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Microsoft is throwing its weight behind Steam, pledging Gears 5, Age of Empires, and more for PC

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Microsoft unveiled Xbox Game Pass for PC today, revealing that 75+ developers have pledged support for the new subscription service, including PC heavyweights like Sega, Paradox Interactive, Bethesda, and dozens more, curating a list of over 100 games. Alongside Xbox Game Pass for PC, Microsoft announced (opens in new tab) that Gears 5, Age of Empires Definitive Editions 1, 2, and 3 are also all coming to Steam, pledging further support for an open Windows gaming ecosystem.

With that in mind, our intent is to make our Xbox Game Studios PC games available in multiple stores, including our own Microsoft Store on Windows, at their launch. We believe you should have choice in where you buy your PC games.In March, we announced that Halo: The Master Chief Collection will come to PC later this year, launching on Steam in addition to the Microsoft Store on Windows. We will continue to add to the more than 20 Xbox Game Studios titles on Steam, starting with Gears 5 and all Age of Empires I, II & III: Definitive Editions. We know millions of PC gamers trust Steam as a great source to buy PC games and we've heard the feedback that PC gamers would like choice. We also know that there are other stores on PC, and we are working to enable more choice in which store you can find our Xbox Game Studios titles in the future.We want to bring players together to create a shared player community regardless of where they play, so it's our intent that new Xbox Game Studios titles include features such as voice and text chat, LFG, friends lists and cross-play across PC and console. On Windows 10 you'll find this functionality in the Xbox Game Bar, which we'll continue to evolve and expand.

Additionally, Microsoft has announced that the Windows 10 Microsoft Store will support traditional native Win32 games development and deployment, which represents a massive change of heart for the storefront. Up until now, games had to be bundled and ported to UWP, using tools like Project Centennial which developers have often found cumbersome.

More details should emerge from E3 2019 about how this stuff will work, and we'll be sure to try and get your questions answered too.

Related: Xbox Game Pass for PC list

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Jez Corden
Jez Corden

Jez Corden is a Senior 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!

