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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Windows 8 and Gaming

Throughout the last month we've heard just about everyone's opinion about Windows 8's potential impact on PC gaming. Gabe Newell kicked things off by calling Windows 8 a "catastrophe," and a Blizzard exec seconded the motion on Twitter. Last week Kotaku and Gizmodo ran sister pieces offering arguments for and against Windows 8 being a solid gaming OS.

At this point it seems like almost everyone is running around screaming about the sky falling, yet we're still two months away from a full release. The Metro UI (that isn't named "Metro" any more) has been called every name in the book and the loss of the Start menu was almost universally lamented everywhere you looked. When you think about it though, this is the first radical redesign that Windows has seen in a long, long time. My first exposure to Windows was Windows 95, and the basic layout hasn't really changed since then. Mice have evolved and both screen size and display resolution have increased in the years since, but we're still using the same basic setup.

As Gizmodo put it, Metro "rearranges the furniture." People crying about the interface being all "tablet-y" and "different" are probably just resisting change, and there are even things like Classic Shell that you could use to de-Metro the Windows 8 UI. That's obviously not the best solution, but it's not like this is a forced upgrade by any means. Windows Vista peaked at about 19% market share, so I don't think it's a stretch to say that if Windows 8 truly is terrible we'll all wait for a service pack to think about upgrading or just skip the OS version all together.

The other big complaint when it comes to gaming seems to be the Windows app store that will be your only option when looking to buy Metro-but-not-called-Metro apps. Every other "normal" desktop program (ie games) can be purchased from anywhere and installed just like it can be in Windows 7. People argue that this could open the door to Microsoft being an Apple-esque app dictator, which I guess is possible. I have a hard time believing that they'd try to make a power move and disallow anything that isn't a Microsoft-sanctioned application, since that would really piss everyone off and drive them towards tablets and smartphones, areas where Microsoft doesn't exactly have a strong foothold.

To figure this out for myself I'm finally going to install one of the Windows 8 preview builds and see what all of the commotion is about. When I first built my PC I didn't have a solid-state drive, so I installed Windows 7 to a separate 100GB partition of my 1TB HDD. After picking up a 64GB Crucial C300 and throwing Windows 7 on there I never got around to reformatting that old partition, so it's sitting there ready to go.

I'll probably install it on Wednesday and I'll try to use it as my primary OS for the next week or two, so look for posts describing my experiences through the next 7-10 days. I'm installing the 90-day evaluation version, which you can find here. You can alternatively download the Release Preview from May, which won't expire until January 15, 2013.

Image sources: Windows Team Blog and Official Microsoft Blog


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