Windows 8’s Arbitrary App Certification Rules Could Block Skyrim And Other Huge Games

Originally Published on Techdirt.

We have already mentioned that some game developers were having a hard time accepting Windows 8 as a viable gaming platform. The primary concern is with Microsoft’s insistence on walling off its Metro UI and accompanying Windows Store. When a distribution system is walled off, new restrictions come along that limit the type of content that can be made available. As application and game developers learn more about the restrictions Microsoft plans to implement, their concern is growing.

Take for instance the recent discovery that Microsoft plans to limit the games made available through its Windows Store and Metro UI. In a broader piece on what a closed Windows 8 platform means for developers, Casey Muratori highlights one of the strict and ultimately contradictory restrictions on game content. Using the 2011 Game of the Year, Skyrim, as a hypothetical Windows 8 candidate, Casey asks the question, would it be allowed on the Windows store and Metro UI.

Because no software can ship on this future platform without it going through the Windows Store, the team that built Skyrim would have to send it to Microsoft for certification. Then Microsoft would tell them if they could ship it.

Do you know what Microsoft’s answer would be?

I do. It would be “no”.

This is not speculative; it is certain. Skyrim is a game for adults. It has a PEGI rating of 18. If you read the Windows 8 app certification requirements you will find, in section 5.1:

“Your app must not contain adult content, and metadata must be appropriate for everyone. Apps with a rating over PEGI 16, ESRB MATURE, or that contain content that would warrant such a rating, are not allowed.”

And that’s the end of it. No Skyrim for the Windows Store, unless of course the developers go back and remove all the PEGI 18-rated content.

Unfortunately, Casey does not highlight the contradictory nature of this arbitrary rule — what if a game has both an M rating by the ESRB and an 18 rating by PEGI, as Skyrim does. What will Microsoft do? Will it block the game entirely, region-restrict it to only ESRB regions or make an exception to its own rule and allow it for all the world? These are the kinds of questions that frustrate developers. Apple has had its fair share of arbitrary enforcement of content restrictions and you would think that Microsoft would at least attempt to learn from that example.

To further highlight the problem with this restriction, Casey lists four games that are in competition to be 2012’s Game of the Year. Of those four games, none would be allowed on Windows 8 for the same reason, they got an ESRB M rating and a PEGI 18 rating. Microsoft has set itself up to exclude some of the best selling games of the future. Hardly a way to attract the support of developers.

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