Launched: The New GFW Marketplace

By Alec Meer on November 15th, 2010 at 7:29 pm.

As revealed the other week, and now actually actual – right over here. There’s not a vast amount of super-recent games on there as yet, but Lego Universe, Dead Rising 2 and 007: Blood Stone are the headliners and suggest a drive to be relatively contemporary. A lot of the existing stuff remains comically expensive, however, which suggests that publishers are either very cautious about this service or Microsoft are still testing the waters. Clue: be cheaper.

There’s an inaugural mega-bargain, at least – GTA IV, sans DLC, for £12. Alas, it has been cheaper on Steam during past ultro-sales and can still be had for less at retail/etail, but if the high street or a wait for the post-person ain’t handy for you it’s certainly cheaper than any other digi-store right this minute. You can also use your Live/Messenger/Hotmail/whatevs id to sign in and buy stuff, which might make it a little easier or more palatable for some folks. Or not. WHO KNOWS?

The roster isn’t, it must be said, especially impressive right now, primarily consisting of stuff that was on the old version of the service, with the addition of a few older Activisoin titles. The two most recent CODs – both requiring Steam – are noticeable by their absence, so I’m not terribly convinced anyone’s gonna rush to pick up World of War right now… Still, it means it genuinely is hosting games free from Games For Windows Live.

Then again the service has just relaunched, so it’s unfair to sneer before its wheels have fully begun to turn. I entirely appreciate that it’s going to take a little while to fill up with the promised wave of Live-less titles. In general, the predominantly web-only interface seems admirably de-cluttered and de-cludged compared to previous incarnations of GFW Marketplace, but forcing people into having a Live account might create some annoyance. Give it a whirl, anyway – seem more appealing than a) before b) other services c) shops?

Update – as Miker cleverly suggests below, GFW also allows (but doesn’t force) you to pay in MS points. And there are quite often offers to buy MS Points discounted, if you keep your ear to the ground, so it’s entirely possible that canny PC gamers could snag bonus price cuts. A potentially effective spanner in the (Steam)works, if the new GFW pulls in enough desirable games over time.

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146 Comments »

  1. Hybrid says:

    … but I’m perfectly happy with Steam.

  2. Definitely NOT Sam Crisp says:

    I can’t even log in. Every time I try, it sends me to a page saying it could not successfully sign me out. And if I try logging in from another Live service and then opening the marketplace, I just get the same message. I doubt they’ll let me buy anything in Australia, anyway.

    On another note, I seem to be unable to comment on any RPS threads anymore. My comment on the IndieDB post hasn’t been approved my moderation, and every time I try to post this, I get rejected for spam. In fact, I’ve had to log out of my RPS profile and use an alternate name and email address in order to post this successfully. If you’re reading this right now, it’s a miracle. I suppose I’m not have much luck with user accounts today.

  3. Trayder says:

    I was gonna say this looked ABSOLUTELY AMAZING for us Australians with most games being 66%+ off retail prices without the stupid regional markups we see on Steam
    BUT
    I finally managed to log in (I had to sign into my Xbox account at Xboxcom, sigh) and it informed me my Xbox region wasn’t supported.

    Great work getting a new store and all that GFW, I can accept that my region isn’t yet covered, fair enough but seriously stop with the Xbox crap already, IT IS A HOTMAIL ACCOUNT AND I AM ON A PC.

  4. Trayder says:

    Doesn’t work for Australians yet.

    Most likely because they are implementing horrible regional markups that would prevent us from getting those American prices that are 66%+ off our retail.

  5. frags says:

    Had a look. Not terribly impressed.

  6. drewski says:

    I’m not happy with Steam, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to use an even worse implementation of digital distribution.

    • Vinraith says:

      Exactly. You can’t compete with Steam by being even more intrusive and obnoxious, while simultaneously failing to do the matchmaking, community, and other features that sell people on Steam even half as well.

    • neolith says:

      I have to agree. I do dislike a lot about STEAM and I’d never buy a new or full-price game there, but it does have some benefits for me that sometimes outweight the horrors it comes with. So I tolerate it.

