Sales of Windows 8 have ticked past the 60 million mark, Microsoft announced at CES in Las Vegas yesterday, but there’s little sign of a turnaround in its perception in the videogame industry. Quite the opposite, in fact: Gabe Newell took another shot at Microsoft’s new operating system in a wide-ranging, much-quoted interview with The Verge, while one developer has blamed Windows 8 for locking players out of its game.
Windows Store – the app marketplace at the root of much of Windows 8’s image problems, representing Microsoft’s attempt to unify its operating system across PC, tablet and smartphone – has hosted 100 million downloads since its launch two months ago, according to Microsoft. CMO Tami Reller claims that the figure is in line with the launch performance of Windows 7.
Gabe Newell, who worked on early versions of Microsoft’s OS before founding Valve, is one of Windows 8’s most vocal critics. He famously called it a “catastrophe” and renewed his attack yesterday, telling The Verge: “Windows 8 was like this giant sadness. It just hurts everybody in the PC business. Rather than everybody being all excited to go buy a new PC, buying new software to run on it, we’ve had a 20-plus percent decline in PC sales – it’s like, holy cow, that’s not what the new generation of the operating system is supposed to do.
“There’s supposed to be a 40 per cent uptake, not a 20 per cent decline, so that’s what really scares me. When I started using it I was like, ‘Oh my god…’ I find it Windows 8 unusable.”
Of course, it’s in Newell’s interests to play up the advantage of open systems, like the open-source Linux on which his newly confirmed Steam Box will run. Steam may not be quite so walled a garden as the App Store and its ilk, but nor is it completely open. Clearly Microsoft’s thinking in setting up the Windows Store was the 30 per cent cut Apple takes from the App Store, Google takes from Google Play and Valve takes from Steam.
Windows 8’s problems aren’t solely of perception: Seattle studio Runic Games suspects Windows 8 is to blame for a problem with the authentication system used in Torchlight II. When the game detects “significant” changes to a player’s system, it asks that the game be reactivated as a security precaution. A number of legitimate players have, however, been unable to complete the procedure.
Speaking to PC Gamer, Runic founder Travis Baldree said that, when reactivation goes wrong, “we have a couple of tools that we send out to resolve the issue. In this case they appear not to be working – our current suspicion is that something structural has changed in Windows 8 (or during the upgrade process) which fundamentally breaks the licence. Windows 8 seems to be the common denominator between the tickets that we’ve received.” And, while Runic works on a fix, it’s helping those affected bypass the issue by giving them codes to activate Torchlight II on – you guessed it – Steam.