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PC Games (Games)

An Overview of the Games For Windows Initiative 60

Posted by Zonk
from the pleasure-to-have-in-class-but dept.
Writing for the Escapist, author Sean Sands takes a hard look at Microsoft's Games for Windows project. The PC version of Xbox live, as well as the coherent branding they've handed out to publishers, doesn't appear to be having the kind of effect they were hoping for. Most especially, Sands points out, when players have the recently released Steam Community as an alternative: "Valve's latest community features, while they don't connect PC to console, have offered virtually every other meaningful feature in a free and functional package. Steam isn't only beating Microsoft at its own game, it's taking Microsoft's lunch money and leaving it tied to the tether-ball pole."
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An Overview of the Games For Windows Initiative

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  • I for one (Score:4, Funny)

    by Paden (828815) * on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @08:31AM (#20822005) Journal
    Welcome our new Steam powered overlords.
  • Big Surprise (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Egonis (155154) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @08:32AM (#20822029)
    I don't know if the Games for Windows / Xbox Live both cost money, or they are one in the same.

    For the sake of this reply, I will assume that they are one in the same.

    After so many years of Quake having a freely usable game finder, why is it that Microsoft decided to charge for their service? Yes, I have an account for my 360, but at the end of the day, the only major differences I see are that you can manage friend lists much like MSN, and chat via headset, which is also not a new technology. WoW users use that freeware voice chat server/client setup.

    So at the end of the day, of course competitors are going to provide the same services for free, because afterall, it's about the games, not the services.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kelbear (870538)
      "After so many years of Quake having a freely usable game finder, why is it that Microsoft decided to charge for their service?"

      Short answer? Because they can.

      Long answer is that the Xbox360 is a closed system and is subject to their policies. The PC is an open system and is open to anyone who can put code on that hardware. PC gamers won't want to pay for game finding when other services can ofter comparable alternatives or the individual in-game browsers themselves.

      However on the Xbox360, you have to pay f
      • by aichpvee (631243)
        What's the advantage of paying for client-hosted online games? On xbox you're just paying for the privilege to play on Johnny Teabag's cable line that's paid for by his mom. The people who pay for this are paying for it because microsoft said to and no other reason.

        People from microsoft have even come straight out and said that they were charging for xbox live just to get people used to the idea of paying for every little thing. Please, this shit should be free and only a moron would pay for it.
      • by Gr8Apes (679165)

        "After so many years of Quake having a freely usable game finder, why is it that Microsoft decided to charge for their service?"

        Long answer is that the Xbox360 is a closed system and is subject to their policies. The PC is an open system and is open to anyone who can put code on that hardware. PC gamers won't want to pay for game finding when other services can ofter comparable alternatives or the individual in-game browsers themselves.

        However on the Xbox360, you have to pay for multiplayer, or you don't get to play online. There are advantages to the closed console system, this is just an example of a disadvantage.

        You know, I read that a couple of times. Then I thought - why isn't the Mac also a game platform? It's closed, hardware wise, the current versions certainly outpower any console out there. It could easily come with Blue Tooth for wireless controllers a la Wii. And it can triple as a DVD player platform (HD-DVD/Blu-Ray would be nice in the near future). The Mac Mini is already the appropriate size and within the price point. The MacBook (Pro) already have all the necessary pieces.

        • by Kelbear (870538)
          Consoles get their visuals with a highly specialized application, PCs can potentially blow them out of the water, but the bang-to-buck ratio isn't quite as good.

          Macs needed gaming hardware which was mostly developed for the larger PC customer base. Now that they have a similar architecture this isn't much of a problem, but developers are using DirectX rather than OpenGL so it still doesn't crossover easily to the Mac. Network effects are important for this market, and MS's deep pockets and heavy spending we
          • by Gr8Apes (679165)
            I don't know if one of us has been asleep, but the last thing I recall is an ATI R200 in one brand of console and nVidia based chipset in the other. Both chips are far beneath the current moderately good GPUs on offer for PCs. I can't argue with the $ amount, however. Consoles are less expensive, but the games cost more.