      GFWL however… worse shop, worse prices, lack of community, worse bugs, the stupid and useless GFWL account for games that you can buy retail or via STEAM – and all that on top of yet another client I would have to use in case I’d want to buy something? No thanks, no good can come from this.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      They even failed on having decent launch specials, therefore regardless of how they improve it from here, many aren’t going to bother coming back to see.

  7. MaxNormal says:

    Same story here. I could and did buy the special on FEAR 2 a few weeks back through the games for windows client. Now I cannot even log into to a WEB BASED STORE because I live in New Zealand (a supported country for xbox live etc), and the specials of the new store do not show up in the games for windows client. Epic fail MS

  8. adamos says:

    Still same old MS. Just a bit prettier than before yet some substantial changes are not there. For once how hard is it to put a language option MS? Why i’m set to Finnish ( despite regional and language settings are set to greeek/english ) and there is nothing i can do about it ?

  9. frags says:

    Also, Osmos is going for 2 bucks on GFW marketplace. Kinda old but worth it.

  10. The Army of None says:

    I will continue to hate this service as usual. Until they decide to host Freelancer. Then I’ll buy it and quickly fall in love, if only for that one game.

    • RakeShark says:

      That is honestly one thing GfWL could have in their favor, by securing the rights (or twisting the arms of rights holders) of old Windows and Dos games that haven’t been made available on GoG or Steam. Starlancer, Freelancer, Populous, Syndicate, Wing Commander, X-Wing? We will flock like self-aware lemmings to the service that provides those games.

    • KillahMate says:

      Heh, here’s a fun bit:

      Since this is a Games For Windows Marketplace, it sells games that are Games For Windows certified. Which those fine titles you’ve mentioned are not. So they will never ever be sold there. In fact, almost any game made before 2007 will never ever be sold there.

      Fun, innit?

  11. Trayder says:

    After being told to log into my xbox account over at xboxcom I was informed that the marketplace wasn’t available for my xbox account region. Nice try GFW but I am trying to purchase PC games because I HAVE A PC.

    Unfortunate that there is no access for Australians yet, if we could get those prices it’d be 66%+ off from our terrible retail. I’m sure when it is enabled it’ll be accompanied by regional markups that drive us away from purchasing.

  12. Talorc says:

    Site is down for me, just “Something has gone wrong” in big red letters

  13. Gabbo says:

    I haven’t tried playing any of my (two) GFW games yet (and DoW2 needs to be updated on my slow ass connection, so it could be a while before I try). This wasn’t much of a revamp. Better site/client, but that was really the least of the services problems and it still has a ways to go (like opening MGS’ vaults).

    That said, they have a couple games I might be interested in currently if:
    A) the price was significantly lower, as neither title is new
    B) They gave a better explanation of the DRM used for each game (ie their own, 3rd party DRM)

    So until they crack open their vaults and make older MS published titles available for Win7 at better prices with better DRM details, I’ll stick with the other DD services I currently use and watch GFW to see if things improve (I won’t hold my breath).

  14. Gabbo says:

    Well my two biggest issues were:
    A) They do not provide enough info on the DRM being used (their own and/or others) on the site
    B) They didn’t open the vaults of MGS up, and allow Win7 compatible versions of older MS titles to flow forth until my gaming

    And the ‘re-launch’ didn’t really address those, nor did it really show any genuine effort to push GFW forward (Using the Xbox Live website for the new TOS and making the client/games inaccessible until one visits that site was a nice touch if I do say so myself.)

    There are a couple titles I might grab, but not at the prices their selling them for.

    At this point, I’ll keep watching, but I want play their game, not yet.

  15. Gabbo says:

    They did not address my two main issues with the previous setup:
    A) DRM information (theirs and 3rd party) is severely lacking, and I don’t buy DD until I know what I’m getting into.
    B) They didn’t open the MGS vaults, allowing a flood of Win7 compatible older titles to be embraced by my gaming busom. Two titles have piqued my interest, if they lower the prices.

