Well here's a spot of news. Games For Windows Live Gold accounts are now to be free. According to a 1Up report, Microsoft announced today that PC users will no longer have to pay for a Live Gold account to be able to access the cross-platform shenanigans of their multiplayer gaming. Which can only be delightful news to the 360's paying suckers.
1Up go on to say that MS are planning a GFW Marketplace, aping the Xbox Live Marketplace, also offering various downloadable bits and pieces from demos to extra gaming content. Which sounds awfully similar to, er, the rest of the internet.
Games For Windows has been a strange idea since the start. It's certainly a nice thought that we can more simply judge if a game will work with our PC, but the numerical system hasn't exactly caught on, and the lack of a shift over to Vista means it's pretty meaningless to most players. If anything, GFW seems to be viewed as a disturbing ghettoisation of the PC world, adding Microsoft branding to games and little else. Microsoft are clearly attempting to loosen GFW's collar and tie a bit, also planning to make it simpler for developers to integrate with the system.
It's hard not to roll your eyes at asking PC gamers to pay money for access to forms of multiplayer gaming - something that's been free on the machine since the beginning of time. Perhaps mad with greed after seeing the success and uptake of the 360's Gold memberships they couldn't see why another gaggle of gamers wouldn't want to fork out. And clearly they haven't, and as such Microsoft are giving up on the daft plan. However, GFW Marketplace, at first glance at least, does seem to suggest the same muddled thinking is at work. A place where we can download demos and additional content for PC games?! What an innovation! (Entertainingly, if you search Google for "games for windows marketplace" the top result reads: "Windows Marketplace: An error has occurred.")
Presumably the sensible move for a GFW Marketplace would be a major overhaul of the almost unknown digital distribution platform at Windows Marketplace, with which inevitably Microsoft would hope to rival Steam. But that's my speculation.
Meanwhile, now you'll be able to play all those 360/PC crossover games... um... shit, I'm sure there are some. Well, if you can find any... SHADOWRUN! That was one. But that was rubbish. Er, Universe At War? It'll do. So yeah, get on your Universe At War multiplayer and start jeering at the 360 players who are paying! Man, that would have been a lot simpler if anyone cared about PC/360 crossover play.
Cheers to Mikael for the tip.