There's a possible dark cloud looming on the horizon, a cloud full of despair and hopelessness that is beginning to circulate across the PC gaming community. Its name is the "Windows Gaming Experience," and it may be heading to Games for Windows – Live in the near future.
While the PC side of Microsoft's LIVE network is in dire need of a major overhaul to even come close to what Xbox 360 gamers already experience, the proposed change is not quite what we expected.
The looming dread stems from a leaked Microsoft Windows Gaming eXperience (WGE) internal video pasted below. If the three-plus minute clip is indeed real, Microsoft is bringing the exact same watered-down casual experience that infiltrated the Xbox 360 back in November 2008: aka the New Xbox Experience. Although the new interface brought major improvements to the Xbox 360, the overall casual appearance "dumbed down" the console, made it more "general" than "hardcore," essentially mimicking Nintendo and its Mii setup on the Wii console.
Now it seems the same casual interface is heading to the Games for Windows – Live client. In the video pasted below, Microsoft opens up the demo with Farmville and then switches over to an American Idol contest hosted by the "Idol Moms Group." The video then transitions into Avatar customizations, displaying a message that the Avatar "represents my style, attitude, and character. I can see and personalize my Avatar on the web, my PC, or while playing a game."
This of course means gamers will have the ability to purchase clothes from Microsoft's virtual Avatar shop using Microsoft points, just like Xbox 360 gamers. At the moment, PC gamers can only purchase games and DLC within the client.
The leaked video progresses into another aspect of the new interface: Bing. Apparently the search engine will be incorporated into the client, allowing the user to search for "Bejeweled" and see that 2674 people are currently playing the popular casual game. The user can then search for something similar that's already been rated by friends, and then select it to play.
The actual core gamers aren't represented in the demo until the very end in the portion called "transaction." The core gamer is shown to be slacking off at work and receives a desktop notification from a friend currently playing Battlefield 2. To help out, the "working" gamer purchases a better weapon and sends it to the player who in turn shows his gratitude by insulting us all by misspelling "pwn3d." That in itself is a perfect example of the looming dark cloud rising in the horizon for Windows-based PC gamers.
Ultimately the leaked Microsoft video was broken down into four main components: Social, Identity, Search and Transaction. "The future of PC gaming is upon us," Microsoft claims in the video. "The question is, who will lead and who will follow? Are you ready to change the world? We are."
Welcome to the new (cartoony) Windows Gaming eXperience. Release date? Hopefully never in this form.