    If they put more effort into it over time (not using XBL website for TOS agreement for starters), and it has a ways to go at this point, I may come around. But if this is their best efforts, I’ll stick with the services I currently use and watch GFW for improvements

  16. Zogtee says:

    Well, it’s a first step and a long overdue one.

    You’d think they would adjust prices to be more competitive other digital distribution sites, but I guess they’re trying to find a price level that will work for them. Like with all their PC gaming projects, I expect them to treat this like an embarrassing afterthought and put very little actual effort into it.

  17. PearlChoco says:

    Am I the only one who cannot run the GfWL client? It is the only program on my PC that fails to connect to the internet for some reason, even with Comodo firewall disabled. Anyone knows what could be the problem? Does it require some special service? I’m running Win7 x64.

  18. The Sombrero Kid says:

    lol microsoft just keep adding stuff to the games for windows brand rather than fixing it, meaning whatever new stuff they launch is tainted with the brand from the start, and so is doomed to fail.

  19. Chris says:

    I have never had anything but problems with GFWL.

    Thanks to GFWL I can’t play a game that I purchased (F1 2010).

    I would not buy anything from GFWL web shop, or knowingly buy any game infected with GFWL, no matter how cheap it was.

    For me Steam has been flawless, GFWL has been a nightmare.

  20. Miko says:

    I think this is all actually a practical joke, and next week there’ll be a press release just saying “lol j/k”.

    Of course, that’s what I used to think about GFWL in general.

  21. Poppis says:

    Their site looks a lot like that other digital distribution site, whats its name…

  22. FKD says:

    Does anyone know why they do not offer any of the prior Age of Empires titles? That was the whole reason I tried the last iteration of GFWL. I already own the games, but am willing to buy them again since my copies are in storage and I enjoyed them that much! Plus no other d/l site seems to offer them :/

  23. Carra says:

    I bought GTA 4 in last years steam deal.
    Price? €7.5.

    So no thanks.

  24. oceanclub says:

    12 hours later, and I still can’t even access the page (am now getting a different error):

    http://img691.imageshack.us/img691/9348/gfwlstillfail.jpg

    Still, I _can_ ignore that and login anyway. But then I can’t even specify a credit card for my locale – the Country field is locked at “United States” and greyed out:

    http://img593.imageshack.us/img593/8084/gfwl3.jpg

    Sorry, this is plain embarrassing. One of the world’s mega-corporations can’t implement a games shop that competes with a bunch of Polish developers in a side project.

    P.

  25. sneetch says:

    It’s seriously underwhelming considering it’s their big relaunch but it is I suppose indicative of their PC policy.

    Oh, I found out that if you’re in a Live country that’s not on their list then you can download and buy games through the client but not the website. Found that out in a random thread on their forum site, no point in putting that kind of information on the website of course. It’s really poorly done. It just, rather rudely, logged me out when I tried to sign in and told me to make sure Live was supported in my region. Directing me to the Xbox page which assured me that Live was, indeed, supported in my region. I wonder who thought it was a good idea to have their users figure that kind of thing out on their own?

    I must admit to a certain fascination with this now: it’s like watching a slow motion train wreck.

  26. oceanclub says:

    It’s lucky for Microsoft that noone really cares about this. On Twitter, there’s far more traffic about GOG’s Baldur’s Gate 2 relaunch than GFWL.

    P.

  27. mqzpla says:

    I hope RPS uses this picture when talking about GFWL in the future:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a8/XBL_Map2.png
    And the Osmos deal is not that great; I got it about a year ago from Steam for $2.

    • drewski says:

      That’s the Xbox Live Marketplace footprint, not the GFWLive Marketplace footprint.

    • mqzpla says:

      @drewski One needs an Xbox LIVE account to use the store, so GFWL does not serve more countries.

  28. jon_hill987 says:

    Even the EA store has better prices than that.

