After Microsoft made big changes last year to open up its Microsoft Store on Windows PCs, the company is now pushing for an industry-wide change. Microsoft President Brad Smith published a long blog post today to detail the company’s new Open App Store Principles, which aim to support competition and developer creativity.
Brad Smith’s post comes right after Microsoft announced the blockbuster acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, which will be the most expensive gaming company acquisition of all time. “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 explained.
According to the exec, Microsoft’s Open App Store Principles are “grounded in app store legislation being considered by governments around the world, including by the United States, the European Union, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, and elsewhere.” Overall, Microsoft’s 13 Open App Store Principles cover four important areas including Privacy, Transparency, and Developer Choice, and you can read them in full below:
Quality, Safety, Security & Privacy
- We will enable all developers to access our app store as long as they meet reasonable and transparent standards for quality and safety.
- We will continue to protect the consumers and gamers who use our app store, ensuring that developers meet our standards for security.
- We will continue to respect the privacy of consumers in our app stores, giving them controls to manage their data and how it is used.
- We will hold our own apps to the same standards we hold competing apps.
- We will not use any non-public information or data from our app store to compete with developers’ apps.
Fairness and Transparency
- We will treat apps equally in our app store without unreasonable preferencing or ranking of our apps or our business partners’ apps over others.
- We will be transparent about rules for promotion and marketing in our app store and apply these consistently and objectively.
- We will not require developers in our app store to use our payment system to process in-app payments.
- We will not require developers in our app store to provide more favorable terms in our app store than in other app stores.
- We will not disadvantage developers if they choose to use a payment processing system other than ours or if they offer different terms and conditions in other app stores.
- We will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their customers through their apps for legitimate business purposes, such as pricing terms and product or service offerings.
The Open App Store Principles that Brad Smith announced today will apply to the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 and Windows 11 PCs, which is Microsoft’s biggest platform with over 1.4 billion users. However, and that’s probably the biggest news Smith announced today, Microsoft also wants to apply the same Open App Store principles to the Microsoft Store on Xbox consoles.
“Beginning today, we will move forward to apply Principles 1 through 7 to the store on the Xbox console. We’re committed to closing the gap on the remaining principles over time. In doing so, we will incorporate the spirit of new laws even beyond their scope, while moving forward in a way that protects the needs of game developers, gamers, and competitive and healthy game-console ecosystems,” Smith said today.
It’s hard to imagine how these new Open App Store principles could reshape the market for gaming consoles going forward, but Microsoft definitely has a more forward-thinking approach compared to its competitors. It’s worth reminding that gaming consoles have all been using a pretty unique business model as the hardware is usually sold at a loss or with razor-thin margins, but console makers still make a profit from digital game sales, in-game purchases, and subscription services.
Another last important tidbit from Brad Smith’s blog post today is about Microsoft’s plans regarding Activision Blizzard IPs. If Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer did confirm previously that the company would respect existing agreements between Activision and Sony, Brad Smith reiterated that in even clearer terms today. This is probably the right thing to do as Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard still needs to be authorised by regulatory organizations in the US, Europe, and China.
“To be clear, Microsoft will continue to make Call of Duty and other popular Activision Blizzard titles available on PlayStation through the term of any existing agreement with Activision. And we have committed to Sony that we will also make them available on PlayStation beyond the existing agreement and into the future so that Sony fans can continue to enjoy the games they love. We are also interested in taking similar steps to support Nintendo’s successful platform. We believe this is the right thing for the industry, for gamers and for our business,” Smith emphasized today.