            As for Macs, I think the future is going to be quite interesting. You can now play up to DirectX 8.1 games in Parallels, which should indicate that the APIs, at least, have been made to work
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      its because some people actually want the matchmaking/leaderboard/trueskill rank services. I personally bought a copy of Shadowrun and payed for an xbox live subscription so that I could play online games with my brother who doesn't have a decent computer but has a 360. Unfortunately, I got boned by it because Shadowrun wasn't successful, and it doesn't look like there are any other games coming out with the cross-platform play. Lucky for me a year subscription is fairly cheap and I still use my live accou
      • by Rjak (1098857)
        Don't know if you're into RTS games, but Universe at War is coming out for PC at the end of the month and the 360 just after the new year and it will support cross-platform. The reality is that the PC players will probably stomp the 360 players because RTS games are just WAY faster with a mouse/keyboard than a controller.
    • by Kalriath (849904)
      I'd just like to point out that, unlike as even I previously thought, there are differences between the implementation of Live on Xbox 360 and Windows. I'll use Halo 2 as an example here.

      Halo 2 on the Xbox 360 requires an Xbox Live Gold subscription for any and all online (internet) play. Period. On the PC, however, Halo 2 requires only a Silver membership (which is free). The Gold subscription is required if you want to use the Matchmaking/Ranking system, but the Silver will suffice if all you want is
  • Hurdles (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Joe U (443617)
    It's about time Microsoft has started a "Games for Windows" push, but they have a lot to overcome.

    Software stores have almost completely given up on PC games. Gamestop is a good example of this. What used to be a PC store has turned into 2 wire racks of PC games.

    While Microsoft has pushed video cards into DirectX, audio fell apart. Games need both.

    Microsoft hurt itself with the Xbox. It should have been simple to port games between Windows and Xbox. Microsoft should have encouraged Windows/Xbox releases, bu
    • by Etrias (1121031)
      There was a time, way back when, I thought that for all of the problems I had with MS's OS, I thought that their other divisions dealing with apps were pretty solid, especially when it came to games.

      Take Age of Empires. Great game, decent single player, fun multi-player modes...best of all is that they didn't seem to have to patch it that much. One major patch, if I remember correctly (as well as some minor ones, but overall not that many). Flight simulator was the creme de la creme when it came to fl
      • by ifrag (984323)
        [blockquote]I'm wary about EVE online going to DX10[/blockquote] Hmm, guess you haven't been reading much about what CCP is up to. Not only are they going to continue to support their DX9 graphics engine but they are working on releasing a Mac OS-X port AND a Linux port. Proprietary is a complete non-issue if they make good on those statements.
    • by cthellis (733202)
      Software stores have almost completely given up on PC games. Gamestop is a good example of this. What used to be a PC store has turned into 2 wire racks of PC games.

      Not really. Compare the "PC games" section to any other individual console, excluding the used games (since you can't have that for PC), and you'll actually notice it of respectable size--especially since the games are packed in tighter. PC gamers tend to know what they want and don't need flashy "wall advertising," and don't have a used se
      • by Etrias (1121031)
        Yeah, I'm going to have to disagree with you on a couple of points here.

        Have you seen the offerings in the single rack of PC games they have? Most of it is not so good. Not a lot of PC titles coming out. I realize that there are different challenges for writing games for PC as the architecture of the hardware can be so varied where as the console you have set hardware requirements and no worries for compatibility. Maybe it's a problem of the industry concentrated to make games to take advantage of th
      • by Joe U (443617)
        Not really. Compare the "PC games" section to any other individual console, excluding the used games (since you can't have that for PC), and you'll actually notice it of respectable size--especially since the games are packed in tighter.

        Its apparently gotten so tight that the games have gone invisible. I went to two new Gamestops recently, one had no PC games, the other had 1 rack (3 shelves) with a poor choice of games.

  • games for windows (Score:5, Insightful)

    by musikit (716987) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @08:42AM (#20822175)
    i dont know how true it is but i see "games for windows" and i just assume its vista only and move onto the next game.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by orkysoft (93727)
      To me it's a warning label that it won't work with wine/Cedega...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PolyDwarf (156355)
      I thought exactly this with the PC version of Bioshock. A friend of mine asked me if I was playing it yet, and I said that I hadn't bothered picking it up because it was Vista only.. I then proceeded to nag at him for getting Vista.

      He told me it ran on XP just fine, only without a couple of fancy DX10 options.