  29. Robbie G says:

    Unfortunately we all know where this is going. This is Microsoft we’re talking about, they always earn market share by releasing good products, you know.

    1) Buy GFWL exclusivity from a handful of publishers that are on Steam (2K for one, already in ‘talks’, apparently)
    2) Buy GFWL DRM activation from publishers who sell on Steam and GFWL
    3) Market GFWL as the best thing since bagged tea
    4) Profit, for Microsoft anyway.

    Online distribution is going to be Microsoffed, unfortunately.

  30. DrGonzo says:

    Well Osmos is £1.50 on Gfwl at the moment, but god forbid I say anything positive about Gfwl in this thread.

    Oh and for those having log in issues. 90% of them are caused by not reading that you must go and accept their new terms and conditions on xbox live before they will allow you to sign in on Gfwl.

  31. Gabbo says:

    Two things I didn’t like about GFW before still aren’t addressed:
    A) DRM info (whether it’s their own or 3rd party) is not straightforward or detailed enough for me to pull the trigger
    B) Still not enough titles from MS’ vaults that are Win7 compatible

    Their storefront was really the least of my issues with GFW, and currently maybe 2 titles would interest me, if they were cheaper. $40 for exclusive titles that are 3+ years old, I don’t think so Microsoft. Maybe at $25, then we’ll talk. Oh, and using the XBox Live website for TOS, classy. I’ll stick with the various other DD services I currently use, and watch GFW to see if it improves over time.

  32. oceanclub says:

    (Cross post with a GFWL forum thread here: http://forums.gamesforwindows.com/p/15623/134577.aspx)

    I just rang the support line about my problem not being able to add a credit card to my account. Actually, It turns out that the country was automatically specified from my Hotmail account settings. Which, since I set up my Hotmail account in August 1997 (long before many XBox 360 gamers were born I’ll wager), I have no idea if I even set those country settings myself, or specified them incorrectly. But it seems now I have an account with the wrong country and am unable to change them.

    While the support person was very polite and nice, his suggested solution that I have two Live accounts, add points to one, and gift myself games to the other, is just convoluted. At the end of the day, I’m the customer. The best alternative for me, it seems, is to ignore GFWLM altogether and continue to use Steam, GOG and other direct download services that service me, the customer. If something’s inconvenient for me and offers no benefits (and the GFWLM prices are currently completely uncompetitive compared to other sources), I’m not going to bother. I do hope the service is eventually fixed, but considering this is a relaunch of something which has already been around for years, I’m not holding out much hope.

    P.

    • Carra says:

      So yeah, the obvious solution would be to add a bug to their system.

      And then allow people to change the damn country they live in.

    • oceanclub says:

      “So yeah, the obvious solution would be to add a bug to their system.

      And then allow people to change the damn country they live in.”

      True; if this was Steam – that is, if I cared – I’d probably take the matter further, but it speaks volumes about GFWL that I can’t be bothered.

      P.

  33. dogsolitude_uk says:

    The pricing is atrocious, considering that you don’t get a box, printed manual or whatever, I mean, seriously…

    Worse, Microsoft need to hire a decent Info architect. The navigation and layout of the site is dreadful.

    Supposing I was to buy, I dunno, STALKER. If I go into a shop, I’d find the PC section, find the ‘S’ bit, and probably find STALKER. Given that I have a sort of peripheral vision, I’d also see other games with titles beginning with S. In other words, I can browse.

    Here however I either have to scroll through ‘All Titles’ from left to right using a s-l-o-w fadey thing (probably coded in Silverlight), or type the name of a game into a search box.

    Search is ropey. I typed in ‘flight’ expecting to get Flight Sim X or at least something with the word ‘Flight’ in the title, and got Dark Void instead.

    There’s no ability to search by genre either.

    Mind you, this is nothing compared with the nightmarish Escher-inspired structure of most MS sites, liek MSDN for example.

    Still, it’s a nice shiny black colour I suppose, so I’ll give it a few points for prettiness.

