Games For Windows Lives

By Alec Meer on October 26th, 2010 at 9:14 pm.

Some people have wondered why we’re yet to write about Microsoft’s recently-announced relaunch of Games For Windows. I wondered too, and eventually settled on it being something to do with just how tainted that name is now. After all these years of confusing marketing and frustrating attempts to regulate multiplayer, so many PC gaming brains either skip right over it or focus into some manner of cranial snarl at its mere mention. Well, let’s resist that impulse and strive for a little understanding.

Here’s the plan: Microsoft are rebooting Games For Window again, but this time around it’s about trying to make that strange, cludgy brand be associated with something other than irksome sign-in screens. How are they doing it? By putting its Marketplace element head-to-head with Steam.

Well, inevitably they’re claiming that’s not their plan, and that they’re offering an entirely different prospect, but it’d be madness to pretend this digital distribution store for contemporary PC games had any other target for regicide. The headline news for the overhauled Games For Windows Live Marketplace (that being the game-selling element of the sprawling GFW brand) is that it will no longer be shackled to titles which use the still superlative-inducingly irritating Games For Windows Live multiplayer/community/savegame-imprisoning tech. Yep, normal, unLive PC games will be allowed into this new Microsoft store. It’s very much a separate entity from Live, in fact.

It’s promising flexibility too: less rigid program shells than Steam, and cheery support for whatever DRM-nastiness each publisher or developer wants or doesn’t want. So it could well turn out to be more palatable for those who can’t abide Steam: unless, of course, publishers take it as carte blanche to load on even more copy protection.

The other Big Wow points are that a client will no longer be mandatory – in most cases sales and downloads will be orchestrated via a browser. In addition, you don’t gave to buy those silly Microsoft Points: direct credit card sales are supported.

So, all the proprietary guff is gone, and Microsoft are instead offering us something… Normal. By their control- freak standards, that’s revelatory.

The degree to which this will be a bona fide backing down remains to be seen – one of the other recurring themes in the three million and seven interviews the new GFWM boss Peter Orullian (who, tellingly, headed up a lot of the Xbox Live Marketplace stuff) is that Microsoft are apparently “doubling down” on the PC as a gaming platform. We’ve heard them bang on about how they still love the PC a bunch of times in the past and it’s not really turned out to have meant anything, but I do start to believe they could mean it this time. With Apple on the ascendant in gaming-land and Facebook and Steam both having pretty tight grips on key aspects of PC gaming, perhaps MS are finally compelled to truly fight their old corner again.

We’ll just have to see how this new store pans out when it launches in mid-November. Will it display resolve and consideration, or will it be another bloated half-measure? Twinned with that is the pre-order exclusive they’ve mentioned, and which everyone in their right mind is expecting to be Fable III. Will it be cheaper than retail, will it be a proper PC version and not full of Xbox iconography and Live nag screens? If Microsoft want our faith in this new store – if they want us to consider upping sticks from tried and tested alternatives – they need to earn it. I’m very curious to see what they do.

It’s due around about November 15, with 100 titles planned at launch. For more, here’s some interviews.

There isn’t, you’ll note, an interview by us – which is odd, given Microsoft have been cap in hand to a whole host of multi-platform game sites with this one. Blowing RPS’ own trumpet (missus) makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but that probably the world’s biggest PC gaming blog hasn’t heard directly from anyone at Microsoft about this “doubling down on PC gaming” plan can’t help but speak volumes to me. Hmm. Again, let’s see what November brings, anyway.

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173 Comments »

  1. Brumisator says:

    Hahaha, I fell asleep at my keyboard and dreamed that RPS posted something about GFW not being a cancer.

    what a weird dream.

    • Damien Stark says:

      The hating is clearly deserved, but it’s important to distinguish “Games For Windows” from “Games For Windows Live” – as they are genuinely two distinctly separate things, with the latter being the awful one.

  2. Clovis says:

    I’m glad that they’ll be selling games not saddled with GFWL. They’d get big bonus points for removing it from existing/future products, but I know that won’t happen. Anyway, I can’t see anything wrong with adding more competition to the direct download field.

    I also won’t be too annoyed if Fable still has the 360 iconography, since I’d be playing it with a 360 controller anyway.

    • subedii says:

      I’m almost certain the points still exist for DLC, just like they did before. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe they ever said they’re removing the requirement for MS Points from those.

    • Jeremy says:

      Even from a “Microsoft is the devil” viewpoint that wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Paying cash for the game, but then using Microsoft Bucks to buy DLC? I would be surprised. Or rather, not THAT surprised, but just horrified?

    • DrGonzo says:

      They already are selling games that don’t have GFWL built in. They actually label which titles have it built in and which don’t. Almost like they are aware of how gash their own service is.

    • subedii says:

      Well the exact quote is this:

      “What’s cool is if you happen to be a console game and you have MS Points in your Xbox Live account, or you could be a Zune Pass Subscriber, or you could just have a Hotmail account — any of those will work to sign in, and then you can spend those points if you have them or you could buy more points. But one of the other things that’s new about Games for Windows Marketplace is that won’t be necessary. If you don’t have those or don’t want to do it that way, you’ll also be able to purchase games with a debit or credit card.”

      Orullian’s touting this as some awesome thing, and Joystiq eat it up because they don’t really know about GFWL. But this is literally the exact same thing they were doing before. Live was always integrated across PC and 360, and you could always spend your points on either (don’t know about ZUNE but I’m guessing yes).

      And no mention of DLC. Just games. So I’m still not seeing where the suggestion of being able to buy DLC with money this time is coming from. He seems to be talking about the current system, and right now you need to buy 1000 MS FunBux in order to get a 560 point item. It’s nickel and diming you in the worst way, and I despise the idea.

      Maybe he just didn’t mention it because he felt it was irrelevant, who knows, but he literally appears to be talking about the system as it currently exists.

    • Jolly Teaparty says:

      I too would like to see a bit more competition in digital distribution. Steam’s always forgetting to be competitive with the physical retail market, leaving things at stupid prices for an age. I respect that their hands can be tied by the publishers a lot of the time, but I hope when we have more identical distribution methods selling things at different prices we’ll start to see both the digital distributors and the publishers wake up. I bought Fallout New Vegas from an online physical retailer, I would’ve preferred to have gotten it directly from Steam so I wouldn’t have yet another DVD case cluttering my shelves, but I would’ve paid 50% more for the privilege.