      My guess is that Microsoft wants everyone to think exactly that, to get them to "upgrade" to Vista. They realize Vista's been a failure on its own merits, so they are trying to get everyone to "upgra
      • by cthellis (733202)
        I don't know why the "Games for Windows" label would make anyone associate it with "Vista-only." It's simply the label EVERY new PC game carriers (excepting the few cross-platform card- and puzzle-type games, I suppose). The only "Vista or bust!" games were Microsoft-published ones that they were using to encourage a few more people to make the switch now. (Just Halo 2 and Shadowrun, I believe. Yay-rah.)

        DX10 is the more compelling reason to switch, but I'm hoping to see some of the devs make good on
        • by PolyDwarf (156355)
          I think, for me, the first time I saw that label was actually on Shadowrun.

          Since then, the label and Vista Only go hand-in-hand in my head.
      • by Meorah (308102)
        That's a pretty inept thought to have. Why would a blockbuster game release only to a minor installed base and ignore a huge installed base? It would be like releasing bioshock to linux and not XP.

        Games for WINDOWS, not games for VISTA.

        Reading comprehension deteriorates as people refuse to RTFA, and we end up with people thinking that MS is conspiring to get them on their new OS with a label on a game. Do your part to stop stupid thoughts and increase critical thinking ability. Always RTFA.
        • by Toonol (1057698)
          That's a pretty inept thought to have. Why would a blockbuster game release only to a minor installed base and ignore a huge installed base? It would be like releasing bioshock to linux and not XP.

          Microsoft has released Vista only games, "catering to a minor installed base and ignoring a huge installed base." Shadowrun and Halo 2 are examples.

          Knowing that, it's perfectly reasonable to have a little doubt about whether any particular new release will work on Windows. Having a "games for Windows" stamp
          • by Bios_Hakr (68586)
            Those games were developed in-house and primarily for a console. Since console sales, especially for Halo, dominate PC sales by, what, 8 to 1, MS can afford to lock out WinXP users for those games.

            However, I don't see any other publishers drinking the MS coolaide on this one.
        • Why would a blockbuster game release only to a minor installed base and ignore a huge installed base?
          I don't know. [wikipedia.org]
    • by kalirion (728907)
      "Games for Windows" means "Vista-ready" not "Vista-required".
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @08:43AM (#20822197)
    If there is no cost to creating a new Xbox Live account, Microsoft would have a lot more trouble getting rid of griefers and cheaters from the system. As is, if you're booted from Xbox Live, you're out $50. That's basically the reason for the charge.

    Besides, the number of free downloads you get during the course of a year of Xbox Live service is worth the charge, IMO. I think I have 6 free Xbox Live Arcade games on my console, and I've owned it less than a year. If you assume each Xbox Live Arcade game is worth $10, I've come out ahead already.
    • Each XBox has a unique name. If MS wants to ban you for griefing, they just put the name of your XBox on the blacklist. What does having $50 more every year from each customer have to do with that? If what you say is true, they'd only charge you to take you off the blacklist, not force an annual subscription charge upon every gamer. I had Live for the original XBox, I now play on Steam. 50 bucks isn't really a lot, but Live is just not worth it. In fact looking at what you get when you give money to Valve a
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)
        From my understanding (I very briefly worked at Microsoft Games), while MS has the capability of banning Xboxes they only use this capability for Xboxes they know have been modded. Otherwise, they only ban the specific user-- otherwise you might buy a used Xbox from Gamestop that's banned from Xbox Live without you knowing it (or having any way to find it out), and that's basically class action-fuel.

        Feel free to prove me wrong if you have better information. This is just stuff I've gleaned.
        • Good point, but if you're going to sign up for XBox Live on a used XBox, you still have to provide Microsoft with some personal information which they could then check against the info for the guy who got banned. I'm not really against having an account with CC information even if only for verification purposes, but I still think charging $50 a year is stupid. They can make plenty of money on microtransactions, the subscription fee is unnecessary. Saying it's for the grief police sounds more like racketeeri
  • GfW != GfW Live (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The article is confused. There are two separate things here:
    • "Games for Windows" [wikipedia.org] is a certification to encourage games to play well with modern hardware, e.g. support widescreen and run on 64-bit operating systems. This is a good thing.
    • "Games For Windows LIVE" [wikipedia.org] is the pay-for XBox Live equivalent. This is a take-it-or-leave-it thing.

    In any case I don't think the article says anything insightful or new.

    • "Games for Windows" is a certification to encourage games to play well with modern hardware, e.g. support widescreen and run on 64-bit operating systems. This is a good thing.

