they have fiddled with the Start Menu because their user feedback indicated that it wasn't being used very much in Win7 (because the Start Menu in Win7 blows goats).

          "Nothing is imposed on anyone."

          Nothing except the Metro UI.

          "Every single desktop feature from Windows 7 remains in Windows 8."

          Every single feature except the start menu.

            You can enable the classic start menu, you don't have to use the Metro UI. You can switch BACK to classic desktop mode. Nothing is being imposed on you.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    Well, I'm not particularly interested in providing a list of installed files and dependencies to Microsoft by using Windows 8. We're way past the App Store "problem" now. My operating system is not allowed to invade my privacy any more than it already has.

      What on Earth are you talking about? MS have been collecting data on how we all use our PCs for years now. Go and read the MSDN blogs and you'll see just how intimately hey know how we use our PCs. Surely it is the best way to make Windows better?

        Unless you're up too something sus, it shouldn't be a problem. Most of these set-ups are put in place to protect the average user - your mum, dad, grandparents etc. We all may be computer literate, but alot of people are just starting to learn, or don't really use tech that much. The fact is we'll be able to customise the OS, just as we always have. User data has always been collected by most companies, and there are always options to turn it off.

          *not an personal insinuation...

          Also, it's also an matter of fact that alot of people using the net, can't tell the differenc between something that you should click, and something that you shouldn't - I'm sure everyone would know people like that. I've seen many people who go to an site, and think all the advertistments and extra crap on the sides, is part of the site, and also can't tell the difference between an real site and an imitation or copycat site, or an site that is just plain suspect from the start! And the rest of us can just turn such options off.

    Great article. Cut through the crap - PS see my comment in your valve CEO story with the same conclusion week ago:P

    I'm not going to get Windows 8 simply because it offers me nothing that I want - and I already get everything that I want out of Windows 7. Simply no need for me.

      Same.

    I'm reverting back to 98, I hear it's 12.25x better...

      i think you are missing out on a great opportunity to switch to dos, it is so much faster not having to run a GUI + you can through out your mouse, i mean sure you might regret it latter when you actually need it for some of the operations but you could get by for a while.

    Go ahead and give me the metro theme I don't really care too much about the look of windows but don't think for a second that i'll ever use anything but a simple start menu that has been in windows for like ever!

    im not even going to consider win 8 as an option and if they make this UI change default in future windows releases then i'll just stick with win 7 until they change, give me the option or somebody hacks it to disable the start screen permanently.

    Umadwindose?

    "Go ahead and give me the metro theme I don’t really care too much about the look of windows but don’t think for a second that i’ll ever use anything but a simple start menu that has been in windows for like ever!"

    It's only been in Windows since Windows 95, so 17 years. Windows did not have a start button prior to that.

    Windows 8 means nothing to me beyond the headache of yet another OS that i have to run purely to support yet another sh!tty IE browser, that MS refuses to release on their older OS's. This will cost me money as I will need to at least buy a software license, possibly a new device, just to support their IE10. And RT will not allow native versions of Firefox and Chrome, so i'll probably need to invest in an RT device for testing those RT versions separately. Games don't so much concern me, but MS have been screwing over web for a decade and they are still a pain in our collective asses.

    Also, I installed and ran windows8 DP and CP for weeks, and it's absolutely rubbish and unintuitive for a first time user, and crap as a desktop os if you use the metro apps. And the frustration of looking for menus that have no visual cues never gets old. If you're gonna try it, remember, when in doubt - ram your mouse at the screen edges!

    I think the actual quote from Gabe Newell is, "Kind of a catastrophe."

    But don't let the truth get in the way of a good yarn, eh?

    I never used Steam until I had windows 8. Take that Mr Newell, ya flaming whinger.

    I'm a PC gamer. When I start using Win 8, I'm still going to be a PC gamer. Storm in a teacup by the sounds of it.

    The big complaint from developers in regards to the new Windows Store ("Metro" app store) is the certification process. It's hopelessly bad.

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