Will Xbox.com become the central online source for all Microsoft-sanctioned games?
Friday the Games for Windows website officially announced that Microsoft's digital delivery store for PC games, GFW Marketplace, is merging with Xbox.com. Microsoft doesn't offer up any additional details, only stating that "now you can get all of your gaming needs in one place." The reaction to the merge is curiously calm over on the Xbox.com forum, with many commenters hoping that the merge means more cross-platform compatibility in the future.
Microsoft has been on shaky ground in promoting and selling PC games in contrast to its highly lucrative Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE service. Originally the Games For Windows LIVE PC client paled in comparison to what the console owners experienced, offering a small library of digital-only PC games, demos, downloadable content and game videos. Microsoft revamped the PC client and the online store in October 2010, both of which now carries a larger selection of games.
There's a good chance that Microsoft plans to incorporate the Games for Windows Marketplace and the Windows Phone 7 Apps / Zune Marketplace online shops into Xbox.com so that end-users will have a one-stop shopping experience. This should also help sell cross-platform games that allow Microsoft customers to play each other via an Xbox 360 console, a Windows Phone 7 device and a Windows 7 PC. That said, the future of the PC client is uncertain save for the mini-client that's needed for multiplayer and in-game micro-transactions within Games for Windows titles.
A few weeks ago, Microsoft's Shirlene Lim revealed the new Games Hub for Windows Phone 7.1 "Mango". The revamped hub features a cleaner and lighter design, improved performance and speed. "Finally, the Games Hub in Mango now comes with many of the features previously found in the popular Xbox LIVE Extras app, such as 3D avatars with fun animations, a new Collection view, and more," Lim said.
It's not hard to imagine that Microsoft may unveil a consolidated service with the release of Mango. Will this spell the end of Microsoft's GFW brand? There's nothing but speculation to report that this point, but the comment reading "now you can get all of your gaming needs in one place" indicates that Xbox.com may actually play host to every downloadable PC, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox 360 games the Redmond company green-lights for those platforms.