A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my misadventures with the Windows 10 Store, and how trying to conduct a simple transaction had screwed up my computer. Some people quite reasonably pointed out that my complaints were more focused on the problems with the operating system than with the store, so my comparisons to Steam were unfair.
Okay then. Let’s ignore all the horribleness of the Anniversary Update and focus on the store. Let’s try to buy Forza 3 Horizon.
When I search the store for Forza 3, this is where it takes me:
“Available only as part of a bundle.”
What we have here is a store listing for something that can’t be bought. What you need to do is scroll down to details hidden off-screen to see this:
Okay, so you can’t buy this game. But you can buy it in a “bundle”. And those “bundles” are just the different editions of the game. I’m sure this makes sense to some database nerd at Microsoft. They probably have the listing for the core game components, and then include that listing as part of the different editions. But there is no reason to expose this layer of abstraction to the user. The consumer does not care how you structure your database, and the entire purpose of a store FRONT is to present the customer with a clear interface for selecting products.
Fine. Let’s just click on the Standard Edition.
Like Origin before them, Microsoft seems to think that they’re the only store around, and not a hilarious underdog in the face of an overpowering market hegemon. Even ignoring Steam’s shocking market share, the rest of the market isn’t terribly fluid either. Both Origin and Good Old Games have the Win 10 Store beat on price, features, and I-already-have-an-account-elsewhere-so-why-bother.
Not only is the Windows 10 store not offering any competition to Steam, they’re not even putting up a meaningful threat to the humble also-ran platforms. Here they’re trying to sell games to PC users by charging console markup prices. Sure, that’s what the game costs on Xbox One, and if you buy the game on one platform then you can play it on both / either. That’s a nice feature. But this doesn’t help lure people away from Steam, Good Old Games, or Origin. The rest of Microsoft figured this out decades ago: Get customers locked-in, then you can price-gouge them.
But Forza 3 Horizon is a popular title with glowing reviews, so let’s just assume I’m willing to pay $60 for this game and ignore the pages and pages of successful, well-reviewed, and much-cheaper offerings on Steam.
First off, let’s make sure I can run it. I scroll down to see that there is no compatibility information. I actually need to go back to the previous page – the edition of the game you can’t buy – to see what the system requirements are. Again, this is sad, bush-league stuff. Worse, when I get there I find this:
Which is wrong. I’ve got 16GB of main memory. My graphics card has 3GB of memory. This blunder wouldn’t be so pitiful if this storefront wasn’t being run by the same people who write my operating system, which means they really ought to know how to properly query system properties. I mean, I can look up these things in control panel and they’re listed correctly. How hard did they need to work to get this wrong?
But fine. Let’s just give Microsoft a completely undeserved benefit of the doubt. Let’s try to buy this thing anyway. I press the big green “Buy” button and…
All of that stuff directly under “Choose an account” is actually one big button. So what we have here is a dialog asking for you to either press a button or close the box. If you close the box (maybe because you wanted to go and look up what the login info is) then the Storefront “buy” button doesn’t come back. It just says “Working” forever, and there’s no way to return to this dialog except to close the entire store and start over.
After you type in your name and password, you’re sent to this screen:
This is a very complex choice, and Microsoft is presenting it in a very confusing way.
I’m not using an account password on my machine. The last thing I want on my PC is a login step. For example, two weeks ago when the Anniversary Update hosed my computer, I was obliged to reboot dozens of times in the process of sorting it out. It was an infuriating and time-consuming process, and forcing me to type a password for every reboot would have just been salt in the wound.
I don’t want a password on my computer. I want the members of my family to be able to come over here and use my computer whenever they need to, and I don’t want them to have to memorize one of my massive, complex passwords to do so. (And since this is an on-line account, I’d have to use that sort of password.) They already have their own passwords they need to memorize. My mom sometimes stops by the house to print things, and I want her to be able to do so, even if I’m not around to type in my password for her. Sure, I could put the password on a stickynote on the monitor. But then why have a password at all? And finally, if I’m having connectivity problemsOr if Microsoft is. the last thing I want is for my PC to stall and waste a bunch of my time at the sign-in screen waiting for a reply from a server that can’t be reached.
The point being, a Windows login is all downside for me. I can see why other people find them useful, but I see it as a needless riskWhat if I forget it, or wind up hospitalized? Suddenly my computer is useless to the family and nobody can bring me documents. and a hassle.
The very last thing I want on this machine is a password lock. But here the store is presenting me with a situation where it wants to add one. Microsoft is saying, “Oh, we see you DO have a Microsoft account after all. Once you use it here in the store, we’ll go ahead and use it when logging into the machine at start-up.” From my perspective this is not a feature, but an act of aggression.
I need to get through this process without the store making any changes to how my operating system works. So now I’m reading these three paragraphs of text, trying to figure out how to preserve my current setup. I can leave the password field blank or I can press the link to sign in to “just this app”. I should add that there are no back buttons on any of these dialogs, so you really don’t want to make a mistake here.
You might point out that I’m once again blaming the store for the sins of the operating system. I’d be happy to stop doing that the moment the store stops screwing with my operating system.
Anyway, I use the blue link and I think it works. And so we come to the moment of truth:
“No refunds”. This is particularly galling since this game requires the Anniversary Update, which kills my PC. I don’t have that update, but the store is letting me buy the game anyway. Also the store incorrectly thinks I don’t meet the hardware requirements. The store is willing to sell me a game it “knows” I can’t run, and it doesn’t allow for refunds.
This is shocking. Origin offers refunds. Steam offers refunds. GoG offers refunds.
So let’s sum up the Windows 10 Store as compared to the competition:
- Meager catalog, consisting mostly of mobile shovelware. That’s not going to compete well against the classics at GoG, the mix of back titles and AAA stuff at Origin, or the EVERYTHING at Steam.
- Numerous interface problems that needlessly confuse, hassle, or worry the would-be customer.
- Because of the way apps are locked away from the user, Windows 10 games have a bunch of technical limitations: No SLI / Crossfire support. You can’t disable VSYNC. You can’t use mods. Can’t use game overlays. Can’t capture game footage using FRAPS or Bandicam, and as far as I can tell, that means you can’t livestream the game either. In the age of YouTube and Twitch, this is unforgivable.
- Highest prices.
- NO REFUNDS.
Pay more with greater financial risk to endure more hassle so you can play a game with less features on a platform away from your network of Steam friends. And that’s assuming you can get the damn thing to work at all. Microsoft has learned nothing from the Games for Windows LIVE debacle. They seem intent on making the same mistakes on an even grander scale.
 Or if Microsoft is.
 What if I forget it, or wind up hospitalized? Suddenly my computer is useless to the family and nobody can bring me documents.
So what happens when a SOFTWARE engineer tries to review hardware? This. This happens.
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