When Microsoft released Windows 10, it wasted no time informing us what it was to become: the company's central OS for all platforms. Microsoft wants its prized OS to run on our desktops, notebooks, and smartphones, of course, but also on its Xbox One game console and upcoming HoloLens. The ultimate goal here is to allow developers to take advantage of Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and publish their apps or games to a huge number of platforms all at once.
Eventually, we'll see Windows apps hit the Xbox One, and Xbox One games hit Windows. A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft announced that Forza 6 would be one of the games coming to Windows from the Xbox (albeit with a tweaked edition), and that's just the start. We've even been given hints that future Xbox consoles could be user-upgradeable, making them even more like PCs.
Microsoft's UWP is ambitious, and it's so far not been well-received by everyone. Industry legend Tim Sweeney recently penned an article to call the introduction of UWP the "most aggressive" move Microsoft has ever made. Per his words, Microsoft is closing off its own platform, making it easier for developers to deliver content inside its ecosystem, but not out. Companies like Valve, with Steam, and EA, with Origin, are unlikely to be able to offer UWP content to their respective fanbases.
Despite the criticism, Microsoft has had lots of good things to say about UWP at the ongoing Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. For game developers, Microsoft claims it's all good: less time will be needed to develop for each platform, which mean those who develop for all of Microsoft's platforms should have the best chance at success.
Rather than tackle the issues Tim Sweeney pointed out, Microsoft has instead decided to harp on the upsides of its UWP initiative at GDC. The company is going to be introducing "Xbox Live Tournaments Platform," for example, which game developers can use to host their own tournaments. Despite the "Xbox" name here, this would apply to the PC versions of such games as well. You're going to have to get used to hearing "Xbox" an awful lot even if you're only a PC gamer.
To be fair, there are also benefits for gamers and Windows users in general. If apps can be easier developed across the entire Windows ecosystem, that means users can take advantage of their favorite apps on a number of different platforms. This could ultimately also improve Microsoft's Windows Store in general, which has been woefully under-supported since its launch with Windows 8. Some developers might find developing apps for the Xbox One to be more beneficial than Windows Store, but with UWP, per Microsoft's promise, they could easily just develop for both.
We're not going to have to wait long to see this all play out. Microsoft expects that many UWP apps will hit the Xbox One this summer. It appears most of those will just come from the Windows Store, but it's a start. What most of us are actually looking forward to is seeing Xbox One games on the PC, but with Sweeney's warning, it's hard to know whether we actually should be excited about it or not.