NOTE: This was written on the 16th of August on my blog and as such some stuff might be a bit wonky at this time of posting.
For many Games for Windows LIVE (GFWL) is a dirty word.
GFWL is Microsoft’s PC online system, in effect attempting to create a universal online service for PC games in a similar fashion as Xbox LIVE on the 360.
Not a bad idea in theory, GFWL launched in 2007 with Halo 2 and Shadowrun.
At this point in history was the “PC gaming is dying” era and the now monolithic Steam wasn't anywhere near what it is today, in fact if you brought up Steam in conversation, I can guarantee most people won't know what you're talking about.
GFWL was ambitious, achievements, in game overlay, DLC purchases, Cross platform play from 360 to PC and for a short time asking for a gold account to access special features.
These were for the majority of PC gamers at the time a new concept.
However some ill-fated saving issues, crashes in certain titles (famously Fallout 3) and the lack of updates sent GFWL from its short lived high (GTA IV, Fallout 3, 40k DoW 2, RE V along with many others) to a service with only a few notable games a year on it.
In fact it makes me sad thinking about GFWL, not because of its shortcomings, but of what it could have been if Microsoft was faster acting and had given it consistent support.
But while GFWL was getting some major hits, Valve’s Steam and its DRM service Steamworks ended up winning over the hearts of the majority of PC gamers, creating a cult like attitude along with it.
A short glimmer of hope did exist when in 2010 Microsoft said they would focus on PC gaming again, however this ended up being a (good) port of Fable 3, Age of Empires Online (a game I loved) and the universally panned Microsoft Flight.
Age of Empires Online ceased updates (even though it was meant to end this August) and Microsoft Flights studio got the axe.
But since then it’s been silent, only recently the whole Dark Souls spat bringing back into limelight.
Many suspected (and some hoped) that Microsoft would announce the end to GFWL.
Microsoft has just come out announcing a final nail of sorts, the marketplace will be closing on the 22nd of August.
The reason given seems to be that the upcoming currency switch for 360, implying that Microsoft simply couldn't be bothered updating GFWL to cater for the new currency (a task I would imagine wouldn't be too difficult).
So this means that no more games can be purchased and it also means no more DLC can be brought.
While Microsoft has reassured that “you can continue to enjoy previously purchased content by downloading it through the Games for Windows Live client software as usual”, all that means is that the servers will remain online for some time.
Microsoft hasn't given any direct clarification about if you still buy games from retail and get them to work or if you can still buy from other stores (like Steam or Origin).
Microsoft has only said “Games for Windows Live titles published by Microsoft are no longer available for purchase from any marketplace”, which worries me greatly.
I have checked the Age of Empires Online forum and a Microsoft employee has confirmed that nobody will be able to get the game or the DLC after the date.
Also a support page (which is now done) implied that GFWL will shut down next year.
GFWL didn't have a great life and while it isn't technically dead, this puts an end to any new purchase of it.
I personally feel this is irresponsible of Microsoft.
I think the consumer should still be able to purchase DLC if they want to, the consumer should still be allowed to buy a game if they want to.
GFWL and the consumer both deserve better and gamers celebrating this choice I feel have no scope of the bigger picture.
Microsoft, as someone who has defended GFWL and you for years now, you have disappointed me greatly.
I can't do anything to stop you, nor do you care, but you have hurt me greatly.