  • As for Windows 10 Store having Win32 support, does that mean that such games in the Store will not have the benefits of being a UWP, such as sandboxing for safety and super easy installations and uninstallations? As for the definitive editions of Age of Empires 2 and 3, where are they? AoE 1 DE came out in February 2018 and we still have no news on its sequels? Makes me think AoE 4 is a ways off, as I expected them to release all three DE games before AoE 4 launched. As for Microsoft releasing their games on Steam, the Windows 10 Store now has zero chance of ever making it. They already sabotaged that chance over the past few years by releasing their games on Steam after the fact, but once they start doing it at launch, and once they give up the leverage of their own heavy-hitting IP like Halo and Gears, that's the nail in the coffin. It's a shame, as a successful Windows 10 Store would've brought a lot more of what I wanted as a gamer (and as a Windows 10 user, in general), including Play Anywhere games. Also, a commercially successful Windows 10 Store would've ultimately made more money in the long run than the additional revenue gained by releasing their games on a competitor's platform to appease some weird Steam fanboy holdouts. They never really gave the Windows 10 Store a decent shot for gaming, and now the entire Store will probably go the way of Games for Windows Live. What a pity. On the other hand, I'm sure they pitched these plans of releasing their games on multiple PC stores and of Game Pass on PC to Obsidian and inXile as incentives to join Xbox Game Studios, which surely helped bring them into the fold.
  • You'll need to use the Windows Store to get Game Pass for PC. So if PC gamers see value in that subscription, they'll also be in Game Pass on PC on the Store. Additionally, Having proper Win32 support for the Xbox API at both ends will bring more quality games to the Windows Store. This is the best chance it has right now. Without dev support, the Store never, EVER had a chance. This is the first chance it has ever been given.
  • "appease some weird Steam fanboy holdouts"
    Yes, because there is no possible legit reasons a person would prefer to own and play a game through Steam instead of the MS Store. They must be fanboys if they don't like the MS Store experience. Things like having zero ability to restore games installed on a drive other than C after doing a clean install of Windows 10. With Steam I have ~20 games installed on drive E. If I do a clean install of Windows 10 I just install steam, login, and point it to the folder with those games. It scans them, updates as needed and that's it. With the MS Store (or Gamepass games) if I have games installed to drive E, after I re install Windows 10, login with my MS account, the first time I try to install any MS Store or Gamepass games to drive E first thing it tells me is I have to delete ALL Store apps/games from the drive to start installing games/apps to it again. Why? I'm logged into the account that either bought them or has an active GamePass sub. Heck GoG Galaxy fully supports this, U-play dose this, even the quite new Rockstar launcher dose as well. And others like Epic and Origin don't have a GUI for it but you can still restore games you have stored without having to re download them. Plus, there is the fact that any game you buy/play through MS Store almost certainly will not have the ability to support mods of any kind because you don't have read/write permission to the games install directory. Even if you get it the store will most likely delete any modified files seeing them as corrupt and re download them. Not a big deal for most games but still another reason to prefer not just Steam but really any other Store/launcher that does not place weird access limits to the game's files on you. Event outside of mods you'll be lucky if you can perform a simple INI file tweak to a game from the MS Store because you probably won't be able to get to that INI file. I say all this as someone who is def not a "steam fanboy". I have Steam, GoG Galaxy 2.0, EGS, Rockstar Launcher,, and the xbox beta app and active GamePass sub. As someone who's used all of these there are plenty of legit reasons for preferring other stores/launchers over the MS Store for games. Thankfully though Microsoft has made it clear they don't really care where you buy their game from, or really even what you play it on (with x-cloud coming and being part of GamePass ultimate). As long as you bought a copy of a game they published their happy. That's an attitude that benefits everyone with choice, those that do like/prefer the MS store for whatever reason can continue buying MS Studio games there.
  • For someone noob like me who doesn't know how monthly subscription in game stores work. Can anybody please tell me what happens to games wrt game play when you run out of subscription? Or when the games themselves leave gamepass?
  • You just can't launch the game. Your save files are in the Xbox cloud.
  • Same as Netflix. No sub, no games.
  • On one hand I can see why this could look bad for the windows store and on the other it might ultimately benefit game pass for pc more to start this way. The way I'm seeing it is this allows Microsoft to add more games to the pass in a fast an easy way, rather than trying to strong arm developers to modifying games to be UWP. What if they refuse and this launches with "not enough" games for pc, which I think would be a worse situation to be in. Assuming it becomes more successful then they have more leverage to later ask developers to change current or future games to UWP. I don't know, just an initial thought/reaction to the news.
  • As long as they keep adding games to the store, I will be fine. That's where I perfer to get my games from. Don't make me launch a 3rd party service just to play.
  • seriously.........its always easy to download something from the inbuilt store on the os....rather than install a separate launcher like steam, origin, uplay etc
  • And have those launcher running in the background, fetching notifications, updates, license checking, etc in its interval (which, eats your battery).
  • If anything, this change will help the Microsoft Store. Developers can actually release their games on the store without porting it to UWP.
  • see, games with dunevo also get cracked and are pirated........
    but as far as i store (uwp) games arent easily cracked......and so if someone wants to play the game they will have to buy it.....n cant just simply download a cracked and pirated copy.
    not exactly loss to publishers....but loss of potential sales i should say.
  • Most UWP games (the decently popular ones) have been cracked.
    The only issue for the pirates is that these cracked versions have problems on the latest version of Windows 10 (1903).
  • Playing pirated uwp game requires a lengthy workaround I guess.......still, it's always easy to install game via inbuilt store.....rather than installing via a 3rd part store.
  • "still, it's always easy to install game via inbuilt store.....rather than installing via a 3rd part store."