  3. DJ Phantoon says:

    Well see, they haven’t HAD to fight for PC market space in a while or really do much of anything. And remember Microsoft has some very good programmers. With the right kind of oversight, this COULD be a winner. The chances of it working, though, are slim.

    And what is the world’s biggest PC gaming blog? I don’t think it’s RPS because I get the feeling most of us are more or less in shape.

    • the wiseass says:

      Usually Microsoft lets their talented programmers develop interesting new product-prototypes only to scratch them in the last minute.

    • RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

      Let’s hope those good programmers have learned how to ‘playtest’, because the latest release of Windows Live Essentials was truly horrific, from a usability perspective.

    • Urael says:

      I want to find the people that made Office 2007/10 and shoot them in the fucking head. They clearly didn’t take into account the needs of anyone but their own design departments when they threw that piece of crap together.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Office isn’t really relevant to this but goddamn you are right sir. Big shout out for how utterly shit powerpoint 2007 is too. Has no one told MS about mixed media? Pictures? Video? Woh?

      GWFL could actually turn out to be useful if, and only if, it forces Steam to lower its standard prices. Steam sales are all very well, but everything standard priced is 10-50% more expensive than physical copies from online retailers.

  4. deathcakes says:

    Games for Wieners more like!

  5. the wiseass says:

    – “…again”.

    Was my first thought also. Then I realized that I don’t really care anymore. Then I felt the urge to comment because all these emotional scars left my GFWL were torn a little bit open again.

  6. Shadram says:

    This might be a case of “too little, too late” from Microsoft, kinda like Bing, the Zune and Windows Phone 7. Still, I’m happy to give them the benefit of the doubt for now, and see what the revamp brings with it.

    • Walsh says:

      Bing made Google take notice that they weren’t innovating as fast as they should. Some of the changes Google implemented recently were a direct result of Bing features, like the image search preview thingy.

      I’d argue some of the functionality in Steam is lifted from the XBL model on the Xbox.

    • Bhazor says:

      Firstly the original Zune player had a 10% share of the MP3 market. Or around 1.3 million sales which is hardly the uberfail people always like to claim.
      Secondly the Zune service is completely different to the system operated by Apple and one that I much prefer. Though I’d argue last FM has since trumped it.

    • DrGonzo says:

      And, Windows Phone 7 looks great. Just looked at one in the shop the other day. Interface is absolutely lovely. Plus it’s bloody cheap, £25 a month was the minimum contract and you didn’t have to pay anything for the phone.

    • Premium User Badge Thermal Ions says:

      Just don’t plan on changing the memory card DrGonzo, as it apparently sets up some sort of raid setup with the internal memory best I can gather from what’s been written, thus you need to completely reset and format the phone if you want to change cards.

      http://www.microsoft.com/windowsphone/en-us/howto/wp7/basics/sd-cards-and-my-phone.aspx

    • Bhazor says:

      @ Thermal Ions

      Which is still better than the iPhone which doesn’t have any way to extend memory. Besides, this being a Windows OS expect some kind of work around soon enough.

    • DrazharLn says:

      Bing, and the Zune were/are fairly successful. If not more than Google or iPod.

      Windows Phone 7 Looks like it could be very successful too. However, I hope that Android or some other linux based, open source OS dominates the market. Or, even better, multiple free and open source OS dominate the entire market.

      The problem with iOS, Windows Phone 7 and blackberry et al is that they are closed source and content locked.

      I expect Windows Phone 7 will be more free than iOS, but you won’t have total control over the platform. More importantly, if you’re not a programmer yourself (if not, why the hell not!? :-)), programmers the software you use will not have free reign.

      With Android, and to a lesser extent, symbian, you can build the phone you want and not worry about proprietary guff getting in the way.

  7. Clovis says:

    Err … does that image show some kind of “Bioshock 2″ “Map Pack” for $29.99??? Please tell me that it’s a collection of all BS2 DLC or something and not just some maps. I thought the COD:MW2 map packs were priced at silly crazy levels …

    Hopefully that’s not a foreshadowing of the amazing deals we can look forward too. I actually got Arkham Asylum from Microsoft for like $15 like 6 months ago.

    • Jake says:

      It has lorem ipsum as the Bioshock subheader too, so it’s just an early mock up.

    • Gotem says:

      I’m more interested in the Lorem Ipsum edition

    • the wiseass says:

      Lorem ipsum, dude.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      I will call my next project „Lorem Ipsum […]“, (where […] stands for the rest of the text), and confuse you all massively! MUHAHAHAHAAAA! ;)

  8. dethtoll says:

    I don’t really see this competing with Steam unless they can bring about the kind of insanely huge catalog and absolutely fucking bonkers sale-on-sale action.

    It’ll be good for the crazy assholes who hate Steam on general principle, though.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Yeah, what’s to hate about a digital distribution monopoly that has less legally mandated transparency than Activision.

    • Delusibeta says:

      A digital distribution monopoly by Activision? (I’m surprised they aren’t using Battle.net for BlackOps, and I’d be even more surprised if they don’t use it for a CoD PC game by the end of the next year. Once CoD is under the Battle.net wing, they can really start eroding Steamworks’ usage).

    • Nethlem says:

      @Delusibeta
      Have you allready forgotten about IWNet? Don’t you remember how they told us “it’s build to stay”?
      So why would they use battle.net when they have awesome IWNet?

      Yeah sorry couldn’t write that without laughing either…

    • Bhazor says:

      Yeah what is there to hate about something that does exactly what GFWL does and which has been doing it for so long nobody notices anymore? A system that was borderline broken for the first year and that still has a temperamental off line mode. What is there to hate ‘ey?

    • DrGonzo says:

      How does it do exactly what GFWL does?

    • Bhazor says:

      Regional restrictions.
      Regional pricing.
      Needing to run a client to play single player.
      Invasive DRM.
      Giving personal details to register an account.
      Being a requirement for first party software.
      Sneaking their service into third party products (Steamworks).
      They only recently allowed you to install on multiple computers (but then only allowing you to use one at a time)

      They’ve also had a completely broken offline mode for about five years (which was only fully fixed last year) and have an automated system that can permanently block your account without explanation.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      @ Bhazor

      No one notices all that stuff about Steam though because Valve runs it. You need to be an evil corporation like Microsoft apparently is for people to notice the negatives.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      @Bhazor

      Regional restrictions – Publisher Choice

      Regional pricing – – Publisher Choice

      Needing to run a client to play single player – Is it really a chore?

