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 (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab) 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.
this means nothing to me since I do my gaming.... somewhere else.
Now if only there is a reason for me to buy PC games on Xbox.com instead of Steam. Maybe an extreme summer sale + xbox points for "x" amount of money spent?
*Straps on tinfoil hat*
If Microsoft were to consolidate the Xbox brand, one possible ramification would be cross-platform multiplayer. The problem with allowing the PC to compete against consoles is that you're matching an extremely customizable platform against a very limited, locked-down version of the above. Consoles really don't have any advantages over PC's, and thus it would be really unfair to match those with the proprietary Xbox/PS3 handicaps against those without them.
Until console OS's become true OS's, allowing for hardware customization and variety(in both input and output), there will never be widespread crossplatform multiplayer.
Honestly, in my opinion that would be the best option for Microsoft/Sony. Simply (when doing the next generation of consoles) write the PlayStation 4& Xbox 720 OS's so that they can run on most hardware. They could still sell the hardware by itself, and most people would probably buy it, if it was even slightly competitive. (Based off their track record...the 360 and PS3 were relatively modern hardware when they were originally released.)
Offer the operating system as a separate product that one could purchase and run on your PC. I would envision dual-booting or something akin to it. (Microsoft would have the edge on this, of course, as it owns Windows) If you want to game, simply restart into Xbox mode(for example). That would allow Microsoft/Sony to still collect their royalties on games. I'm sure that hardware vendors would love to jump on board. Say, if you have a PS4 which has an ATI Radeon HD 7850...I bet AMD or NVIDIA would love to sell you a graphics upgrade, and would do all the hard work making the drivers and etc. for the sales. Microsoft/Sony could easily implement automatic driver installations for supported hardware, and etc, allowing for the "just works" feel, and if you wanted to do something unsupported, you could switch into advanced mode or something.
It would be amazing if this happened, because as great as Windows is, it really isn't designed for gaming. The two main reasons that people game on the PC (imo) are that it uses already existing hardware, so you can game on your PC and then go and set up a spreadsheet without needing two different machines, and the customization it allows. You can use a controller or a mouse and keyboard, and for many games the latter is superior as far as accuracy and speed, so the former isn't super common on that platform. When I get tired, it's great to switch to my 360 controller and play from the couch. You can also put any kind of hardware you want inside your PC, whether you're rocking a entry-level HD 4670 or a pair of GTX 570s. (I personally love my Eyefinity, and you can't do that with an Xbox or PS3.)
I very much doubt that consolidation under the Xbox brand means that Microsoft is likely to do something like my suggestion, but we can always hope...
and EA's origin seems to have more traction right now then gfwl. i don't know about you, but i def feel the lack of EA sales on STEAM. i think it's a cold stupid move, and i will not be forced into using origin. hell, it took me a while to get accustomed to STEAM, but the return has been great... i have probably around 40 games, and i haven't spent more than $300... now THAT is money saved