Microsoft about-turns on Games for Windows Live pricing, offers refund

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GFW_live.jpgPC gaming news was kind of thin on the ground at the recent E3. Well, in fairness, gaming news was widely considered to be thin on the ground at this year’s E3, but directly PC-relevant news especially so. Microsoft must have been a bit too embarrassed to announce this one to the attending masses (despite how appealing it is to our wallets): Games for Windows Live is now free to use on PC.

Not only that, but in a very generous act, Microsoft will be refunding players who have subscribed to the Games for Windows Live service specifically. Bugger.

Microsoft had to shoulder a lot of criticism when it first dropped the idea of paying, yes paying!, to play PC games online, albeit on the incredibly infrequent occasions when a Gold account was necessary to facilitate cross-platform play. We weren’t happy about it at the time, but what the GfW Live initiative did achieve was the introduction Achievements, automatic updates, friends lists and so on; just like Xbox 360 players were enjoying.

In the end, you didn’t really have to pay for all that much, and if you were already an Xbox Live Gold subscriber you had paid your dues anyway. The main problem GfW Live faced was that where Microsoft had a kind of grey area surrounding what you did and didn’t have to pay for, the rival Steam service from Half-Life 2 maker, Valve, was completely free and offered friends lists and more sophisticated social tools, (some) achievements and automatic updates, AND it was happily selling digital copies of some cracking games.

It’s little surprise to learn that Microsoft plans to emulate this latter service and is gearing up to launch a Live Marketplace for PC gamers, offering downloadable games, trailers, demos, and more.

There’s no indication of when the service is due for this upgrade, alas, but it can’t be far off as Kevin Unangst, senior global director of Windows gaming, claims that upcoming blockbuster Fallout 3 will have content available on Xbox 360 and PC.

In other PC gaming news, Microsoft has revealed that it will be introducing a new DirectX standard, taking it to 11. Before you all rush out to buy new graphics cards – as is normally the expected procedure – DX 11 is promised to be compatible with existing DX 10 and DX 10.1 hardware. There’ll be DX 11 hardware too though, natch. It’s due to land with the next operating system, Windows 7, but will (unlike DX 10 and XP) be available for the older Vista OS.

Games for Windows (via ArsTechnica)

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