In a recent interview, Valve CEO Gabe Newell took a few pot shots at Windows 8, and it didn’t take long before Blizzard, Mojang, and several other high profile developers piled on. Most have stopped short of calling it a “catastrophe” the way Gabe Newell did, however most have made it clear they don’t see much benefit for PC Gamers who are on the fence about upgrading. "If Microsoft decides to lock down Windows 8, it would be very, very bad for indie games and competition in general," said Minecraft creator and founder of Mojang, Markus "Notch" Persson. Microsoft’s response’s was a carefully worded statement attempting to restore confidence, however when terms like "Games For Windows Live" are used, we had to admit to being slightly skeptical.
Oh, Microsoft, why have you abandoned PC gamers? Don't get us wrong, Age of Empires Online looks awesome, but the company's almost complete lack of PC gaming news at this year's E3 left a bitter taste in our mouths, and Microsoft's been conspicuously silent on the PC front ever since – until now. Lower your heads and mourn, PC gamers. The continuously half-baked Games for Windows disappears on July 11th, swallowed by the all-consuming console-centric blob that is the Xbox brand.
Warning: the following video is not for the faint of heart. Or – for that matter – PC gamers. At least, not any that we've ever met. And yet, here it is in writing: “The future of PC gaming is upon us... Are you ready to change the world? We are.” Well, Microsoft, we're thinking “change” might be a relative term, because this looks like the re-heated leftovers of a meal we already spat back onto your table.
After boldly proclaiming its intention to “lead the way” in PC gaming, Microsoft's cast its latest shiny thing into our waters in yet another attempt to lure us back. Unfortunately, the bait – a redesigned Games For Windows Marketplace – only serves to disguise a jagged hook that's just as painful as it's always been.
The store's certainly functional; don't get us wrong. But it's still lightyears behind Steam and similar competitors, which is just about as far from “off to a good start” as you can get. Foremost, the selection of games and add-on content is only a small sliver of what Steam and co. are peddling, and system requirements, game descriptions, etc are practically incomplete – mere skeletons compared to the meaty wealth of info provided by other services. On the upside, the service is very upfront when it comes to warning you about DRM and things of the like, but it still omits too many other useful details.
Steam's excellently pervasive community integration is also completely absent (signing in with your Gamertag lets you buy things -- and that's it), as are reccomendations, indie titles, and demos. Yes, demos! Currently there's an option to search for them, but it only serves to slam you face-first into the brick wall that is a “no results” screen.
The frontpage, meanwhile, is as about as barebones as they come, displaying a few select games, a daily deal, and a weekly deal. It's not awful by any means, but – as with the rest of the service – there's really not much to it right now. And there's definitely not anything that makes it stand out from the rest of the crowd.
You're also forced to deal with a bunch of malarky about signing in at Xbox.com to read and agree to the new Terms of Service – an extra intial step that seems totally unnecessary and sloppily implemented. If Microsoft's trying to convince us that the PC's no longer playing second fiddle to the Xbox, this is a pretty crummy way to do it.
Overall, there's simply no reason to choose the new GFW Marketplace over Steam, Direct 2 Drive, Impulse, and other such established storefronts. Anything GFW does, they still do better. Microsoft's service is still trailing behind like it always has, and if this is Microsoft's idea of whipping it into shape, then that incredibly depressing status quo won't be changing any time soon.
One step forward, two steps back. Just when you thought Microsoft's consistently behind-the-times (or “draconian,” because we think that's a neat word) online service had lost one of its main footholds and fallen into the abyss of your bad memories, Dawn of War and Company of Heroes publisher THQ has decided to forgive and forget.
“It's been easier for development [moving to Steamworks], so far, but Microsoft is really talking to me a lot about getting back on Games for Windows Live,” THQ core games boss Danny Bilson told Shacknews. “I like both platforms and I really, really, really like Microsoft as a partner. They're fantastic partners. I want to respect them.”
“There are a lot of discussions going on about that now because it's a sensitive issue. But from a development point of view, it has been easier on Steamworks. That has nothing to do with Steam as a distribution platform, as you know. The developers really like it, but again, I have incredible respect for Microsoft and they're really fantastic partners. And so, there's a lot of ongoing discussion about that.”
On the upside, Bilson also threw his company's considerable weight behind the PC, saying that “you're going to see every single title from [the Core group at THQ] that makes sense, on PC. I mean, almost every one.”
Meanwhile, in GFWL's little slice of the gaming world – which we have to imagine is located under a rock, unburdened by silly inconveniences like recent developments or timely feedback – they're just now getting around to lauching a dedicated online marketplace. Granted, it's lacking a number of Steam's features, but hey, at least they're finally getting rid of those silly Microsoft Points. Which is all a very roundabout way of saying: Danny, we love you, so please don't make us hit you.
The age-old war of mouse-and-keyboard versus gamepad has claimed yet another casualty. According to Voodoo PC founder Rahul Sood, Microsoft was attempting to bridge the gap between Xbox 360 and PC “many, many months ago” with a larger initiative that would have allowed gamers on both sides of the great divide to bond in the best way possible: by blowing each other into bloody chunks in games like Unreal and Gears of War. So basically, think the now long-deceased Shadowrun revival, but, you know, with matches that actually have other people in them.
