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Microsoft poised to CTRL+ALT+Del Games for Windows

Microsoft poised to CTRL+ALT+Del Games for Windows

August 20, 2013 | By Kris Graft

Sometimes when your computer's bogged down and sluggish, the best course of action is to just restart the whole damn thing.

Signs are pointing to a similar reset happening at Games for Windows, a program that was supposed to be Microsoft's answer to digital PC game sales, cross-platform socializing and PC game quality standards.

This week, Polygon reported the website for Microsoft's Age of Empires Online stated that Games for Windows Live, the online initiative of Games for Windows that focused on online play and socializing for PC games, would shut down:

Games for Windows Live will be discontinued on July 1, 2014. Although it is available through Steam, Age of Empires Online requires features of the Games for Windows Live service. You can continue to enjoy all the features of Age of Empires Online as the service will remain 100% operational until July 1, 2014 when the server will shut down.

With that wording now removed, we reached out to Microsoft reps who didn't deny the shutdown date for Games for Windows Live:

Yesterday, an Age of Empires support web page communicated that the free to play Age of Empires Online will be discontinued on July 1, 2014. We believe in Windows/PC gaming and have long-term plans to grow our support. We expect there to be transitions as we build out new investments, but we remain committed to bringing first party gaming services and games to Windows for years to come. We will share more details in the future.

This non-committal statement about GFWL comes off the heels of Microsoft announcing the impending doom (this week) of Games for Windows Live Marketplace -- an eyebrow-raising move that leaves the company that owns Windows with no serious answer to Steam.

There will be few tears shed if Microsoft goes through with canning Games for Windows initiatives. While cross-play between PC and Xbox 360 players was a nice feature of Games for Windows Live, it was rarely ever supported, and the extra layer of interface proved to be more annoying than helpful. Game developers we've spoken with found that getting the "Games for Windows" seal of approval was a hassle, and there was little motivation for them to comply to those standards on an open platform, anyway.

At least we've got Steam, right? Speaking of which, amid these changes to the Games for Windows program, Microsoft said this month that it hired Jason Holtman, a Valve veteran who was a key figure in Steam's success.

He told, "I think there is a lot of opportunity for Microsoft to deliver the games and entertainment customers want and to work with developers to make that happen." Our curiosity is piqued.

In order to fulfill the Windows PC game opportunity -- one that involves the ownership of the OS that millions of PC games are played on -- it's best for Microsoft to CTRL+ALT+Del its PC game ecosystem, do everything possible to cater to PC game developers, and play some serious catch up in the content and distribution wars.

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