      Invasive DRM – It lets you install as many times as you like on as many computers as you like.

      Giving personal details to register an account – The same as every other game these days, and the consoles, besides how are you going to pay them without giving personal details?

      Being a requirement for first party software – Well yes, it is DRM.

      Sneaking their service into third party products (Steamworks). Well if you hate Steam you will hate this.

      They only recently allowed you to install on multiple computers (but then only allowing you to use one at a time) – No, you have always been able to install on as many computers as you like. Of course you can only use it on one, you are one person and have bought one copy of the game.

      They’ve also had a completely broken offline mode for about five years (which was only fully fixed last year). – I can’t defend this one, though it did work before, it just took a bit of faf. But yes, if you didn’t get it exactly right you could not play your games without going online again.

      have an automated system that can permanently block your account without explanation. – You expect them to ban manually? And they will re-instate any unfair bans.

    • subedii says:

      Well jon_hill987 already addressed the points raised, but I want to take this back a little.

      People’s like or dislike of GFWL appears to hinge primarily on whether or not they play online with it much. People who tend to game singleplayer tend not to see any issues with GFWL, and I can appreciate that. GFWL doesn’t really get in my way when I’m trying to play B:AA (apart from maybe its frequent savegame issues with games). Occasionally they’ll say however that “LOL it’s just like STEAM you hypocrite”, and that’s where things get a little messy.

      I’m not seeing where Steam does the following:

      - A just plain bad community system that’s limited in a number of arbitrary ways because they didn’t think before porting it over (I could go more into this if you want).
      - Lack of an external client for aforesaid community system, you have to be in-game to see what others are even doing. This has been asked for by the community since day 1.
      - Unworkable and extremely bad mic support
      - Which lacks even a basic PTT function because, again, they ported it over from XBL without thought
      - TrueSkill matchmaking which actually does more to dissuade people from playing because of how it’s implemented (I can go into more detail about this too if you want)
      - Allowing people to purchase but then arbitrarily forcing loss of access to multiplayer if you’re in “the wrong country” ( http://forums.gamesforwindows.com/t/10989.aspx if you’re not following me on that one)
      - Hard coded install limits by default (I’m hearing they may have removed that now. Time will tell).
      - Requirement to buy bulk increments of “points” in order to buy DLC.

      And in general, everything else GFWL does, Steam pretty much does better. Apart from maybe Cross-Platform play, but in all this time it’s been in literally 4 freaking games.

      You like GFWL fine. But don’t tell me I only prefer Steam because I’m some kind of freaking fanboy. I’d appreciate this not going down to the point of ad-hominems. If it were my choice, the system of preference of all devs would be GOG style. That’s not going to happen however, so I can at least appreciate what Steam has done to make its system worthwhile.

      I’d like for GFWL to be a better system than it is now, but every time MS re-affirms their “commitment” to it I become a little more jaded as to whether they really understand what they’re trying to do with it.

    • subedii says:

      In my whiny angst (hey, I’ll admit to it), I forgot one point, but it’s probably the aspect of GFWL that has been the absolute worst.

      Any GFWL certified game MUST go through MS Certification before it can be patched or updated. Whatever patch, however small, you need to send it to Microsoft first so that they can run it through their certification process, which lasts about a month in itself. This process is also paid, which means that the devs need to pay MS to certify every update.

      Quite frankly, this has been horrible for multiplayer balance in games.

      What this means for a game like DoW2 is that updates cannot be pushed out incrementally and regularly. Because of GFWL certification, Relic have to focus on extra-large, balance breaking updates so that they don’t extend the delays on patching further and have multiple paid certifications going at once. They aren’t Infinity Ward, Microsoft won’t “bend the rules” for them in order to fast-track updating. What happens is that you wait for months on end whilst game breaking balance issues are in the wild, only to receive massive mega-patches that try to fix everything at once and end up breaking something else.

      You see similar on XBL for that matter. But this has the effect of hampering online play to a ridiculous degree as the game remains unpatched for anywhere up to six months (Gears of War 2 was particularly infamous for this).

      Let me put this in comparison for you. Within one month of being released, Supreme Commander 2 (using Steamworks, but it could have been anything, they can update freely and whenever they want) had already had about SIX balance updates and tweaks, some minor, some hefty. That’s more than Relic were able to in about six months.

      It’s ridiculous that I go to DoW2 community right now, and I’m greeted with this message:

      http://community.dawnofwar2.com/blog-post/25-update-release-notes

      “The full release notes for the upcoming 2.5 Update have now been posted in our forum. The update is in certifcation at Microsoft, so the release date for it is still a ways out.

      Dawn of War 2 used GFWL for its multiplayer architecture. It has gotten to the point where Relic are ditching GFWL for their next addon pack, breaking compatibility with previous versions (something they’ve never done before with the DoW series), and re-writing the multiplayer architecture.

      Let me say that again, GFWL has been such a hindrance to them and the community that they’re literally re-writing their entire multiplayer architecture from the ground up in order to get rid of it. And yes, they’re going going with Steamworks, but that’s actually besides the point. When a dev is forced to completely remove the system post release and at their own cost, and that’s the best case scenario for them, it’s about as big an indictment as you can get.

    • sneetch says:

      @Bhazor

      Agree with jon_hill987 on this but just wanted to say:

      Sneaking their service into third party products (Steamworks).

      Sneaking? You make it sound so shady, like they’re going about slipping Steamworks code into games when no-one is looking. They’re not, it’s good business for them and the publishers/developers who decide to use Steamworks, why waste money, time and resources developing all the functionality that Steamworks offers for free?

      They’ve also had a completely broken offline mode for about five years (which was only fully fixed last year).

      I don’t know if it’s “completely broken” I seem to recall being able to play games offline for the last few years (when my net collapsed).

      I personally like the Steam client/shell, running games through it seems quite harmless and easy (I often add non-steam games I know my friends have to the list) although I can understand why some people would prefer not to use it.

