We're only a few days from July 1, when Games for Windows Live was supposedly due to shut down. Despite pulling the announcement which sparked all this confusion, for whatever reason Microsoft have been happy enough to let this rumour roll around. Any time they addressed this, it was vague and unhelpful, giving the impression that they planned to kill GFWL at some point but AoEO had jumped the gun. When developers started cutting GFWL out their games, it suggested something was definitely afoot. As July 1 has drawn nearer it's seemed clear that day won't bring the end of GFWL--it'd be too little notice--but what about beyond then?
Microsoft have definitively stated that they are "continuing to support" GFWL, by which they mean keeping it alive on life support, a respirator and feeding tube half-heartedly jammed down its throat.
Before we get to the new statement, this mess has confused lots of people, so let's recap. In August 2013, a note on Age of Empires Online's support page said the game would go down when GFWL died on July 1, 2014. Microsoft soon withdrew that statement in a cryptic way, saying that they foresaw "transitions as we build out new investments" and would "share more details in the future." Which sounded an awful lot like "Yeah, we are, but we weren't supposed to say that yet."
This was seemingly supported by developers of games from BioShock 2 to WH40K: Dawn of War patching GFWL out in favour of Steamworks. Yes, GFWL is horrible, but it's rare nowadays for developers to make big changes years after launch simply for the good of their players. This wasn't confirmation, but did seem to support the story. Even Ms. Splosion Man, made by Microsoft-owned Twisted Pixel, replaced GFWL with Steamworks last week.
The last, and most concrete thing, we heard was in March. Microsoft Studios head Phil Spencer commented that they had plans for GFWL which he wouldn't reveal yet, but that shutting the service down "isn't exactly the right thing to do." He cleared things up a bit, but not much.
Now we're up to speed, here's what's new. Microsoft last week gave Game Informer this statement:
We are continuing to support the Games for Windows Live service. As previously announced, as part of the retirement of Microsoft Points the Xbox.com PC marketplace was closed. Although customers are unable to purchase new games from the marketplace or receive title updates, they can continue to enjoy previously purchased content by downloading them through the Games for Windows Live client as usual. We remain committed to investing in PC gaming in the years ahead, and look forward to sharing more in the future.
So GFWL will continue to run, for now at least. You can still play your GFWL games, though you can't patch them (if it uses the GFWL patcher) or buy DLC. The service will inevitably shut down at some point or be rebooted in a new form, as every tech service does. Perhaps Microsoft are simply giving devs a little more time to switch away from GFWL. For all our sake, let's hope Microsoft handle the eventual shutdown announcement less clumsily. Writing all these vague news stories has been a right pain in my rump.