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Games for Windows - Live Gets Reformatted, Rebooted

Like so many other Windows products, Games for Windows - Live wasn't perfect in its first incarnation.

Here's what you'll see when you press the Home button.
Here's what you'll see when you press the Home button.
I saw so much promise in Microsoft's ambitious-but-doomed Live Anywhere initiative when it was first unveiled at E3 2006, though since then, Microsoft has dealt with backlash against charging for services that PC players were accustomed to getting for free and limited publisher adoption, as well as the rapidly growing popularity of Valve's community-anointed Steam service. Microsoft acknowledged that things weren't going swimmingly back in July, when it announced that it would be making all of its Live services on the PC free, and it continues to retool its PC gaming efforts by giving its Games for Windows - Live client a bit of an overhaul.

As reported by GameDaily, Microsoft has rolled out a revised version of the client, and in the next two to three weeks, it will introduce a Games for Windows - Live Marketplace, something to emulate the existing Xbox Marketplace, making it possible to download trailers, demos, and add-ons. As meaningful as Xbox Live has been to the overall console experience, it's not a one-size-fits-all thing, so it's reassuring to hear Microsoft Marketing Manager Michael Wolf say that “Rather than offer an 'Xbox Live for Windows' type experience,” Microsoft was trying to “optimize the service for PC gamers,” even if the copy-paste Marketplace concept seems to contradict that.

I've given the new client a look, and I wish I could say that it's a dramatic improvement, but honestly, I haven't played enough Games for Windows - Live titles before now to notice anything beyond the new graphical treatment. What I can say is that the lack of a standalone client still bugs the hell out of me, and it's something that I suspect might hobble the whole Marketplace feature. Who wants to load up Windows, then load up a game, then open up the in-game client just to download a trailer? It's still got a long way to go before it's at the same punching weight as Steam, but it's a step in the right direction. Microsoft knows how to iterate and refine its products, even if it takes a while, so I imagine they'll keep tinkering until they find something that fits.