Windows Runtime, maybe better known by its acronym, WinRT...now that sure is an ancient term, isn’t it? Except that it really isn’t; it only first came into being from Microsoft in 2012, less than a decade ago—with the advent of Windows 8—only barely predating the current gaming console generation.
But WOW how forgotten it’s become by now. Well, I guess it might still be in use today through its descendant, the seemingly equally ancient Universal Windows Platform (UWP), as the technology powering Microsoft’s cross-platform capabilities between their Xbox One and PC versions of games. However, WinRT is definitely well past its days being promoted as a big selling point for the circa-2012 next generation of Microsoft operating systems and Windows phones. Heh, Windows phones...
History has largely written it off at this point, but I’ve also got to be honest: There was something about the concept that looked promising in my view, similar to how I felt Windows 8's aspirations were promising. The ultimate goal of Windows 8—being a single universal operating system that would be shared across computers and tablets—was something that made sense and seemed admirable. The ultimate execution, of course, left a whole lot to be desired, and I won’t pretend that it wasn’t a relief when Windows 10 brought so much of the old-school Windows 7 stuff back.
WinRT was poised to do something similar on the software front: An API designed from the ground up to support running on multiple hardware platforms. Code your software just once, and it would run on the Windows computer, the Windows tablet, AND the Windows phone without any additional porting effort. You could theoretically target the whole Windows ecosystem in a single go!
That was a tantalizing prospect, and during a time before practices like cross-buy or cross-platform multiplayer became more common, at the very least a forward-thinking one. The case that by far mattered most to me? If people were making cool smartphone games, and they happened to make Windows versions along with the usual iPhone and/or Android releases, I would not actually need a smartphone to play them. Why? Because through WinRT, I could play those smartphone games on my computer!
In practice, however, Microsoft hit some major snags when they set WinRT loose into the wild. Their mobile offerings could not compete with their iOS or Android competitors, so it was a damn shame how all of that WinRT stuff got tied to a Microsoft Store app which meant to be their App Store or their Google Play. The whole enterprise went down with their mobile device aspirations, taking WinRT along with it.
With all of that said, however, there was actually one game that I got to play which fulfilled the promise that I had envisioned back them. That game was Calculords.
This was a game that I checked out later than its initial release. I first heard about it when Kotaku ran an article about the Kickstarter for the game’s prospective sequel. The concept intrigued me greatly, which led me to look into the regular game. And when checking their website, I was greeted with those godsend words: Download from Windows Store.
Yes!! I thought. I could play this on my computer!
Sure enough, one download from my laptop’s app store later, I was playing this smartphone game through a mouse and keyboard, no emulator necessary. It ran without hitches, and though using my mouse for a game clearly designed around touch controls was not the absolute most ideal, it was still thoroughly playable.
That was the one time that WinRT did the thing I hoped, and contributed to a good experience. But one time is all that it took to prove that within all of the other confounding aspects of how this technology got implemented, there was still the seed of something genuinely potent in what it could do.
This is where I would also venture to add the new Minesweeper to the list of good things, if it weren’t for that whole ads-n-microtransactions-shoehorned-in thing. MICROTRANSACTIONS. IN MINESWEEPER. What the hell, Microsoft!!