Windows 10's terrible Store app might finally get a much-needed overhaul

It sure couldn't get any worse.

windows 10 surface laptop
Dan Masaoka/IDG

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Windows 10’s Microsoft Store has always been terrible. It was terrible when it debuted as the “Windows Store” alongside Windows 8. It remained terrible when the name changed to align with Microsoft’s now-defunct physical stores. It’s so terrible that I’ve refused to use it for years, spurned by its crap-tastic mobile-centric curation and disastrous PC game management features. But nearly a decade after its launch, and after several years of almost active neglect, there may—may—be hope on the horizon.

“Microsoft is working on a brand-new Store app for Windows 10 that will introduce a modern and fluid user interface, as well as bring changes to the policies that govern what kind of apps can be submitted to the store by developers,” Windows Central reports, citing anonymous sources. (Windows Central has a fantastic record with Microsoft leaks, however.) The publication says the overhauled Microsoft Store will be updated monthly with new features and fixes after arriving this fall, and “should also provide a more stable download and install experience for large apps and games.”

That last bit hits home for me particularly. The Microsoft Store has been a disaster for PC gamers. It launched with several key features missing, many of which have been added over time. Its game download servers have been notoriously unreliable. I personally swore off the Microsoft Store a few years ago after the fourth time it forced me to download Gears of War 4’s full, massive 100GB install for mysterious yet frustrating reasons, right around the same time it refused to allow me to move Forza Horizon 3 to another PC using local backups.

gears 4 Microsoft

Gears of War 4 chainsawed my desire to use Windows 10’s Store app ever again.

Dealing with those hassles aren’t what I’m looking for in games I paid full retail price for. After that, I had to follow our advice: Serious gamers should avoid the Microsoft Store. The Store app’s woes directly cost Microsoft hundreds of dollars I would have spent on Forza Horizon 4 and other games. The Xbox app doesn’t suffer from the same issues when you subscribe to the fantastic Xbox Game Pass for PC service, so hopefully this rumored overhaul follows its lead.

It’s not the only change needed, though. The Microsoft Store is ugly and obtuse right now. It’s hard to discover apps beyond the major ones, and managing DLC for games you’ve acquired can be tricky. There’s still a massive pile of trash apps available. This is not a new problem.

My colleague Jared Newman penned, “Why Microsoft needs to solve the Windows Store ‘crap app’ crisis before Windows 9” all the way back in 2014. A couple years later, we covered a report showing that “the Windows Store’s ‘new and rising’ apps are actually ‘old and stationary.” In a report card on the Microsoft Store a year after its debut, I wrote, “The Windows Store still simply isn’t useful enough to replace the desktop, nor can it compete with Apple’s or Google’s vast app ecosystem. Most of the available selection is noise, not signal…that’s not good enough.”

How are things doing now? Well, here’s a screenshot of a Microsoft Store search for “YouTube” that I just ran.

microsoft store Brad Chacos/IDG

A screenshot of a search for “YouTube” in Windows 10’s Microsoft Store app.

Gross. Not just the no-name, lowly rated, and totally unrelated apps that appear as results, but also all the wasted space and lack of information. The Microsoft Store started off terrible and it’s still terrible right now, nine long years later.

So yes, I’m hoping this rumored overhaul happens. Cleaning up the interface and, hopefully, the types of apps developers can submit could go a long way toward improving the situation—if Microsoft sticks the landing, that is. The company’s track record with the Store itself doesn’t inspire hope, but Microsoft has been firing on all cylinders with its Xbox app and Windows Game Bar improvements. Windows 10’s fate is now in the hands of Panos Panay, the visionary leader behind Microsoft’s sublime Surface PCs. And some of the goals of the Microsoft Store—like automatic updating apps, far better security, and software you can install on any associated device—remain worthy ones indeed.

I’m not optimistic that a Microsoft Store overhaul will wind up successful, but I’m hopeful. My fingers are crossed so hard they’re cramping.

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