      Dual monitor mode in World in Conflict only works with DirectX 10. How is that a good thing?

      And how come I can't help myself wondering that M$ is behind this dubious decision. Multi-monitoring-support in DirectX 9 is no problem whatsoever! Looks to me like "Games for Windows" is designed to push players into using Vista...which yo

  • So... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by njfuzzy (734116) <ian AT ian-x DOT com> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @08:46AM (#20822227) Homepage
    Am I right that they called it "Steam" just so journalists would have to keep using the phrases "Steam-powered" and "powered by steam" and "valve releases steam"? Think of the confusing sentences if they released a Castle Falkenstein game, and journos had to summarize that.
  • When I buy a game, I typically check reviews and with other gamers to make sure that it's going to scratch whatever itch I've got. Proper installation, playing nice with Windows and other applications... those are things that I tend to assume are going to happen, if the game is going to survive the aggregate review process. I don't really need MS telling me that a game will work on the platform it's intended for. Go figure. Auto-detection and reconfiguration based on whether you've got a controller plug
    • I agree. I have gotten so used to doing all of the fine tuning that's been required whenever I buy a new PC game that I would still triple check every little related componant and setting for the game that I have installed before I fire up the .exe for the first time. Games for Windows is only good news for the young kids and the console neanderthals who cannot be bothered with tuning settings and hardware.
  • Yeah, not this news article specifically, but a few months ago Jeff Green from Games for Windows Magazine (formerly Computer Gaming World) wrote a great article basically bitching about all this same stuff. Games for Windows labels - which developers can freely put on their boxes after meeting a few reasonable criteria (vista support, widescreen support, 360 controller support, etc.) - are great. But Games for Windows Live is an absolute failure in every sense of the word.
  • by RichPowers (998637) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:30AM (#20822865)
    No. GFW's failure is a classic example of Redmond's hubris.

    It reminds me of how Sony initially used the PS3 to push Blu-Ray adoption instead of videogames. Likewise, MS used GFW to promote Vista and DX10 instead PC games.

    If GFW was about providing gamers with an enjoyable experience, there'd be a bigger focus on XP and no Live fees. Making several "flagship" GFW titles Vista-only was incredibly stupid as well.

    GFW's greatest achievement is an obnoxious, totally redundant banner on new PC games. Thanks, MS, I had no clue I was purchasing a Windows game.

    These other issues notwithstanding, MS also did a poor job of marketing GFW and explaining how it benefits PC gaming.

    Without the baggage of promoting a new OS or some other crap, Valve can focus on what gamers care about: games!
    • by nutshell42 (557890) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @10:58AM (#20824211) Journal
      I absolutely agree with you.

      It reminds me of how Sony initially used the PS3 to push Blu-Ray adoption instead of videogames. Likewise, MS used GFW to promote Vista and DX10 instead PC games.

      It's even worse because GfW lacks any coherent strategy to address the PC's biggest problems for gaming which are on-board graphics and requirements stickers half the size of the box.

      You don't need a $4000 PC to play games. My current PC cost about 1000 three years ago and it can still play just about all games (even though I have to dial the settings way down on e.g. Bioshock ). When you buy a new PC every few years you have to pay a premium of about $300 to get a PC that's good at playing games instead of just office stuff, but not enough people are ready to pay that price.

      I think one of the biggest problems here is that all too many have simply no idea what they'd have to buy to be able to play games, whether that game they're looking at will play on their PC and what's wrong if it doesn't.

      The Vista performance rating would have been the ideal way to address this problem but unfortunately a marginally bigger and faster hard drive will have a bigger impact on your score than a switch from a 6600 to a 8800.

      The other problem is that MS and the graphics card corps are incapable of solving the driver mess. I installed the Bioshock demo. Then I needed new beta drivers for my nvidia card. Then I had to find a fix for the old 60Hz problem that's still around (iirc at some point nvidia allowed games to set their own refresh rate. All too many don't and you're stuck at 60Hz. That's fine if you got a LCD but sucks dick if you don't, meaning you need a 3rd party tool -nvtweak- to activate the hidden entry in nvidia's control panel to force refresh rate overrides. Now try explaining that to some non-geek). Even better ten years ago you could install games on a different partition without problems, nowadays suddenly there are quite a few games that will break if you don't install them on C:.

