Games for Windows Live

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Before the disaster that was the Denuvo scheme, there was this.

Games for Windows Live was an online gaming service released in May 29, 2007 by Microsoft for Games for Windows branded games to connect with Microsoft’s Live service, some games on the service allowed for cross-platform play, such as Shadowrun, putting them against Xbox 360 players. It also provided features used on Xbox Live such as online play, achievements and gamerscore, send/receive messages, sending friend requests and accepting friend requests, voice chat across platforms (though it was removed in 2010) and much more.

Over the service’s run, it has gained a reputation for being one of the worst DRM’s of all time, even rivalling Denuvo Anti-Tamper.

On July 1, 2014, Microsoft discontinued the service, stating that they "have nothing to share on the future of Games for Windows Live" back on January 31, 2013.

Why It Sucked

  1. Gold membership was absurdly overpriced at launch, costing $49.99 a year, this felt unfair to PC gamers as other services allowed online play for free, though eventually, Microsoft decided to make the service free, but the damage was already done.
  2. It was initially released for Windows Vista, which had a lot of bugs, glitches, and bad optimization at launch, which was another way for Microsoft to convince people to upgrade to Vista, though they managed to crack it to work on an XP.
  3. It was an absolute pain to use, with the biggest example being that if you were playing a GFWL game, and someone turned on an Xbox 360 where you had the same account as GFWL, you’ll be kicked out of your account until the Xbox 360 is turned off. Another example is some games refusing to work most of the time, giving you errors from time to time, mostly a connection error, and refusing to log you in.
  4. The service was known to infamously corrupt player’s save data and encrypting them just so people won’t copy them to get achievements easily. And worse yet, Microsoft never fixed this issue, so the corruption of save data was always on GFWL forever.
  5. Some features were barely used at all, with the biggest example being Tray and Play and the Cross-Platform Play, Tray and Play was an advertised feature which allows you to insert a game on a disc into your PC and immediately start playing while it installs in the background, just like the Xbox 360, however, only one game used this feature, which was Halo 2, and Cross-Platform Play, the most advertised feature, was used in only 4 out of the 73 games on the service, which is 5.5% of the entire library. To add insult to injury, Halo 2 didn’t support cross-platform play, which is strange since it was one of the launch titles for the service.
    • To add more on to the cross-platform feature, Microsoft completely removed voice chat across platforms in 2010, which meant you can only chat to players through the text portion of games that supported this feature, the problem was is that cross platform voice chat was one of the main reasons GFWL was launched, along with cross-platform play itself. So it shows that even Microsoft gave up on what inspired them to make the service.
  6. Sometimes forces you to login manually, instead of saving your login credentials automatically and telling it to remember you.
  7. Downloading a game was very slow, it would take either minutes or hours to install a game, and would sometimes even fail to install, forcing you to download it again.
  8. Even after the service was discontinued, some games still required you to have a GFWL account to play, such as Fallout 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV (prior to 2020 GFWL to RGL patch), even if you’re playing the Steam versions (except the latter since 2020 patch), though this was eventually fixed for most games, it should’ve been done by the time GFWL was being discontinued.
    • This problem made the aforementioned games unplayable on Windows 10 and Steam altogether, because they would give you an error stating that GFWL is not supported anymore and would force you to manually download the latest version of the service, and it would mostly not respond well because when you get to the sign up page, the buttons can’t be clicked on, meaning you have to use Tab key to navigate the interface, and use Enter to activate the buttons.
    • To this day, some games have still not patched out the service, such as Fallout 3 (prior 2021), DiRT 2, BulletStorm and Fable III, combined with the fact that Microsoft removed the ability to download the service in 2020, that means that some games can’t be played on a PC unless you pirate it, download a mod that disables GFWL or buy the console versions.
  9. Microsoft often encouraged developers to implement GFWL into their games, this often angered many PC gamers who wanted to play it, in fact, there was once a petition to release Dark Souls without GFWL after it announced it would be released with the service.
  10. In 2009, Microsoft launched the Games for Windows Marketplace, as a competitor to Steam, however, it was unsuccessful and was closed down in August 2013, a big issue with it was that it would mostly fail to retrieve your purchase history, and removing the games you purchased, forcing you to re-purchase them.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. There were a lot of great games on the service such as Dark Souls, Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3, Halo 2, BioShock 2, Street Fighter IV, Resident Evil 5, Bulletstorm, and Batman: Arkham Asylum.
  2. It brought the achievements system from the Xbox 360 to Windows, which added more replayability to the games.
  3. Microsoft did eventually make the service free for everyone, which shows that they could listen to people’s complaints instead of ignoring it or poorly defending it.
  4. Games did eventually get patched to remove the service, though that doesn’t mean all games.
  5. It was an interesting concept, but was executed terribly.

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