  34. KillahMate says:

    It’s been said on numerous occasions that Microsoft as an organization really isn’t this huge monolith – it’s more of a loose association of teams assembled from on high, and then left to fend for themselves in an environment of frankly unhealthy competition (also encouraged from the top).

    So it’s not so much that Microsoft is messing up GfW – it’s more that there is no Microsoft. There’s the Games for Windows team, and there’s everyone else (everyone else here especially including the mighty XBox product team, who are a juggernaut in the MS power structure). The GfW team is against everyone else in a fight for influence and company resources, and they are losing. The results are then released for everyone to see, in the form of a pathetic game client and middleware, and an embarrassing online shop, because there really isn’t the manpower or money to do it better. It’s not hard to understand.

    Not that I care. It’s still all Microsoft, and the more time they spend on petty infighting the less they have left for spoiling everything for everyone else. Given their behavior in other fields they’ve successfully monopolized, I can only hope they completely abandon the PC as a games platform.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      Yeah, on reflection this explains so much… Oddly, wasn’t this structural infighting also something that nearly killed Nokia? I think I read something along those lines on El Reg.

    • oceanclub says:

      “So it’s not so much that Microsoft is messing up GfW – it’s more that there is no Microsoft. There’s the Games for Windows team, and there’s everyone else (everyone else here especially including the mighty XBox product team, who are a juggernaut in the MS power structure). ”

      This is utterly confirmed by the response of one of the GFWL people to my query about broken links:

      http://forums.gamesforwindows.com/p/15623/134647.aspx#134647

      “The reason that you are getting the broken link for that page is that the xbox.com team moved a few things around when they updated their site and we’re still trying to find all the places where they changed links.”

      The XBox left hand doesn’t know what the GFWL right hand is doing. (Seriously – link verification? Wasn’t that in Dreamweaver 15 years ago?)

      P.

    • subedii says:

      Ultimately, this is why GFWL can’t succeed. It’s fundamentally at odds with XBL in what it needs to achieve. Games exclusives, patching systems, cross platform play… Anything that changes to benefit on one side almost inherently has a detrimental effect on the other. And GFWL doesn’t have the clout to push anything through.

      Frankly, I think this is also why a stand-alone GFWL community client has never materialised, even though they clearly have the capability of creating one (GFWL marketplace got its external client after all).

      If a GFWL client were ever released, it would have the same profile of Steam, as in, it would be an app that was constantly running in the background, keeping you logged in as long as your PC is running. That’s the only way a community system can really work.

      The problem is with XBL. Because you are forbidden to use the same login from two different locations at the same time, even if it’s you turning on your PC whilst Netflix is running on your 360. The system will kick you off one of the two. This is something that (much like the possibility of real cross-platform play) reflects poorly on the 360, or Live in general. So ultimately, a GFWL client simply cannot be allowed to exist. Being permanently logged into Live on your PC just causes issues for XBL when you choose to switch that on at the same time, and they have no inclination of fixing that issue and making Live work together as a cohesive whole. As the system currently exists though, you’re far less likely to be running your 360 if you’re currently playing a game on your PC, so the issue is largely sidestepped. No external client means no conflicts.

      They have the means, the fans are clamouring for it, and they’ve certainly had the time. So the choice not to have an external client can only realistically be considered a deliberate one. And the only reason I can think of as to why they wouldn’t implement one, is because it’s caught in a conflict of interest. With a group that has far more clout than the GFWL team.

  35. oceanclub says:

    Oh look, now the official Live team are accusing me of acting in bad faith (which, in my book, is a few degrees from calling me a liar):

    http://forums.gamesforwindows.com/p/15623/134665.aspx#134665

    Yes, back in 1997, I deliberately set the country location of my Hotmail account to the US because I knew that one day Microsoft would release a second-generation console whose online account I would want to tamper with.

    They’re doing soooooooooooo well at convincing me to become a customer. (The “soooooooooo” bit indicates extreme sarcasm, incidentally. As was the above paragraph. Jesus, these people are annoying. Gabe Newell, I love you and will never ever slag you off again.)

    P.