      I mean wtf, this is 2007, nvidia makes boatloads of money by selling gaming hardware, games cost tens of millions to produce and MS needs the early adopters because we're the guys who buy overpriced retail editions of Windows. You should think they'd be able to fix all that small stuff. But nooooo...

      If GFW was about providing gamers with an enjoyable experience, there'd be a bigger focus on XP and no Live fees. Making several "flagship" GFW titles Vista-only was incredibly stupid as well.

      When GfW was announced originally there were some tin-foil hat theories that it was MS' new plan to kill off PC gaming. As the Xbox provides the most PC-like games generally, the idea was that by killing PC gaming MS could gain Xbox customers.

      I dismissed it originally but now I'm not so sure.

      Games for Windows. So which Games for Windows did MS release to launch its bold new initative? A crappy port of a two year old game with subpar graphics, crappy performance and loads of bugs. And a worse port of a overpriced game with crippled controls, crappy performance, and metric fucktons of bugs. IGN reported it wouldn't even run on half their PCs. Wow. WTF? This is the bold new world of MS enforced console-style QA for the PC? But hey, it supported the 360 gamepad.

      You'd have thought MS would have been able to produce one game that wasn't a port and wasn't a B- title, or at least give us Mass Effect at the same time as the 360.

      And then of course there's GfWL. If you pay them you get half the features other corps offer for free. Great.

      Long story short:

      Without the baggage of promoting a new OS or some other crap, Valve can focus on what gamers care about: games!

      Even more important, Valve (and others, e.g. Stardock, who are catering to a more niche audience but offer less drm crap) care about gamers.

      MS has lost about $*7* *billion* on the Xbox ($4bn being the accepted figure for the original Xbox, plus the losses of their games division since the launch of the 360 -less a safety margin-, plus the $1bn to fix their POS), if they have to piss off 10 PC people to gain 1 new 360 customer who cares?

      • Games for Windows. So which Games for Windows did MS release to launch its bold new initative? A crappy port of a two year old game with subpar graphics, crappy performance and loads of bugs. And a worse port of a overpriced game with crippled controls, crappy performance, and metric fucktons of bugs. IGN reported it wouldn't even run on half their PCs. Wow. WTF? This is the bold new world of MS enforced console-style QA for the PC? But hey, it supported the 360 gamepad.

        This is what really burned me. I was

      • > nowadays suddenly there are quite a few games that will break if you don't install them on C:

        That's been typical of Microsoft in recent years.

        They've even got a whole bunch of applications and OS-updates that will break your OS if you remove the installer file. Oh, and they often keep copies of the installer files.

        MS Office 2003 is a great example - it makes a hidden folder called 'msocache' which sucks 400mb of hdd space. They make this on a random drive (i.e. often not C:) and if you remove it then
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Blakey Rat (99501)
      What they should focus on, IMO, is getting rid of all the bullcrap that PC games try to pull. Games for Windows games should be prohibited from:

      1) Requiring Admin access to run. No I do not want to give permissions to an internet-capable app with dubious coding that goes online.
      2) Requiring that games either run directly from CD, or at the very least don't install crappy fake CD drivers to impose their anti-copy code. (And in the process, either break or disable perfectly legitimate software, like virtual C
      • PC games get more QA than console games, but as you say more bugs creep through.
        The reason for that is simple. A console is a fixed target to code for and PC's are a mishmash of various technology implementations.
        Will it be the nVidia or the ATI video card today? The 128Meg budget model or the 1024M behemoth?
        Sure Microsoft's DirectX API's are supposed to abstract those difficulties away from the developers, but at the end of the day, it's the game manufacturers that get the blame when everything goes
  • Missing option (Score:2, Interesting)

    by theskipper (461997)
    Odd, while reading TFA I kept expecting to see some mention about MS simply buying Valve at some point. Valve is privately held but for a princely sum it could get done, probably even easier than if they were public. And isn't Mr. Newell ex-MS?

    Outlandish?
  • by Yuioup (452151) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @10:20AM (#20823601)
    Well... there was supposed to be this amazing game that touted Windows and XBox compatibility under the Windows Live brand. Unfortunately it didn't get good ratings.

    To make things worse the project lead of the game went on air to complain about how low a review score his game got.

    That game of course was Shadowrun.

    What a way to launch an on-line service. Make the customers pay too much for something that should be for free ... and then bitch and moan when customers are too smart to fall for it.

    Y

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