Microsoft's Games for Windows Live (GfWL) online platform could be shutting down next July, following the closure of the GfWL marketplace last month. The question is – what will replace Games for Windows Live next year?
Particularly with its new focus on gaming, Microsoft surely won’t relinquish a chance to control game sales on its Windows operating systems. Don’t rule Microsoft out just yet – we’re sure it will come up with something to replace GfWL.
With former Steam chief Jason Holtman now working on ‘making Windows a great platform for gaming’, it will be interesting to see how Microsoft balances the upcoming Xbox One and PC games on Windows. The lead-up to the Xbox One’s launch has already shown Microsoft is working hard to please gamers; it has U-turned on its DRM (Digital Rights Management) and always-on Kinect policies and now is tempting customers with a free copy of FIFA 14. But if Microsoft can’t persuade all of its Xbox 360 owners to make the leap to Xbox One, how will they win back the PC gamers who’ve already abandoned them?
The largest PC gaming distributor it faces is Steam, plus there are rival online services from publishers such as EA’s Origin and Ubisoft’s Uplay. But if anyone can make Microsoft a threat to Valve’s online gaming platform powerhouse, however, it’s Holtman, who nurtured Steam into the success it is today.
The reaction of gamers to non-Steam platforms has softened over time, giving GfWL’s successor a far better chance to thrive now than before. Steam continues to ride high with some 50 million users, but it took time to grow into the goliath it is today, and suffered back in 2002, with early adopters complaining about issues such as DRM, targeted at other publishers today.
When or how GfWL will be resurrected, or whether it will be reborn into a new form, isn’t clear. What is clear is that Microsoft has never had a better chance to seat itself back on the peak of PC gaming.