      If this becomes a big point of competition then I’m sure Steam will offer the choice.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      I think the three of you missed the point that these are things people complain about with GFWL and they all exist on Steam too. That was his point, unless I completely misunderstood.

      I don’t hate Steam, I use it, I’m playing Fallout New Vegas through it right now because there was no other option. What gets me is how people hate DRM, account-based ownership and restrictions on what they can do with games… unless it’s Valve doing it, then it’s a-okay and shut the fuck up about it.

      Hypocrisy sucks.

    • drewski says:

      @ subedii – I think the broken patching system is the only problem in GFWL that I’m not willing to overlook if the compensation is high enough (ie the prices are low enough). I certainly wouldn’t buy any game I expected to use heavily in multiplayer if it had GFWL, though I’d still be happy to buy single player games with the “service” (as I have more or less happily done with GTA IV and Fallout 3).

    • subedii says:

      @ StingingVelvet: Not really. Bhazor said that Steam “does exactly what GFWL does”.

      That’s clearly not the case, and we’ve pointed out why. Saying it’s the same purely because of DRM is about as useful as saying that chickens are the same as pigeons because they both have wings and feathers. The issue of DRM is a relevant identifier, and a viable issue for discussion, but summarily dismissing Steam as the same as GFWL on those lines just shuts down the discussion of what problems GFWL does have.

      You may continue moaning about the “hypocrisy” of complaining about GFWL over Steam if you so desire, I’ve already listed out my issues with it. Feel free to address any of those if GFWL is the same as Steam.

    • jalf says:

      Regional restrictions – Publisher Choice

      So? Steam permits it.

      Regional pricing – – Publisher Choice

      Again, Steam has actively chosen to permit it, and of course, Valve themselves make use of it too. So if it’s just due to publishers being evil, then Valve is equally evil.

      Needing to run a client to play single player – Is it really a chore?

      Um, yes?

      Invasive DRM – It lets you install as many times as you like on as many computers as you like.

      As long as Steam’s servers are up, and as long as your account isn’t arbitrarily susbended or closed.

      Giving personal details to register an account – The same as every other game these days, and the consoles, besides how are you going to pay them without giving personal details?

      Usually, when you pay, you give your details to the company processing your credit card details, and no one else. There’s no fundamental reason why Valve needs to know anything more about you than your user ID in order to allow you to buy games.

      Being a requirement for first party software – Well yes, it is DRM.

      And? Then it’s ok? As long as it’s DRM, we’re not supposed to complain about it?

      Sneaking their service into third party products (Steamworks). Well if you hate Steam you will hate this.

      Yep

      They only recently allowed you to install on multiple computers (but then only allowing you to use one at a time) – No, you have always been able to install on as many computers as you like. Of course you can only use it on one, you are one person and have bought one copy of the game.

      Allow isn’t the same as “able to”.

      have an automated system that can permanently block your account without explanation. – You expect them to ban manually? And they will re-instate any unfair bans.

      Mmm, let me see… Yes. I absolutely expect them to manually ban accounts. If I pay them several hundred dollars, and have countless games on my account, I absolutely expect more than an automated script making the decision of whether my account should be banned.

      I also expect them to fix security holes as they become known, not just ignore support requests about them and delete forum threads by users who lost their account due to it.

      You know what? Steam isn’t the devil. They’re just lazy and incompetent and in serious need of some competition.

      They know they don’t have to offer a solid client. They know they don’t need to offer a secure client. They know they don’t have to answer support requests. They know they can just delete all criticism from their forums. They know they can just sit on their fat asses and watch the money roll in because there are no serious alternatives, and because so many people elevate them to some kind of saint status and are so very eager to brush off any criticism (for example “it’s not Steam’s fault, it’s the publishers”).

      You know what? Steam sucks. It really does. And I wish they had some competition.

    • discordance says:

      The majority of games on steam are not in fact secured, anything in the common folder and without steamworks can be launched directly if you take the time to stop moaning and setup a shortcut straight to the .exe

    • discordance says:

      The real evils of steam are, lack of refunds (contravening EU law), purchase problems resulting in disabling of your entire account, poor security, VAC and VAC bans being handed out to accounts reported as hacked and stolen, and an utterly poor customer service department staffed by idiots/people so overworked all they can do is paste in canned respones. Etc etc. Most of the drm complaints are stupid and get shouted far more loudly than the actual problems of the service.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      @jalf: “So? Steam permits it. ”

      Yeah, it’d be great if a publisher failed to obtain worldwide distribution rights, so they couldn’t sell it anywhere. Same goes for the price, I’d love to be forced to pay 100 bucks for a game like Aussies are.

      (I’m being sarcastic, btw)

    • subedii says:

      I actually agree with pretty much everything Discordance said here. Steam’s problems aren’t really the DRM, it’s the other aspects like the poor customer service system they’ve got in place.

      Although on the note of VAC bannings, I will disagree a little. VAC isn’t really all that effective against hacks, but because of the way they run it they don’t really get false positives, since it depends on them first obtaining a live sample of the hack in question and then configuring VAC to look for that specific signature. On the odd occasion where it’s messed up (MW2 springs to mind. Wasn’t a false positive so much as an issue with the system itself) they’ve been willing to admit their mistake and even gave a free game as compensation. In general, VAC bans may be automated, but I don’t think I’ve read of any false positives in the past few years.

      But I’ve read at least one series of posts about a guy who got his account hacked and VAC banned, and even when they returned the account they didn’t lift the VAC ban. Which is not cool. Granted the guy got his account hacked because he gave his login/password to a dodgy site, but still.

      Which is why I also want to stress the following. If you haven’t already: VERIFY YOUR ACCOUNT E-MAIL!

      When you do so, any potential account jack can’t make any changes to your account without it first going through your e-mail. And I think we can all agree that if they have access to your e-mail as well, you had far bigger problems to begin with

    • DrazharLn says:

      If you were unfortunate enough to be tricked out of your password by a pharming trick then your account has not been “hacked”. You’ve simply given away your authentication tokens.

      If someone set up a game server and then used bad software on there to infiltrate joining clients’ PCs and steal their passwords, that would be some form of hacking. It is also one of my primary security concerns (firewalls tend to be made to give game software a lot of rights meaning that poor security within the game software itself can compromise your security).

