Microsoft has announced a more open and relaxed app store policy that will apply to Microsoft Store on Windows PCs and future marketplaces for games. Microsoft said as part of the new policy its app stores and marketplace will allow developers to use payment systems other than the one offered by the store and will not stop developers from communicating with consumers directly through the apps or games.
Microsoft also assured that it will not use any non-public data from the app store to compete with developers’ apps and not give preferential treatment to its own apps or that of partners over others.
Brad Smith, President and Vice Chairman at Microsoft said these new principles have been rolled out to underline Microsoft's commitment to providing the best experience to creators and developers. It is also an attempt to convince the regulators that Microsoft has no intention of throttling competition as it eyes expansion in the gaming industry with the acquisition of Bethesda Softworks in 2021 and Activision Blizzard this year, which is still pending regulatory approval.
"We have developed these principles in part to address Microsoft’s growing role and responsibility as we start the process of seeking regulatory approval in capitals around the world for our acquisition of Activision Blizzard," Smith said in a blog post.
Smith said these principles are grounded in app store legislation being mulled by governments in various regions including the US, the European Union, South Korea and the Netherlands.
Smith also assured that Microsoft will continue to offer Call of Duty games on Sony PlayStation and other platforms in the future even after existing agreements expire. Under the existing agreement with Sony, Activision is supposed to release the next three Call of Duty games on PlayStation.
Microsoft's new policy is a departure from the existing walled garden approach of Google and Apple towards their app stores. Their app store commission on any in-app purchases that go up to 30% and restrictions on alternative payment systems has irked many in the developer community. Both Google and Apple are facing lawsuits and antitrust investigations in several countries for these policies.
Apple on its part has maintained that restricting developers from adding outside payment links on apps is meant to keep the iOS ecosystem secure from malware.
Microsoft's new policies on accountability, fairness and security will be implemented right away on their app store and Xbox consoles. The rules on alternative payment systems will be implemented later.
Though Microsoft also charges a 30% commission from developers for revenues through the Xbox platform, relaxing rules to use alternative payment will ease the cost burden for emerging developers.