Monday, September 2, 2013

Two Cents: Microsoft's decision to close GFWL shows how little regard they have for gamers

On July 1, 2014 Microsoft's Games For Windows Live service will be shut down. This will leave all games using the service for online play in the dust unless developers move on to platforms such as Steam. See why FightVG's head honcho thinks this move proves Microsoft has a lack of regard for gamers.

Why improve when you can quit?

Next year will mark the end of Microsoft's Games For Windows Live (GFWL) service. This gave developers the opportunity to give their games an online alternative to other services such as Steamworks. Unfortunately it was never close to matching the expectations of PC gamers.

July 1, 2014 will be the death of GFWL (via Polygon). While many may think this is a victory for gaming, it just further exposes why Microsoft has become a joke to hardcore gamers. The company's unwillingness to improve the service has plagued PC games for years.

Let's start from the beginning.

On May 29, 2007 GFWL was launched. According to Microsoft, the goal was to "create a service that improves the gaming experience." The reality was, Microsoft was hoping they would be able to generate money from PC gamers by providing a watered down version of Xbox Live at $49.99 a year.

Charging PC gamers for services they already had for free to begin with was a mistake. Gamers had been playing titles such as Halo online for free for years but when Halo 2 was released for the PC in May 2007, its online multiplayer was locked under the Gold subscription (via Joystiq). As more games were released with the GFWL service slapped on, it turned PC enthusiasts away.

It wasn't until July 22, 2008 that Microsoft announced GFWL would be free (via Gamasutra). The move was believed to help give the service a boost in popularity, but problems lingered. One glance at will show you the number of gamers who have been dissatisfied with the platform.

Issues ranged from games crashing, the requirement to log into an account even if a game didn't have multiplayer, having to reinstall the program often and the list goes on. With all the complaints gamers have had over the years, you would think Microsoft would alleviate the gripes by providing fixes. Unfortunately, the company didn't improve the service beyond making it free.

To this day, games using GFWL still crash, reinstalls are still necessary at times and you still have to login for games that don't have online multiplayer. Out of all the PC games I own, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition 2012 has crashed the most by a landslide. I've had to reinstall GFWL and the game itself in order to fix the crashing.

Not nearly as convenient as Xbox Live.

Sadly that's to be expected. Microsoft puts all of their efforts when it comes to gaming on Xbox Live because they are making money off those who just want to play games with others across the world. When GFWL became free, Microsoft showed a complete lack of interest to improve the service or to give gamers a reason to get excited for it.

And now they have the nerve to pull the plug. It's a slap in the face to not only PC gamers, but gamers in general. If you're not paying to play online, Microsoft doesn't want to hear it. Their focus is on the Xbox One and Xbox Live Gold. That's where their marketing efforts have gone and because of that they have quit GFWL altogether.

Pathetic? Yes. Surprising? Hell no.