      The weakness of usernames and passwords as authentication tokens is the primary reason why you should have multiple strong passwords. For example, someone should not be able to pharm a password off you with a dodgy forum and then access your email. let alone your online banking (or, ideally, other forums, but I for one can’t remember a different password for every forum and I don’t use a keyring style program).

      end security ramble

  9. Jad says:

    If some game I want is on some sale for real cheap, and it doesn’t have onerous DRM, I will probably use Marketplace. I prefer Steam, but I’ve used GOG and D2D and GamersGate and Impulse enough that I’m not going to be hypocritical and say I won’t do business with them if the price is right.

    However, opening Yet Another Digital Distribution site is not “doubling down” on PC gaming. “Doubling Down” is pretty simple:

    Halo 3, ODST & Reach, Gears 2 & 3, Fable II, and Alan Wake, released for the PC.

    Even better would be to bring back PC-centric stuff like Flight Simulator and Ensemble, but that’s frankly a bit too much to hope for. But, if in a few months not a single game from that list is released for the PC, then this “doubling down” talk is utter nonsense.

    • Mad Doc MacRae says:

      I’d agree except the ports would be terrible…

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Bad porting can either be a result of crappy skills or a lack of investment and therefore a sign they’re not taking the PC seriously.

  10. Nova says:

    I’d say they have to fight that corner when Apple announces the desktop gaming mac it’s to late.

    The RPS coverage of GFWL could be a reason for not contacting you, but that should in fact be the reason to do it.

    • subedii says:

      Pretty much everyone’s been negative about GFWL, apart from possibly console oriented games sites which don’t know what GFWL is and simply shouted “Hurrah” because they thought MS was bringing XBL to the PC and would be spreading joy along with it.

      Heck, half the interviews I saw didn’t realise that this was re-launch of the store, they even know that MS had a Games on Demand service for at least the past year or so.

  11. Army of None says:

    Oh, what. This doesn’t sound terrible! I may actually buy something from here to just to help show Microsoft that I miss them and their games on PC. Freelancer, I miss you.

  12. RakeShark says:

    “you don’t gave to buy those silly Microsoft Points”

    Should be “have”.

    I honestly don’t mind GFWL all that much, I’ve kinda justified it as the Windows version of all the Apple-approved-and-tightly-moderated Mac marketplaces. I don’t think it was all that intrusive when it worked, but GFWL just didn’t do anything else for me except nag me to log into my account. It just simply offered me less than what everyone else had.

    Bring Shadow Complex to PC, however, I’ll gobble that shit up. XBLA titles on the PC would definitely make a strong case for investing in this new version of GFWL.

    • the wiseass says:

      Hmm yes, I’d like to play a few XBLA titles on my trusted gaming box. They really should make this possible.

    • Jeremy says:

      Agreed… XBLA would probably make a killing if they came to PC.

  13. Spoon says:

    So it’s Direct2Drive with a lower selection, higher chance of stepping on the GFWL landmine, and an already-tarnished brand name? Good luck with that, Microsoft.

  14. Jockie says:

    The only thing that matters to me hugely when considering digital download stores is price and which software is available. Anything without a client is a plus because I’ve already got Impulse, Steam, Ea Download manager and all those kinds of things installed.

    I just struggle to see MS giving us a store that’s both eclectic and competitively priced (I mean Alec is the expert on these matters what with his other job), they might get us a few xbox ports then refuse to sell them elsewhere, but that’s hardly going to endear them to gamers.

    • General George says:

      Jockie, you magnificent bastard, I read your comment! And you said:

      “… they might get us a few xbox ports then refuse to sell them elsewhere, but that’s hardly going to endear them to gamers.”

      But Valve uses the same strategy, don’t they? That’s a core element in their current campaign for global PC game dominance! You can’t get Half Life anywhere except Steam! So what’s yer problem, soldier?

  15. Tacroy says:

    I would keep an eye on it, if only because Microsoft has the deep pockets to finance some truly amazing sales in order to up their market share. After all, if they don’t bat an eye at selling both the Xbox and Xbox360 at a loss (and then replacing something like 10-20% of the latter due to hardware failure), they won’t really mind doing massive sales on semi-new releases just to build up name recognition. It’s not like the costs involved in digital distribution are significant on a per-unit basis, so they can afford to sell new games for like $10, kick in an extra $10 and pay the publisher $20 as long as it helps build brand awareness.

    And I can’t really see them getting any traction unless they start pulling stunts like that.

    • Nethlem says:

      Selling hardware at a loss is nothing new MS invented on the console market. It mostly works like that especially when a new gen get’s released. And they don’t do that just to take market shares, they do it because they can finance it trough software sales due to licensing fees.

      I don’t see how that would work with software, selling it at a loss and making the money back trough what? DLC?

    • DrGonzo says:

      I think he means they make the money back by then having a successful digital distribution service. Use discounts to entice new customers, run at a loss for a while. That’s pretty much what Gamestation did, though Blockbuster sold them off before they earned anything back.

  16. Eamo says:

    I have steam and according to the steamcalculator over $2500 games on it (hooray for discounts). The problem any other service has to face is that unless they offer something much better than steam then I and many others like me have no real motivation to move. When it comes down to it its basically just an online shop, an online shop that sells the exact same products I am already used to buying from a different shop. Nearly everything I have bought on steam has been bought at a 75% or greater discount. Unless they can consistently hit 90% discounts there is not going to be a huge reason to change.

    The way I see it the only really big potential play microsoft can make is if they can sell dual platform windows and xbox 360 versions of games, you buy it once you get it on both platforms, kind of like steam are currently doing on the mac. If they do that then it becomes a compelling store for PC but without that I don’t think it will ever be competitive enough to lure people away from steam.

    • Premium User Badge Thermal Ions says:

      Yep, unless they actually have decent regular sales I’m not interested.

      First and foremost Steam gives me access to games usually at lower than retail pricing (here in Oz) before even talking about the ridiculous sale prices. It’s always running due to it having become my main community gaming portal.

      Given they’ll have 100 games at launch I can’t see how they’re going to compete at least initially in the sales stakes, unless they decide to fund some major loss leader pricing on a significant number of titles at launch (which I can’t see happening).

    • drewski says:

      I wouldn’t hold your breath on the dual platform thing, Eamo.

