Redmond (WA) - Alex St. John, chief executive of game publisher WildTangent, today blasted his former employer for a half-baked and negligent way of treating the majority of game publishers - small development studios and individual programmers of casual games: St. John claims that at least nine out of ten games do not work with Vista.
The announcement of Vista isn't even a day old as reports of not so rosy Vista scenarios are surfacing. One of them could put a question mark behind Microsoft's claim that the company went above and beyond to fine-tune Windows Vista to common mass-market usage scenarios. Alex St. John, chief executive of game publisher WildTangent, said that Vista is not compatible with the mast majority of games on the market today and accuses Microsoft of lacking of consumer and developer understanding.
WildTangent is one of the larger publishers of video games, having specialized in the online distribution of online games. The firm's portfolio currently covers about 300 titles, which is available online or through a platform that comes pre-installed for example on Gateway computers. St. John claims that WildTangent currently has the only working casual games platform, while online games published on MSN, AOL, Yahoo and Real Arcade won't work with Vista PCs. Online games are estimated by about 70 million users around the globe.
The reason, according to St. John, is the extensive reengineering that went into Vista's security efforts that left many developers and their games in the dust. He told TG Daily that not only does Vista security architecture require a new installation routine but even if that part works, "it's almost certain that Vista's digital rights technology will break existing casual games." For example saving game progress won't be able with Vista, he said.
In a phone interview, in which we talked to the executive about the background of his accusations, he mentioned that "Microsoft went overboard and a little silly with security." Also, he said that he believes that Microsoft isn't so knowledgeable about their users as they claim are: "Otherwise they would have known that online gaming is the third largest application on the Internet and they would have made sure that this works on Vista computers."
He conceded that Microsoft "likely made a conscious decision to make it tough for downloadable applications to work with Vista." But, St. John claims, that effort fires in the wrong direction: According to the executive, Vista "entirely" lacks security measures that "empower" users and help them make the right decisions. "They built a house with eight-foot concrete walls and a screen door. That screen door are users." Instead of providing information about potentially dangerous software, the software takes an approach to assume that "all software is dangerous" and close the door for many developers. Interestingly, he quoted
WildTangent Game Console
As an example for this claim, he mentioned Microsoft's implementation of ESRB ratings into Vista, which are a component of the operating system's parental controls. Parents can set rules which games can be played by their children and which cannot. There is also an option to generally deny requests of running non-rated games, which currently applies on virtually all online games. Games that already have been installed on a PC can also be blocked. But, according to St. John, when such a game is requested, Vista does not return information that a third-party game has been blocked, but offers to remove the link from the menu without further explanation, instead. The only way for third-party developers to get around this issue and to avoid getting somewhere on the hard drive is to obtain an ESRB rating for their title, which costs about $2500, St. John said.
St. John isn't affected by that issue, at least not anymore. He said that 20 of his 90 employees spent about one year to make Wild Tangent's games compatible with Vista. Also, he gets discounts for registering multiple titles for ESRB ratings at the same time. And, of course, St. John will be promoting this advantage and offer developers to join his game network and help them with the conversion.
We have contacted Microsoft about St. John's claims and were told that the company was aware of the accusations. So far, Microsoft has not provided any comments, but we will be updating this article as soon as we receive a statement from the company.