8 and the industry haven’t had the best of starts .

Valve’s Gabe Newell has dubbed it a ‘catastrophe’ for the PC, id Software’s John Carmack has said he’d be “completely happy if it didn’t exist”, Stardock’s Brad Wardell has slammed it as “obnoxious”, “schizophrenic” and “a nightmare”, and developers from Blizzard founder Rob Pardo to Minecraft creator Marcus Perrson have been openly suspicious towards it – if not actively hostile to the changes it represents.

The exact reasons for this animosity vary, from the new UI to scepticism of touch interfaces to a lack of big improvements under the hood.

But by far the most common fear is what will happen next – that this marks a move away from the PC as an open platform to something more like the 360 .

“If decides to lock down Windows 8, it would be very, very bad for indie games and competition in ,” Perrson sums up over on Reddit . That might seem obvious. But it doesn’t mean it’s not a frightening, and increasingly likely possibility.

Getting used to the Modern UI

But what does Windows 8 mean for PC gaming right now?

For what we think of as PC gaming right now, honestly not a vast amount. Your existing games will still work fine, you’ll be able to install Steam, Origin or any other storefront you like, and Microsoft won’t be part of those transactions.

Windows 8 throws out the Games Explorer in favour of the oddly named Xbox Live Games tile, but otherwise doesn’t concern itself with anything you might want to install on your own.

However, this doesn’t mean that Microsoft is politely stepping aside.

Music, Video and Xbox Live Games are as much about selling you things, as accessing what you’ve bought – with the lion’s share of space devoted to Microsoft’s storefronts.

That’s a phenomenal amount of power to have, even if other people can technically install their own stores. Internet Explorer didn’t dominate the web on technical merit.

The real threat, though, comes from Metro – now renamed Modern UI – which is so important that its dedicated store is simply called “Store”.

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Games in here are firmly the likes of Fruit Ninja and Doodle God , rather than Crysis 2 , but what matters is that it’s a slice of the PC gaming industry that Microsoft gets to outright control.

Nobody else can sell Modern UI apps, and it gets to both take a cut and dictate exactly how they work. The rules are here , covering everything from the type of ad these apps can show, to how fast they have to load, to prohibiting any touch controls that contradict Windows 8.

The games available on the store are no big threat to anyone but the casual gaming portals right now.

If successful though, it’s easy to see this level of control stretching – and love or hate Windows 8, there’s no denying that a big chunk of it is about turning at least the default PC ecosystem into a more Microsoft-friendly one.

Microsoft wants to be your source of everything from apps to music, and with Windows 8, it’s not messing around like it did with Windows Marketplace.

The threat, in short, isn’t Windows 8 but the potential Windows 9 .

Already conventional apps are effectively second-class citizens in the new regime; confined to little icons, while Modern UI apps get to stretch out in big flashy tiles.

Over on OS X , has proven that at least their users will embrace a platform-holder owned storefront and the /bonus features that can be bundled with it.

It’s hard to imagine Microsoft keeping the PC as open as it’s always been, if it can get away with locking it down and keeping the keys. That’s not simply a gaming , but nor are they magically immune.

Old school fun

Foreboding thoughts aside, in the here-and-now Windows 8 is largely indistinguishable from Windows 7 when running non-Modern UI apps.

Your games will still install, full-screen and play. You won’t see any differences. You’re not going to be locked out of anything.

Barring any compatibility issues, nothing that runs now isn’t going to work after you install Windows 8.

The first big concern for anyone who doesn’t want to upgrade should be DirectX 12.

Microsoft isn’t afraid to use gaming as a reason to force an upgrade, and this will almost certainly be for Windows 8 only – just like DirectX 11.1 currently is.

On the face of it, it might not seem a big deal. Not that many games support DirectX 11 right now, and the majority of those are quite happy with DirectX 9 or 10 if you don’t have the hardware or oomph.

DirectX 12 may well be the same – extra features worth having, but not something you absolutely have to upgrade for right now.

We’re on the edge of a new console hardware generation though, which will undoubtedly shake things up.

Controlling the Xbox 360 hardware, in particular, gives Microsoft plenty of scope for making DirectX essential for the next wave of AAA games.

It’s not like it hasn’t tried something similar before. If you wanted Halo 2 on PC, you officially had to buy Vista… even though modders quickly discovered it ran fine on XP.

Even if games will run on earlier versions of DirectX for compatibility reasons, simply offering parity could be a crucial weapon.

Fighting the future

Threat or not, nobody is seriously suggesting boycotting or not supporting Windows 8. It’s going to sell far too well for that, especially when the threat is frog-in-hot-water level fear rather than a specific thing to rail against here-and-now.

If that ever happens, it’ll be because Microsoft has dropped the portcullis and locked the doors, and developers have to decide whether to be in their store or not.

The only person seriously talking about challenging the status quo, rather than simply complaining about how it’s changing, is Valve’s Gabe Newell, and even then it’s Plan B. “We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well,” he said at the Casual Connect conference back in July. “It’s a hedging strategy.”

This has fuelled much speculation about a full-on Steam box powered by Linux, as well as a massive boost for Linux itself.

Whether or not it actually happens, of course, remains to be seen – and Valve isn’t exactly known for its speedy development.

In short, if you want to play PC games, you’re going to be doing it on Windows for the foreseeable future. Whether you do it on Windows Vista, 7 or 8, however, remains your choice.

There are no big exclusives to worry about, and you’re highly unlikely to notice any differences with anything until at least DirectX 12. Don’t be afraid to upgrade, but don’t worry about being left behind either – at least, not just yet.

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In Depth: Windows 8 gaming: why it’s not all doom and gloom