    • Matthieu says:

      I have to say I’m in the STEAM camp as welll and dislodging me will take some very good deals.

      I’ve also purchased most of my games on 50-75% off sales. Even new titles are 10-20$ cheaper than retail (Canada). I haven’t bought a retail title in years.

      Unless M$ can BEAT these prices, they have no chance with me.

      Still waiting (and probably will never see it) for Freelancer 2.

  17. omicron says:

    Fact: MS wants the casual PC market.
    Speculation: That’s the ONLY reason they’re even looking in our direction now.
    Supporting evidence: Canning and rebranding classic PC franchises/companies under new, “accessible” labels.
    Conclusion: Just watch – they’ll start making casual games soon enough, and then that’ll be ALL they give us.

  18. subedii says:

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but from reading the interviews and so forth over the past few days I got the distinct impression that:

    - GFWL is still going to use its own DRM, even if the title itself doesn’t, just like before.
    - You still need MS points for DLC, also just like before.
    - Their big change is a web store, which is a repaint of their client based store.

    I’m not seeing much to get terribly excited about here. Especially since they still haven’t said word one about refining GFWL in itself and making it a good community system. Or trying to get cross-platform play going again. OR even providing an external GFWL community client, something which has pretty much been in demand since day 1.

    I’llk wait until November, sure. I won’t be holding my breath, that brings with it an unfortunately large risk of suffocation in this instance.

    • Zogtee says:

      Yeah, I’m going to wait a bit and see just what is different this time around. I honestly don’t expect much and certainly not the major push that would bring the PC in line with XBLA as a games platform MS takes seriously. I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see it.

  19. Jake says:

    What would it take to embrace GFWL Marketplace I wonder? A giant sale might get me interested. I like having all my games in one place though, is there any chance they will still add to Steam? I have no idea if games from the current marketplace add to Steam, but I just like a nice list of all my stuff in one place.

    The name is not as catchy as Steam either really. It needs a nickname. I probably wouldn’t tell people about a good offer I’d seen on Games for Windows Live Marketplace just because that’s a lot of syllables and my mouth is lazy.

  20. Centy says:

    I think by this point having been so infuriated with GFWL and infact everything MS has done with PC gaming in the last 10 years that there’s next to no chance I will ever let them see any of my money again. Steam is acceptable because for whatever reason I am fine with their brand of lesser evil. D2D is purest evil, MS is stupid evil and well Impulse is just stupid.

    To paraphrase what I feel about this: STEAM STEAM STEAM STEAM. Microsoft…. NO!

  21. mlaskus says:

    This is definitely interesting. Microsoft can do incredible stuff when they really want to. I hope they honestly want to do this properly this time.

  22. noobnob says:

    Games for Window-shopping. GoG and GamersGate have already filled my needs when it comes to non-Steam games.

    I can see Microsoft being able to push this forward to some extent though, by bearing the Microsoft and Windows names that everybody knows and promoting GfW through Internet Explorer favorites (aptly named “Buy Games Online”), desktop shortcuts and MSN. Some folk have claimed that people use Steam because they don’t know about other services…well, the ones who don’t know about DD yet might just be introduced to it by Microsoft.

    • subedii says:

      I just hope this doesn’t lead to MS cutting exclusivity deals with devs to make sure they only use Marketplace. That would be pretty bad, but also not unexpected.

      For that matter, they’ve been pretty adamant that they’re not going to be stocking Steamworks games , so I have to wonder whether that means they want to prevent GFW branded games hitting Steam anymore as well.

      It was bad enough that it took this long for devs to start ditching GFWL for community features in the first place.

    • noobnob says:

      How much influence would Microsoft have on publishers/devs on this matter?

      Take FO3 for example, a couple months ago you had to buy the DLC through GfWL, but now it’s available at Steam. And now you see FO:NV with Steamworks, THQ’s 2011 lineup no longer has GfWL on it…you have to wonder if Microsoft really has enough resources/influence to entice devs to get any sort of exclusivity deal on the PC market. They’ve lost far too much ground when it comes to promoting their GfWL platform (look at the GfWL 2011 lineup and you’ll understand). Considering how huge Steam has become, it’d be silly for any big publisher to not sell games on Steam at this point without a good reason.

      I can only see Microsoft getting an marketplace exclusivity deal from games from their own studios (Flight, AoE:O), no 3rd-party titles. We’ll probably still be seeing GfWL games being sold on most DDs.

  23. subedii says:

    The big things that would make GFWL for me:

    - Bring over Halo and Alan Wake: MS is the one that ensured specifically that Wake was a 360 exclusive for crying out loud (after ironically touting it as a showcase for DX10 early on).

    - Work on Cross-Platform play: This is GFWL’s major trump card over Steam. Flipping USE it, instead of just canning the projects to do so because they reflect poorly on the 360.

    - Look at what Steam did with their community system: At least try to give us something as functional along those lines. Also, having to send E-MAILS in order to communicate with people over Live is stupid.

    • shoptroll says:

      If the PS3 version of Portal 2 isn’t compatible with the PC version I’m going to be very very surprised. Let’s not call it a trump card until Valve actually gets their platform on a console.

    • subedii says:

      I would laugh so hard if Valve actually pulled that off.

      Personally, I’m doubtful it’s going to happen, but just the idea that they might give the advantage away to Sony because MS refused to move on it is funny.

    • wazups2x says:

      “- Work on Cross-Platform play: This is GFWL’s major trump card over Steam. Flipping USE it, instead of just canning the projects to do so because they reflect poorly on the 360.”

      No! That’s one of the worst things about GFWL. PC games and console games need to stay separate. They appeal to completely different audiences that want different features. Cross-Platform play guarantees a console port. And if it’s an FPS the PC version will be handicapped in order for a fair playing field.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Just label them as cross platform servers. So your not forcing consoles to play with pcs. Then, make usb mice work on the 360. Then you can have fair cross platform play.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      It doesn’t have to be an FPS for cross platform play, clearly they are the worst candidates.

      Street Fighter IV on the other hand, there is a game where cross platform play would have done wonders for sales.

    • Delusibeta says:

      @John_hill: I’ve heard that BlazBlue 1 allows cross-format play. Pity that the PC version has had zero publicity and/or distribution and the sequel’s already on the consoles.

