Microsoft is NOT opening Xbox One to all UWP games ... but should it?

While the situation is improving, the vast majority of games in the Windows 10 Store are far from what I'd deem even vaguely approaching the quality core gamers expect. Many of the Windows Store games available now were designed for mobile devices, and they were often shovelware projects that less-experienced developers would simply fire and forget.

Despite the recent speculation, Microsoft is not opening Xbox One up to every UWP game in existence.

Some commentators speculated that the slide above indicated that Microsoft was preparing to open up Xbox to UWP games in the same way the company opened it up to UWP apps, bypassing the strict quality checks of Xbox and ID@Xbox certification. We reached out to our contacts for clarification, and they told us developers making UWP games will still need to register with a publisher or via ID@Xbox to bring their titles to Xbox One. The slide Microsoft showed at Developer Day was simply to reiterate the situation as it exists today.

That said, should Microsoft move to make the Xbox Store more open?

Open up Xbox

Steam has taken a far more relaxed stance on what sort of games can appear on its store, using programs such as Steam Greenlight to crowdsource the games that should be approved for the platform. While this has led to some high-profile success stories, such as Besieged, Five Nights at Freddy's, Rivals of Aether and SUPERHOT, it's also introduced a slew of pretty awful games. These range from abandonware, to clickbait masquerading as games, all the way to pure malicious scams.

Since the advent of the internet, the music industry has, to some degree, reorganized itself to accommodate indie artists who have more ways than ever to get discovered. While I'm by no means suggesting that developing quality games is comparable to creating popular music, the tools and resources needed to learn how to build games are getting more accessible by the day.

Steam Greenlight's sentiment of community-led curation is a positive one, but it needs a few tweaks.

This is at least superficially similar to how the internet, YouTube and social media provided musicians with a huge platform upon which to promote themselves, democratizing access. The rise of indie game development has gradually spilled over onto historically closed consoles, creating programs such as ID@Xbox (opens in new tab), but Microsoft still holds the keys to what games get access to the console and the coveted Xbox Live API.

I think Steam Greenlight's sentiment of open community-led curation is a positive one, but it needs a few tweaks. It might be giving Steam a reputation for patchy quality, dragging it down in the same way the Android or Windows Store has been affected. With proper tools, curation and moderation, however, there are a few ways being a little more open could benefit Xbox. The openness of Windows is what led to games like Minecraft, after all.

Responsibility

My music industry comparison isn't 100 percent appropriate, of course, because running a random .exe from the web is potentially far more dangerous than wasting 30 seconds on a cringy YouTube clip. That's why openness in software needs at least a degree of divine interference from platform holders.

Unlike Win32 titles distributed on Steam, UWP games distributed on the Windows 10 or Xbox stores cannot harm your device. They don't have access to the operating system in the same way a Win32 .exe does, even when they're distributed via an executable file. When it comes to an open UWP on Xbox, the primary issue is quality, and what we expect as Xbox gamers.

Developers of all experience levels can bring their games to the Windows 10 Store today without Xbox certification, but those games cannot (and will not) be available on Xbox One or gain access to the Xbox API without going through a lengthy quality test. That test is far more intensive than that of Xbox-uncertified games in the Windows 10 Store.

Microsoft may feel that a fully open store would dilute the value of the Xbox brand.

Someone at Xbox once told me that they see achievement points as effectively having monetary value. When you buy an Xbox game, you're paying for a fixed amount of achievement points, at least in part. By this comment, you can assume that by allowing developers to add Gamerscore to lesser-quality "amateur" games, sometimes typical of the Windows Store, Microsoft may feel that a fully open store would dilute the value of the Xbox brand and also achievements as a coveted, "prestigious" system. This is why smaller Windows Phone games often carry only around 200 Gamerscore, compared to the console and PC version's 1000 score.

UWP allows developers to access a consistent library of functionality across Xbox One, Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile and HoloLens.

