Microsoft: Games for Windows Live 'had a rocky start,' will 'continue to get better'

By Alice O'Connor, Mar 09, 2011 6:30am PST

Not for the first time and surely not for the last, Microsoft has spoken about Games for Windows Live's "rocky start" and pledged again to continue improving it.

"The service started with the right intent, which was to bring Achievements, friends, multiplayer gaming and matchmaking in a really great way to PC," Microsoft interactive entertainment senior producer Kevin Unangst told CVG. "I think because it was designed originally as a partner to the console service more than the PC service, we had a rocky start."

Games for Windows Live (GFWL), not to be confused with Games for Windows or the Games for Windows Marketplace, is the service and client Microsoft uses to offer many features of Xbox Live in PC games. The GFWL suite offers developers ready-made solutions for DRM, achievements, friends, voice communication, matchmaking, an in-game marketplace for downloadable content, and more.

"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."

However, while GFWL has now attracted more developers and games, others have tried it and are now leaving. Relic used GFWL in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II and its first expansion Chaos Rising but ditched it in favour of Valve's Steamworks for the second expansion, Retribution. Relic is also using Steamworks for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. IO Interactive's Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days also turned to Steamworks, after GFWL was used in the original Kane & Lynch: Dead Men.

Unangst explained that Microsoft is taking feedback from developers to improve the service. This includes the teams behind Age of Empires Online and Fable 3, games which MS owns and will be publishing.

"I look at it as like what Halo did for Xbox Live," he said, "where you had Bungie and Microsoft going back and saying 'to make a great multiplayer game here's some things I need in the service, here's my audience.'"

"I think the underpinnings are great," Unangst said, "I think it's going to continue to get better."

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