  24. UnoShock says:

    I dream of a bright future, where GFWL actually lets me play Bioshock 2 and Red Faction Guerilla online, instead of mysteriously not allowing me. Ever.

    on a side note my captcha looked like v7u5 but sounded like 5vch

  25. Starky says:

    Microsoft have some of the best software designers in the business, if not the best period. So if they don’t once again half-ass it it might be amazing.

    Look at what they’ve done with X-box live – love it or hate it you can’t deny the quality of it – I know people buying X-boxes who’ll never play a game on it once, just to use as a media centre.

    Though personally I’d still go with a Ps3 for that for blu-ray, it has more features, just with a much poorer and user friendly interface.

    • subedii says:

      I know, XBL is actually a really impressive piece of work. Which just makes it all the more surprising that their efforts on the PC side have typically been so poorly thought out and implemented.

    • Skurmedel says:

      Well if you try to implement a console interface on a PC it’s bound to fail. To me, everything with GFWL screams console. The big buttons, the slow clunky animations, the six-clicks to do anything worthwhile.

    • wazups2x says:

      Yep, thats’ one of the main problems with GFWL. It has a terrible console interface made for controllers and not a mouse and keyboard. There’s not even instant messaging chat!

  26. Xan says:

    It still uses GFWL, it’s still only officially supported in what.. 8 countries besides the USA?

    It’s still garbage.

  27. mandrill says:

    They might as well give up now. D2D, GamersGate and Steam have the market pretty much sewn up. If they hadn’t been harping on about how ‘PC gaming is dying’ and trying to drive us all to their noddy box (the 360) for the last 4 years and done something like this to begin with (and not bothered with the whole GFWL client debacle) then and only then would anyone be taking them seriously now.

    I’m just going to point and laugh.

    *points* HA HA HA HA!

    Not a snowballs chance in hell of making anything like the kind of headway needed to be competitive with the other more established players.

    (Captcha text: TRUH, so what I say will come to pass :P)

    • Urael says:

      This. Microsoft have shown PC Gaming nothing but contempt for bloody years, and now they suddenly want a piece of the market that other, more sensible people have made for themselves. I also agree with Alec’s point about RPS being omitted very telling.

      Same old, same old from a self-faded power. Screw them.

  28. Huggster says:

    Are you really the world’s biggest PC gaming blog?
    Wow. I never knew RPS was that big, seriously.

  29. Winged Nazgul says:

    Wait, so their big marketing hook is they now feature games that DON’T have GFW?

    • Nethlem says:

      As far as i understand it their big marketing hook is that publishers now can shove as much different crappy DRM like they want into their games.

    • Ravenger says:

      My current least favourite task when researching games to buy is to check on which draconian DRM system it uses. It’s one of my major beefs with Steam that they allow additional DRM on top of Steamworks for single player games because it breaks their principle that the games are tied to an account instead of a machine.

      So the prospect of the GFWL store allowing multiple different DRM systems makes me much less inclined to use it, especially as most of the DRM will probably be limited activations or constant internet connection required.

      Microsoft should either have the courage to go DRM free (not going to happen) or have mandated a common DRM system for all the games on the store where the restrictions are clearly disclosed and where there’s good customer service to resolve any problems with the system.

    • Ingix says:

      @Ravenger: OTOH, it allows developers to give their audience a completely DRM-free version of the software, if they (the developers) so desire. Like it happened with titles like Braid, World of Goo or Machinarium, which I all got in completely DRM free versions. They also exist on Steam, including the Steam DRM.

      So while obviously some (most?) titles will use some form of DRM, now at least there is a chance that an online shop will exist besides Impulse that offers DRM-free software on a regular basis.

      One thing I agree with you however. It becomes increasingly harder to find out what DRM actual existing products use, let alone products coming out in even the near future. I understand that publishers are reluctant to put on the box detailed descriptions of what copy protection scheme is used. But in my case they might lose a sale not because I disagree with their protection, but can’t determine their protection to begin with.

  30. Premium User Badge Carra says:

    More competition is always good, even if it just lowers the prices on steam.

  31. Eight Rooks says:

    @UnoShock: My particular bugbear is Fuel mysteriously crashing every single time I try and save with GFWL enabled, but yes, I sympathise. Bioshock 2 works fine! But apparently I’m not allowed to go racing through the post-apocalypse.

  32. pkt-zer0 says:

    Instead of finding new ways to sell stuff everyone can already get just fine, how about fixing the GfWL client? Or not making every game/DLC an X360 exclusive (even for a limited time) whenever possible?

  33. Hippo says:

    Release Alan Wake for it. Then we’ll see.

  34. msarge says:

    I prefer Steam.

  35. Josh says:

    The only way I see Microsoft winning anything in the digital delivery market is if they off legacy games with built in support. Being able to play Wing Commander in windows 7 without having to download third party reverse engineered software would be brilliant.

    • subedii says:

      I’d actually hope that Wing Commander heads to GOG.com first to be honest. Along with a tonne of other EA classics.

      System Shock, Crusader, Ultima, Blade Runner… Man, I hope EA starts putting their old stuff on GOG soon. It’s not like they’re making any money off of those games now.

    • deostr says:

      Dear god I would give my left nut to play system shock without messing around with DOSBox.

      HEAR ME AND MAKE IT SO.

    • Kefren says:

      God speaks: http://www.systemshock.org/index.php?topic=211.0
      System Shock with mouselook, higher resolutions etc, runs on almost any PC.

  36. Collic says:

    It sounds like it may have some plus points, and competition is always good, but the thing is, it’s designed by Microsoft. A company that excels at poor customer service, terrible UIs, and onerous copy protection schemes.

    You can say what you like about valve (and steam, before the regular valve posters start up), but its hard to argue (with any credibility) that they don’t care about their customers. It’s very hard to argue that Microsoft do, or that they ever have.

    • jalf says:

      Microsoft can make nice UI when they put their mind to it. The Windows Phone is pretty neat.

      But they’re entering a market where “customer service” is practically nonexistent. At least Steam doesn’t really believe in such things as “customer service”. I think Microsoft can be very competitive there. It really doesn’t take much to beat Steam when it comes to customer service.