UWP allows developers to access a consistent library of functionality across Xbox One, Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile and HoloLens.

Developers can submit games to the Windows 10 Store without Xbox certification, and sometimes, it's a simple case of a developer not wanting to bother with the certification process. If the Xbox One was opened up to the Windows Store, we'd get some odd scenarios, as we've seen with Grand Theft Auto San Andreas (opens in new tab), which doesn't have Xbox achievements on the Windows Store. I think it's fair to assume that most Xbox gamers expect and value full Xbox integration with games on their consoles. If you allow large developers to bypass that process on Xbox One, it could seriously devalue what makes the console great.

Xbox gamers expect and value full Xbox integration with games on their console.

There are all sorts of other arguments and factors that could feed into how an open Xbox could be both a positive and a negative thing. On the plus side, it would give even more developers an opportunity to get their games in front of a large audience, both for gathering feedback and building up a community. It would provide Xbox with more digital revenue, simply by virtue of adding more "buy" buttons to the store. It could also help to drive adoption of UWP as a more popular platform for larger "AAA" developers, most of which have yet to release their games for the Windows 10 Store.

Of course, on the flip side, it could degrade the quality of the Xbox Store by a huge amount. It could dilute the value of achievements, and it could also lead to some nasty, fraudulent situations, as demonstrated by the lightly-regulated Steam Greenlight.

No right or wrong answer

I think maybe Xbox could benefit from a program like Steam Greenlight, as long as it was moderated more strictly. Xbox One's Game Preview has already provided us with some great games, but even then, the games are generally of a far higher level of quality than you might expect from a Steam Greenlight title. Perhaps there could be a program that provides a stepping stone to ID@Xbox, allowing the community to pitch in its own input via those project's Game Hubs.

Xbox and Windows 10 are getting closer together, but clearly, Microsoft does not want to eliminate what makes Xbox special. Either way, we'll likely learn more about any changes to Microsoft's plans for publishing on Xbox One, Windows 10, and Project Scorpio at GDC 2017 very shortly.

What do you think about opening up Xbox to even more game developers? Would you like to see a Steam Greenlight-type program on Xbox?

