Xbox Live, despite its flaws, has become a premier marketplace for downloadable games and content. Unfortunately its PC counterpart enjoys no such claim to fame. Games For Windows Live is frequently seen as a hopeless dinosaur when compared to Steam and competing digital distribution platforms, but Microsoft has promised that it will "get better" over the coming months now that more developers are lining up to support the service.
According to Microsoft's Kevin Unangst, Games For Windows Live (GFWL to its friends) suffered a "rocky start" as it was inappropriately intended to be a counterpart to Xbox Live. Rather than supporting the new service with, you know, loads of great games, Microsoft dropped the ball and failed to capitalise on its potential.
The service started with the right intent, which was to bring Achievements, friends, multiplayer gaming and matchmaking in a really great way to PC. I think because it was designed originally as a partner to the console service more than the PC service, we had a rocky start.
We also didn't back it up with the most important thing, which is doing fantastic games to take advantage of the service. A network by itself isn't valuable - there needs to be great games to take advantage. - Interactive Entertainment Senior Producer Kevin Unangst to CVG
There's no doubt that the clunky downloadable client didn't help matters. However, a number of developers are starting to view the platform as a viable distribution alternative and offer their own input about improvements to the service; with Age Of Empires Online's team and Lionhead taking the lead. Bulletstorm's adoption of the service has also paid dividends in terms of exposing gamers to GFWL.
The Age of Empire team has got a lot of great input and the same can be said for Lionhead, who said 'we're going to build Fable 3 on the PC' and know what they want out of the service.
We're also seeing developers get back to development. Epic did a great job of promoting Live with Bulletstorm. They're pleased with the platform and the service is going to continue to get better over time.
With a new marketplace redesign and input from these studios, Microsoft promises that Games For Windows Live will continually "get better" and build on its "great underpinnings." However, with Steam, GoG, Impulse Driven amongst others competing in the same space, there's no doubt that Unangst and the team have their work cut out. You can have this advice for free: some better weekly deals might help matters. [CVG]
Right, it's time for you savvy consumers to get involved. Do you use Games For Windows Live? What will Microsoft need to do in order to convince you to take the plunge? Have your say in the comments!