    I guess if spending <5 mins to download, install and login to something like Steam, GoG Galaxy etc is considered a major hassle. I have ~20 Steam games installed to my second SSD (drive E). If I do a clean install of Windows 10 (or even build a new PC), I can be back playing any of thsoe games in about 5 mins. Simply install steam, login, point steam to drive E, it scans and finds the games, updates them as needed and I can pickup right where I left off. No re download of a possibly 100+ GB game needed. Same goes for GoG Galaxy,, U-play, even Rockstars launcher, they all have this ability to just point them where a game is already downloaded. The other launchers do as well but it's not quite as easy since there is no GUI for it but it can be done still saving you the download. If it's a GamePass/MS Store game I had installed on Drive E no luck. Take Halo MCC for example. If I clean install Windows 10 in the future, the first thing Windows will tell me to do despite me being logged into windows with my MS account, logged into the xbox beta app with my MS account (which has an active gamepass sub) is tell me I have to delete all existing store apps/games from drive E to start installing GamePass/Store games/apps to drive E again. Why? What a waste of time downloading 60+ GB games for no reason. I find the Steam, GoG Galaxy etc way MUCH quicker and easier. And this is a feature people have been begging MS for in the feedback hub for years.
  • I'm mindblown about people who don't get this move, but I'm more amazed at those who are crying because Xbox won't have exclusives anymore. Amazed, I tell you.
  • Personally I'm happy about this. I don't need to use the Win10 store to play these games.
    I'm really hoping games like Ori and AOE 4 will launch on steam day one.
    I'm also happy they are they will also support Win32 and are no longer trying to kill it and push for UWP. I never liked UWP so this is great. These are some major change in strategies by MS. I wonder what MS "fans" who were always trashing win32 and who were always against steam would say now. I'm expecting a U-turn from these people...
  • As speaking from a non-developer to I assume to be a fellow non-developer, what is there to dislike about UWP besides its crappy initial UI choices and its lack of compatibily with older existing systems due to its general infancy? I would think most of what would bother people about it, is the stuff we never see. I think UWP will see its big push when Win COS happens and Windows 7 becomes a minority system. Hopefully by then it has become at least almost as mature as Win32 for devolpers to easily write new software that works like their Win32 counterparts. As far as the store, I love getting my software from a single, sandboxed source that self updates programs without having to launch an additional program to do so. This is why I never liked steam. Installation is also so much easier, without having to choose installations paths. The other UWP tie ins into W10 don't really matter with games (other than the Game Bar), don't really matter because a game isn't usually a window. Could it be better, of course, should there be other tie ins to it, that would be great.
  • I actually am a software developer, work on WPF projects and tried to work little bit on UWP before Windows phone was dropped, so you're asking the wrong guy. :p But if ignore that and speak purely as a gamer I would say, I've had just two experienced with it and both were really bad experience. The SoT one where the game crashed, I had a major problem with a huge update file. The game wasn't launching for a while and it wasn't giving me a clear message. I had to install it again. And the AOE DE which was a total mess. Next, UWP is a closed ecosystem. The only way to purchase games on UWP was to go through MS's store. They wanted to have full control including controlling mods... They turned games into apps. 3rd party software like fraps wasn't supported by UWP. I just couldn't use my steam controller. There were loads of other restrictions that gamers talk about. One thing that I couldn't do with UWP is share games with my friends like I do with steam and ofc play games on my other PCs. I have a Windows 8 laptop and another Windows 7 PC that are capable of playing games but I can only use UWP on my Windows 10 PC. That was totally opposite to their vision of uniting platforms and letting gamers play anywhere. Today the message is different but that's also a problem. The message just keeps changing with MS... I got Windows 10 on one of my PC because of UWP and I wanted to play their games. Maybe I wouldn't have got it on Windows 10 if I knew what they would be doing.
    I always have doubts when MS talks about the future and that's not a good thing...
  • Yeah, I've been pretty ho hum about UWP for a while. It doesn't seem to really add anything beneficial for me, other than restricting my gaming, which isn't good. That being said, I do believe it isn't necessarily a bad thing that a company changes its stance at times. I know you bring it up as them being hypocritical but I would much rather a business realise a mistake and work to fix it, than just stick their head in the sand and say "nup, not our problem".
  • > other than restricting my gaming, which isn't good.
    Pros and cons. Ever heard of Steam VR messing up Windows Mixed Reality Portal?
    From a programmer's stand point, restriction is a good thing, as it can prevent other devs and even users themselves from tampering the system. Ever heard of Apex Legend not supporting AMD 6000 cpus?
    It's also, a lot easier for devs (and OS maker) to debug for 1 user, if everyone on the planet must use the very same OS, HW and SW combination. UWP / appx also come with a bug / exception reports feature. Devs can review those crashes from the their dashboard.
    With win32, you need to catch those exceptions yourself and you need to host a website / database to store those crash reports.
  • Well as a developer you are certainly more able to speak about the negatives of a new platform then I am. I can only speak as a standard user that now can't stand the older versions of the OS, especially 7 which I use daily at work, so not being able to go backwards with apps/games doesn't bother me. I have had the same failures to launch games myself all of a sudden. Strangely they where only the ones installed on the OS drive which was the SSD and it was every one that was installed there.
  • You don't need to use the Windows Store to install UWP, you just need to go to settings to allow that.
  • UWP is not a close ecosystem. 1. You can sideload apps onto any WCOS. e.g. you can sideload a game emulator onto a Xbox1. 2. “We believe in an open app store model. Developers will have the freedom to create their own stores.” Devs can create their own store. > 3rd party software like fraps wasn't supported by UWP.
    Pros and cons. As a game programmer, letting devs or users tamper their systems might not be a good idea. > I just couldn't use my steam controller.
    That's up to devs to support no? e.g. Valve's Bridge Constructor Portal on the store supports no touch and Surface Pen. The modern UWP on win7/8?
    1. Those were dying (actually, already dead) OSes.
    2. Might as well ask MS to port Win10+modern UWP to xbOg and xb360 so we can run xb1 games on those.
    3. The newer, modern UWP support Win10 classic and all WCOS family devices (existing and future form factors and HW architectures). They never said they will support it backwards. And it doesn't make sense to support backwards. If you are a programmer, you'd know no one patch/update API backwards. Phones (from a responsible maker) around 2~3yo pretty much receive OS updates no more. Removing older/deprecated code or not, older apps will keep adapting newer APIs. New apps, have no reason to support older/deprecated APIs. Because it doesn't make sense.
  • I posted talking about my issues and comparing it to the competition, I don't really care about any damage control or reasons why things are as they are.
  • And it doesn't make sense (and not possible) to support or update API / SW backwards (esp the OS, SW whatever, is outta support period). It's common sense if you are a programmer. Popular phones last around 2~3 years (some will never receive updates). Maybe it's time to upgrade your 10yo PC and stop the nonsense.