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

40 Comments
  • Unless Microsoft's goal really is to turn the XBox into just another PC, they need to keep the XBox store somewhat walled off. Seems they could create a section in the store that is more accessible to smaller developers' without the stringent XBox moderation. This section would need to be identified so those who wanted to try that type of content could, but the casual or more discriminating gamer wouldn't have to wade through questionable games.
  • Actually, I think they are trying to turn my PC into a Xbox i.e. UWP.   Of course, I don't see this working out as envisioned. Or better yet, a UWP PlayStation Remote Play app so you can play your PS4 on your Xbox.  :)
  • Or you always just plug your PS4 through the Xbox HDMI In input and do that cos its easier and a more solid connection.
  • Yes, the distinction between a Console and PC Master race is necessary both physically and development-wise. Msft should maintain this with a thin line between them... Not everyone is the same after all but ppl share interests and opinions.
  • I would prefer Microsoft not opening up Xbox too much. Xbox is great for It's audiences so far.
  • Windows, due to its small user base is known for a lot of amateur stuff because people use it as a learning tool. Stuff that ios would never approve but MS does. These could give xbox a bad name so best to only approve quality work.
  • I assume you are talking about Windows Mobile. The overall Windows install base is hardly small.
  • Sure, but while windows 10 has a lot of users, not all of them are engaging the store and this is something MS is trying to fix. Windows 10 cloud is likely the result. Either way look through the store and the amateur stuff in it. I've downloaded really bad stuff with bad graphics and just little polish. A lot of people will post stuff on reddit where they are learning to code and they link to their published apps. Fact is anyone can publish anything in windows store.
  • In MS's eye, everyone that has a Windows 10 device has a Xbox, as the Xbox as a service is here.   As with many of MS's decisions... its confusion on top of confusion.   Windows 10 Cloud appears to be just a rerun of the Windows RT pony show, more or less.  Although, I do agree with you about lack of quality in the store, isn't that the whole purpose of a unified OS and Store and UWP?   That is the problem with what MS has done over the years.   Of course, I don't think they will ever get PC customers to engage in the store for obvious reasons... and it doesn't matter what they do in that regard unless they are going to compete and compete at a high level as far as Win32.... which their past efforts were very poor i.e. Games for Windows Live.
  • You do realize that the Microsoft store has certain app guidelines, right? The just pulled a ton of them recently for non compliance. I nearly got mine pulled for not having a rating questionnaire answered. If you want the wild west, then that's Android. As long as you have a privacy policy they let you do anything. Microsoft sits between Android and iOS on the scale leaning more towards open.
  • They were pulling them for not updating ratings. And if you got it published without following guidelines that's just proof. It took them long enough to try and enforce.
  • Correct!
    The idiot above is uneducated!!
  • he's referring to uwp store which most of the 400+million w10 users do not regularly use.
  • I wonder why google bring play store to chromebook.. people just don't use apps on notebook. People use browser on notebook.
  • No, actually *every* windows 10 user uses it because all the built in apps are delivered via the store.
  • Maybe I'm crazy but it sure seems like too much value is placed on gamerscore and achievements. I'm sure they're out there but I've not ever met anyone who cared that much... including my boys (now almost grown) who have been around Xbox almost they're whole lives and would seem to be the target audience. Achievements can be fun to go after occasionally but the whole gamerscore thing is completely lost on me.
  • It's about a consistent experience for average consumers at the end of the day. "Huh, why doesn't this game have achievements or Xbox integration but this one does?" it used to be a pretty contentious point on WP8 too for a while.
  • On one hand I totally get you. Though I myself have been bitten by the achievement hunting bug, I do remember gaming before I cared. My addiction has become an internal conflict as I no longer have the same amount of time to dedicate, to care about, earning them. Once addicted you can't ever go back but being way to busy with work and my two year old son have sort of brought me full circle. I still care but am far more willing to let completions go. I do have many friends that are so hard-core about achievements that they won't even start a game until they've one hundred percent the game they're playing now. They will skip playing games if they have unobtainable achievements. I even have friends that have multiple consoles and will buy multiple copies of a game just to grind out length achievements. I'm taking adult games here. Go figure.
  • Wow - that's some serious dedication. I guess if it gives them enjoyment... that's what gaming is all about.
  • Think of it this way, if what you say was true, the The Achievement Hunter Channel on youtube should not be one of the highest watched gaming channels on YouTube. But it is. Gamerscores and Achievement Hunting means a lot to many people. The release of endorphins you get when chasing an achievment especially a difficult one is additive to a certiain demographic. I'm not one of them, but I'm not going to assume those don't people exist because I'm not one of them or I can't relate.
  • I didn't even know there was such a thing as the hunter channel. Maybe all the Xbox people I know are actually closet achievement hunters but they're just too embarassed to admit or talk about it. Or maybe I'm the one with the problem... I need counseling because I don't care about achievements. Why am I such an under achiever? WHY?!?
