Games for Windows LIVE had to be the product of a marketing meeting gone horribly awry. I can picture the scene in my minds eye...(Queue the dream sequence sound effect)
Marketing Lackey 1: "What are the features the PC Gamers use most?"
Marketing Lackey 2: "Well sir, polls show that the most used features are online multiplayer, voice chat and downloadable content..."
Marketing Lackey 1: "Doesn't Xbox LIVE already have these features?"
Marketing Lackey 2: "Yes sir, but Steam already offers all those features and it is free..."
Marketing Lackey 1: "Never mind that... All we need to do is port Xbox LIVE over to PC and then we can charge the idiots for features they can already get for free!!!"
And thus, Game for Windows LIVE was born. These marketing gurus thought that all you need to do is slap the shinny LIVE logo on it and it will print it's own money. Instead, the program has been a train wreck. Microsoft should have never expected PC gamers to pay for services that have been freely available on PC for fifteen years. As if to further illustrate the problem, since Games for Windows started, there has only been a handful of titles released.
The marquee feature of the service was the fact that it would let you play online games across platforms, with gamers on the Xbox 360. In concept this is a great idea, but the execution was atrocious.
This failure was made very evident in the game Shadowrun. I played the game on both platforms and neither one felt right. On the PC end I felt like I was playing in a bowl of jello. The controls were sluggish and the precision of a mouse and keyboard were gimped by the fact that the auto lock technology make it unnecessary to ever aim. On the 360 it felt like every player was quicker and stronger than their PC counterparts. At the end of the day PC gamers felt that they were getting the shaft in an effort to make cross platform play "fair." This experience left everyone with a bitter taste in their mouth.
Last week Microsoft announced that they would no longer be charging a membership fee to use Games for Windows LIVE. The response from the community was a resounding, "It's about damn time!" So as of last Monday, all features were available free of charge.
Things started to get interesting on Tuesday, when Xbox LIVE silver members began reporting that they had the ability to play cross platform games for no charge. Nothing was mentioned publicly about making cross platform play free for Xbox LIVE silver members. The plot further thickened when Microsoft was reached for comment. The crackerjack PR team said that this it was actually a secret promotion, making cross platform play free until the Fall Dashboard Update.
Hmmm... well it doesn't take a rocket scientist to connect the dots and figure out what is going on here. Apparently it seems that cross platform play is an all or nothing feature for all silver level accounts across the LIVE platform. One could also come to the conclusion there is no difference between a Games for Windows LIVE and Xbox LIVE silver account. So when they made all features free under Games for Windows LIVE, they inadvertently did the same for Xbox LIVE members.
My guess is that the Fall Dashboard Update will act to effectively segregate the PC and Xbox memberships, fixing their shortsighted errors. Imagine that, Microsoft having to go back and fix problems caused by lazy programming... boy that sounds familiar...
Below is a news report the profiling the features of Game for Windows LIVE:
If only they knew then, what we know now...