      You can say what you like about valve (and steam, before the regular valve posters start up), but its hard to argue (with any credibility) that they don’t care about their customers

      What? Are we talking about the same Steam here? The ones who leave security holes in Steam unfixed for years? Who delete entire forum threads if they’re critical of Steam? Who never ever seem to answer support requests (I don’t consider automated responses and cookie-cutter template answers that don’t solve your problem to be “answers”. The company that flat out refuses to merge your account if you’re stuck with games on two different ones? The company who, overnight, despite customer protests, decided that “hey, our two-week beta of our “rip off non-Americans program has been going so well, we’ll roll it out to everyone”?

      Steam is about the most customer-*hostile* entity I’ve seen on the internet. There are reasons for the service’s popularity, but “customer service” is not among them.

  37. Fergus says:

    We need a stake through the heart next time, just to be sure.

    • Urael says:

      I saw we dust off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

  38. neolith says:

    The only way to make GfWL better is to remove it from all games.

    I still avoid games that come with it like the plague.

  39. Rick says:

    Microsoft’s efforts to push something not wanted onto the people are reaching towards levels of sillyness commonly displayed by the European Union.

  40. Vinraith says:

    less rigid program shells than Steam

    I’d like to know what that means, exactly. It’s not hard to be less rigid/invasive/annoying than Steam, but given the option to avoid any client at all (via Gamersgate, D2D etc) I don’t know why I’d put up with even a less obnoxious client from GfWL.

  41. ScubaMonster says:

    So, any word on how many times they’ll let you re-download your games? Unlimited like Steam? Limited activations?

    In regards to lesser drm than Steam, we already have that. It’s called Impulse. Sorry MS.

  42. Dinger says:

    First, let me get the love out: Alec is awesome. Even his typos add depth and meaning.The best is when he praises something, but somehow manages to backdoor a totally unintended but utterly ruinous insult. Then, if he’s in the depth of bachelorhood, his only way out is to post photos of his cat. Again, pure awesome: depth of character communicated
    without touching the word limit.

    Oh yeah, GFW: so crazy DRM allowed. Will DRM be tested to work with GFW bits?
    “Double Down” is an action in blackjack/21 where the player has a hand that needs a max minimum of one card (so hand is a 10 or 11), basically a really good shot at winning, and elects to double the bet in exchange for taking only one card (and a significantly less likely victory).
    It makes sense insofar as GFW’s biggest enemy has always been Microsoft, which keeps crippling its monopoly-aided lock on Windows games with corporate worries about distinguishing the brand from perpetual money-sink upon money-sink XBL while all the while touuting the next iteration as the winning hand, wiithout bothering to check the crap they’re shoveling.

    • shaydeeadi says:

      @dinger: XBL is a money sink? U sure? As in a money sink for the customers who use it? You can’t be honestly saying that XBLA makes them lose money.

  43. Freud says:

    I don’t see how you can object to this when other publishers (Valve, Stardock, Paradox) have their own stores. Can’t say I have been impressed with either software or prices from MS up to now so unless that improves I don’t expect to buy stuff from them.

  44. Om says:

    So is it finally safe for me to install GTA4? Or is it too much to hope that that grotesque routine of having to log on in order to save a game has been banished to the dustbin of history?

    • otzenGulasch says:

      Don’t worry, they’ll come up with crazy new ways to rpohibt you from haviing a good time.

    • drewski says:

      This is one thing I’ve actually genuinely never understood – how is having to log in to GfWL to save any different from having to be logged into Steam to, well, run the game in the first place?

      I can understand the dramas with GfWL screwing up saves, but I don’t get the problem with being signed in.

    • Delusibeta says:

      @drewski: The problem is exactly that: the save games going walkies if you don’t log in/are currently offline on an online account or vice versa.

    • Om says:

      @drewski: Largely because I like to play my offline games offline. Call me a traditionalist, but there’s something wrong about having to log onto some external website in order to save your SP games

  45. jonfitt says:

    Meh.

    Competition is good, let’s see what they bring to the table. However dinner is almost over and I’m stuffed with Steaming goodies so it will have to be good at this point.

    The time for “me too” digital download stores has pretty much passed. Any new entrant will need to offer something compelling, which probably will have to include:
    very low prices,
    re-downloads forever,
    no Internet connection required in SP game,
    patching,
    as a bare minimum.

    • Collic says:

      Aye, its Microsoft’s typical MO, really. Fail to innovate as you sit pretty on your on particular market strangleholds, then panic once someone else does innovate and try to under-cut them.

      I don’t see them being able to bully Steam, or the other established distribution services out of the market any more than they’re going to take search away from Google. It’s probably destined to fail or trundle along in irrelevance.

    • Anthony Damiani says:

      Honestly…. while competition is good in theory, I’m really happy with Steam now these days, and it seems like having to manage a separate client and having things stored on separate services is a pretty substantial net minus.

  46. Delusibeta says:

    Honestly? Can’t help but feel this will turn into the poor man’s Gamersgate.

  47. omicron says:

    So, uh… why is an XBL/PSN exclusive pasted all over the site backdrop? Pointless advertising, much?

    • Rick says:

      Well, it is a Schafer game, so that makes it slightly more acceptable. Consider it punishment for not having bought Grim Fandango or Psychonauts.

      (please waiver the above if reader has bought Grim Fandango or Psychonauts)

    • Nighthood says:

      Seconded. I have no problem with ads, but ads for a game only on consoles seems retarded considering it’s a PC only site.

    • DollarOfReactivity says:

      Since RPS outsourced the ads to Eurogamer, what appears on EG tends to show up on RPS. Unfortunately the logic of the ads don’t always carry over.

    • subedii says:

      In fairness, they do also seem to have a spot reserved specifically for indie PC games these days. Which is a nice touch.

    • omicron says:

      Bought both. Psychonauts twice. On PC, no less.

  48. Farewell says:

    *Cranial snarl*

  49. Navagon says:

    Microsoft are fickle. I wouldn’t put too much trust in their attention remaining on PC for long.

    That said, the 360 is old and they only seem to be trying to elongate its lifespan. Presumably this is to ensure that it ends as a profitable venture. But what are the odds of MS entering into the console market once more? Maybe they do actually see the PC as a less risky, less costly and potentially more profitable platform.

  50. Sir Derpicus says:

    Wait, RPS is the biggest PC gaming blog on the planet?
    I did not know this. I guess it is a platform specific blog after all, huh.