  • If you have an equivalent MS "Green light" program, it should be to tailor crowd picked games to be chosen to go through the Xbox certification. Take SubNautica on Steam, the dev submits it to Xbox greenlight, players review materials, promos, videos, text, etc. If they like the game they vote it up to certification process. Developer is notified his game was chosen and decides whether to proceed or not. If not, game over as it never plays on Xbox. If they say yes, certification process begins. If it passes it can be released to console. So greenlight acts as a bulletin board to players for reviewing games ( materials, not coded for play or purchase in precertification process) to see if they would be interested in buying the game based on information given, if it should proceed to next stage or not.
  • I get that but the bad thing about consumers controlling ratings is people will whine if there is a feature that isn't something they like. You gotta remember devs get into the video game business because they wanna create what they like as well and not every fan is happy about that because it conflicts with them too much.
  • That type of greenlight program for Xbox would give indie developers best platform for exposure while the certification process protects the console from bad code, malware, scams etc. So greenlight for Xbox acts as a crowd based selection process for who moves through certification process for release to console.
  • Perhaps once a game gets to a certain number of PC sales it could then be promoted to Xbox. The other side of me says keep it open.  What's why Android is so successful, despite having millions of junk apps.  People still find or hear about the good ones.
  • No they definitely shouldn't because the despite UWP apps being able to run on Xbox with minimal changes an Xbox game will need to be usable with just a gamepad and not using cursor emulation mode. A UWP app like Baconit can get away with cursor emulation, but that would be a very poor experience with a game. I think keeping a stricter vetting process for games on Xbox makes complete sense.
  • In my ideal world, anything that runs on Windows 10 would run on Xbox, and anything that runs on Xbox could run on a properly configured PC or phone. Like Surface, the Xbox would be distinguished from other computers by it's specific hardware, drivers and build quality. Of course this is not likely to happen because of the danger to Microsoft's profits when everybody and their dog build an Xbox clone.
  • I think that's are a few games that work on desktop and mobile that would be great on Xbox. So Yes some cross device play would be welcome.
  • Simple, YES!
  • I think the best compromise would be: all UWP Apps available on Xbox, but only Xbox-enabled & certified games allowed to the console.
  • There is obvious answer. Create a separate Store section for games that aren't Xbox Live enabled and then work with most successful devs in there to grant them Xbox@ID publication. This way those who want check those titles and those who don't won't. Benefits are huge as it also means more tablet games like Fallout Shelter published by smaller devs. So it isn't only about Xbox, it's about whole UWP and there is no Universal if one of the platforms is more closed than others. Open the **** up. Just make sure that customers know those games might be if lower quality and not support Xbox Live features.
  • The Xbox One app store is an absolute mess since they opened it up.
  • remember the Xbox 360 inde games ? without achivments .
  • Controller vibration apps aside, I like it being a little more curated on Xbox. Love the achievements, and they certainly have value for me. Could have a green light system, but make sure there is a system. Xbox games should be high standard.
  • I agree that UWP games on the Xbox should be required to have achievements and support all the basic features (Xbox Live services) that users expect on the console. That's just good for the user experience. However, given that basically every popular OS has Xbox Live enabled games now, it's no longer exclusive to the Xbox. Any developer should be allowed to publish to Xbox if the game meets the requirements.
  • Hell to the **** Noh. Games without Xbox achievements on Xbox would be a huge mistake.
  • lately there are a tone of junk free movie apps to download . 6 or 8 i think. do we need junk games no. i can download junk games on my pc.
  • I have a concern about id@xbox. They accept the indie vendors or startup companies only. But, they does not accept the games from Indie game developers of personal.
    For example - In japan, there are many indie game developers - personal or circles.  They sell their developed PC games at Comiket, etc. But these indie developers are rejected from current ID@Xbox scheme.
    I can agree with the author that MS need a sort of quality check, but they should open the door of Xbox One UWP games for indie developers. They also have the skill to create the hi quality games.
  • I think that there does need to be a vetting process for Xbox One games. I don't mind having smaller games on the console, if anything it breeds innovation; but on the other hand, if the gates were left wide open, you also leave room for any bad game somebody wants to create. Xbox ID and Game Preview seem sufficient for now.
  • I would absolutely not want the Xbox one store to be more open than it currently is. I remeber the Indie games channel on the 360, and the majority of games on there were clones of something popular, or just really bad. I think the average adult console gamer is cash rich but time poor, so there would be no advantage of offering a vast number of cheap but poor games. I want to get the most out of my limited free time, so that means well designed and built games which have passed through a publisher's, and Microsoft's, quality control.