Blizzard has announced that it is ending support for Windows XP and Windows Vista by October. Given that these operating systems were officially retired in 2009 and 2012, respectively, with no security or patch support from Microsoft (although the company didpatch Windows XP earlier this year), and the difficulty of continuing to test these operating systems, Blizzard’s decision makes sense. And in all honesty, it shouldn’t affect many people.
Blizzard doesn’t release the same level of details about its end users than Steam does, but I suspect we can use one to get a feeling for the other. Steam, after all, also has a great many low-requirement titles that can be played on old hardware. Blizzard, meanwhile, has taken pains to ensure that it supports a broad range of hardware to ensure its games can run on nearly anything.
Here’s the statement from Blizzard:
Starting in October of this year, we will begin the process of ending support for Windows XP and Windows Vista in World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm…
The games will not run on these older operating systems once they are no longer supported, so we encourage any players who are still using one of the older OSes to upgrade to a newer version.
Blizzard also notes it continued supporting these operating systems long after Microsoft canceled support for them, but that there have been three major OS updates since Vista, and the majority of customers have stopped using XP and Vista. Usage of Windows XP 64-bit and Vista 64-bit have evidently fallen so low, they’ve dropped off Steam’s radar completely; it tracks the 10 most popular Windows versions, and Windows 8 is the lowest at 0.07% percent. If we assume that 0.05 percent of users are still using XP 64-bit or Vista 64-bit, that still only adds up to 0.93 percent of users on these two operating systems.
Now, in a game with a huge player base, like WoW, that could still add up to 40,000-50,000 people affected, in total. But these are users that need to upgrade, period. Vista and XP have been ought of security support for a very long time. Most machines that can run Vista can also run Windows 7. And while there’s Windows XP systems that definitely wouldn’t qualify, if you’re running one of them, you probably aren’t trying to play modern WoW.
It wouldn’t surprise me if this was part of a long-term push to move all of Blizzard’s games to 64-bit. Right now, multiple titles still support 32-bit and 64-bit, and eliminating that need would make the company’s programming burden simpler. If it’s going to go that route, the most likely next target would be Windows 8 32-bit, which ties Windows Vista’s 32-bit market share.
But for now, what we know is that Blizz is shutting down older operating systems on the basis of age, not just because of market share. And if that holds true, 32-bit support will continue to be included in its games for some time to come.
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