So, what happened? This:
“I've heard from reliable sources that during the development they brought together the best console gamers to play mediocre PC gamers at the same game... and guess what happened? They pitted console gamers with their 'console' controller, against PC gamers with their keyboard and mouse,” Sood wrote on his blog.
“The console players got destroyed every time. So much so that it would be embarrassing to the XBOX team in general had Microsoft launched this initiative.”
Sood's not entirely sure if that's the sole reason Microsoft decided to burn its bridge, but it's his best guess. He also speculates that triple-A PC game development could've gotten a new lease on life had the initiative not bitten the big one.
Granted, perhaps tossing all its easily shattered eggs into a first-person shooter-centric basket wasn't such a great idea on Microsoft's part. After all, that's kind of mouse-and-keyboard's bread-and-butter. Even then, though, there's a simple solution: mouse-and-keyboard support for the Xbox 360. That definitely would've evened the playing field. Or how about specific servers/playlists for people with mouse-and-keyboard and those without?
Regardless, we're guessing other complications were the nail in this initiative's coffin, or Microsoft pulled the plug because the idea clashed too much with its current business model. Either way, it's a damn shame.
Forgive us for being a bit cynical about this one, but it’s kind of hard not to be. After demonstrating a commitment to the PC platform about assolid as that of a friend who’s only hanging around with you because he wants to “get acquainted with” your attractive sister, we’re having some trouble accepting Microsoft’s latest “Hey, wanna hang out?” at face value. In an internal Q&A document leaked by Kotaku, Microsoft was asked about Fable 3 and whether or not the formerly Xbox-exclusive fantasy jaunt signaled “a larger reinvestment by Microsoft in PC gaming.”
“In terms of revenue, Windows is far and away the largest gaming platform in the world, so it's an incredibly important part of Microsoft's business. From core games like Fable III to casual, social and Facebook titles, more gaming happens on Windows than anywhere else,” the software giant said in response.
“Windows 7 is a world-class gaming platform, and you can bet Microsoft has a vested interest in using it as a platform for amazing first party content. Fable III on Windows as well as Xbox 360 this holiday is a great first step, and we'll have more news for you later this summer.”
Our best guess? After backing off because it got burned, Microsoft’s testing the PC gaming waters yet again -- and Fable III’s the thermometer, basically. Obviously, the PC’s way too big for Microsoft to continue to neglect, and with its recent Kinection to casual gaming, you can bet those “casual, social, and Facebook titles” are a major area of interest for the sadly console-centric behemoth. The long and short of it? Thar’s gold in them thar hills, and Microsoft wants a few nuggets for itself. Here’s hoping us not-so-casual gamers continue to benefit from the gold rush as well.
Whenever I think about Games for Windows Live, I feel like Charlie Brown, trying to kick the football that Lucy is holding. Ever optimistic, Charlie runs at the ball, only to have it jerked away at the last second. Games for Windows Live is like that – heavy on of promises, light on delivery. Someone needs to wrestle Windows gaming from the gaming group at Microsoft and give it back to the Windows team.
In other words, give the Games for Windows task to someone at Microsoft who actually cares about the PC. Windows 7 has been an impressive success, and it would be great of the team that’s responsible for making a better Windows for the PC take on the chore of making a better gaming experience for Windows.
Right now PC gaming at Microsoft lives in the Entertainment and Devices division, those edgy folks who brought you the Xbox, Xbox 360, Zune, Windows Mobile and Windows Automotive. While the Xbox 360 is finally profitable, the system has certainly has had its issues – red ring of death, anyone?
The real issue is that Games for Windows Live feels clunky and just gets in the way.
Maybe the aliens only hate Microsoft? After the company’s recent red ring around the rosy of ker-splosions, the idea's certainly not implausible. And now, a new player's bumbling onto the stage: the Games for Windows edition of Epic’s Gears of War.
Apparently, the game’s digital certificate walked toward the light on January 28, causing players to receive the following error message: "You cannot run the game with modified executable code. Please reinstall the game."
Microsoft and Epic are, as expected, staying up long past their bedtimes in order to mop up this mess, but have yet to give an ETA for their fix.
“Yes, this was a surprise to us too,” said Epic Games programmer “joeGraf.” “We aren’t casting blame or chewing anyone out. We’re trying to figure out how and why it happened so we can get it fixed.”
For now though, good ol’ Dr. Internet’s prescribed a simple remedy: set your system clock to any date before January 29, 2009.
“Moving ahead, Microsoft will continue to invest in Windows as a first–class gaming platform through great Windows out of box experiences, our online gaming services including Games for Windows – LIVE, MSN Games, and Messenger games, and through new games for Windows developed by Microsoft Games Studios," a Microsoft spokesperson said.
"Our Windows gaming service efforts will be led by General Manager Ron Pessner, who is joining Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business. He comes from within Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division.” “Beyond these changes, we are not commenting on specific personnel issues at this time.”
But enough talk; outside of an admittedly nice redesign, GFW’s actions haven’t made a peep as of late. So c’mon, guys – give us your best “Have at you!” The world is watching. Now deliver.