Microsoft Considering Xbox Live Subscription on Windows

Microsoft has been attempting the win back the hearts of PC gamers and making promises to take the platform seriously. Rightfully, this was greeted with a degree of skepticism given Microsoft’s history and the disgraceful Games for Windows Live DRM client which plagued PC gaming for many years. Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Windows and Devices Marketing, Yusuf Mehdi discussed during the Credit Suisse Technology Broker Conference the Xbox brand and potential for Windows gaming:

“On Gaming, Gaming has been pretty big success case. Gaming, think about it in two pieces: there is a traditional Xbox console business where we compete with Sony, and there we have had probably the best year we have ever had for Xbox, and it’s still on the back of the greatest game lineup of the Xbox history.”

“So if you like games, this is the year to get an Xbox. We have Halo 5 launching. We have Minecraft on Xbox. We have Gears of War, Tomb Raider… Best lineup. Next year will also be the best lineup. That leads to really a great success on it.”

“But the other interesting thing, is now we are bringing that Xbox gaming value prop to other devices, in particular the PC.”

This is a very strange statement to make because Microsoft seems completely unwilling to release its core line-up on Windows. Additionally, Fable Legends is a free-to-play title, and the only Halo game is from a mobile spin-off. There are some exceptions such as Killer Instinct and Gears of War, but Microsoft isn’t delivering and still treating Windows gaming quite poorly. Unless Microsoft plans to release those core games on PC, I really can’t understand what world Mehdi is living in.

More worryingly, it seems Microsoft is planning to try and monetize Windows gaming in a similar vein to Xbox Live Gold. Yusuf said:

“And then you have the ability to effectively now start to get Xbox live in all these games that you are using, whether it’d be Solitaire or Minecraft and now what we see is, we have almost the same number of Xbox live monthly active on Windows as we do on the console.”

“To be fair it’s not the same: the console uses our Xbox Live Gold, paying subscribers. These are free customers, but the ability to build a subscription business on the back of that now, you can start to see some light for that opportunity.”

Microsoft, what the heck are you thinking? Do you really want to make the entire PC gaming community irate and launch another form of disastrous anti-consumer DRM? PC gamers will never and I mean never pay a subscription to access your servers. The only time people are prepared to pay a monthly sub is with MMOs and the majority of those are going free-to-play anyway!

This really is laughable and explains why the Xbox app exists on Windows 10. I have no idea how a company can completely mess up something so badly and then try to make the same mistake once again. It also comes across that the whole Windows gaming focus was simply to introduce an online subscription and fool PC gamers to pay for an online service.

It’s Now Legal to Bypass DRM Once The Servers Have Been Closed

Many video game publishers have implemented various forms Digital Rights Management into major titles from Games for Windows Live to SecuROM. These are designed to reduce piracy rates and delay the time it takes for a scene group to release a pirated version. Publishers hoped this would make impatient people rush out and buy the game from a legitimate source.

However, in 99.9% of cases, DRM is ineffective and only impacts on the paid player’s experience. In a cruel twist of irony, games which implement DRM promote the illegal version which doesn’t have any restrictions. Additionally, DRM can communicate with a server to authenticate details. This becomes a problem when the servers are taken offline, and renders the game completely useless.

In November, the Electronic Frontier Foundation argued their case:

“Seeking an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention provision, in order to allow gamers to modify their software to disable authentication checks or to connect to third party servers after official support for those games has ended.”

Yesterday, the EFF announced its petition has been successful and accepted by the Librarian of Congress. The official statement reads:

“The Librarian granted part of EFF’s new proposal for an exemption to preserve abandoned video games,” 

“The new exemption allows players to modify their copy of a game to eliminate the need for an authentication server after the original server is shut down. Museums, libraries, and archives can go a step further and jailbreak game consoles as needed to get the games working again.”

“Disappointingly, the Librarian limited the exemption to games that can’t be played at all after a server shutdown, excluding games where only the online multiplayer features are lost. Still, this exemption will help keep many classic and beloved video games playable by future generations.”

This is fantastic news for the preservation of many older games which cannot be played without modifying DRM. Frankly, there shouldn’t be DRM there in the first place, but at least this ruling provides some legal clarity when games are no longer supported.

DiRT3 Ditches Games for Windows Live and Adds Steamworks Support

DiRT3, the latest in a series spun-off from the Colin McRae Rally games, is thankfully abandoning the risible Games for Windows Live in favour of Steamworks. In addition, developer Codemasters is upgrading every copy of the game to the Complete Edition, meaning everyone who bought the standard game is getting all extra content for free, presumably as a thank you to all the fans who endured GFWL for the past year.

The game will be upgraded automatically via Steam. Instructions for activation, courtesy of Dark Side of Gaming, are as follows:

  • Load up your Steam Client
  • Click “Add a game” found in the bottom left of the window
  • Click “Activate a product on Steam”
  • Click “Next”
  • Follow the instructions and when asked enter your CD Key into the “Product Code” box (be sure to use CAPS and include the hyphens)
  • Hit “Next”
  • Your code will then be verified and the DiRT 3 Complete Edition will be added to your library

Source: Dark Side of Gaming

Microsoft Closing Down Games For Windows Live Marketplace

Microsoft have announced that they will permanently retire the Games For Windows Live online marketplace. The company confirmed that such a month will take place in just six days on August 22nd 2013. This move will effectively end the sale of Games For Windows Live titles. Microsoft has asked gamers to spend their remaining Microsoft points balance before the change.

As part of the recent Xbox 360 system update, Microsoft Points will be retired and the PC Marketplace will be closed as of August 22, 2013. We encourage you to spend your Microsoft Points balance prior to this change. Although you will not be able to purchase new games, you can continue to enjoy previously purchased content by downloading it through the Games for Windows Live client software as usual.

Microsoft has stated all existing Games for Windows Live titles will work through the Games for Windows Live client with only the functionality of purchasing being removed. After the cut-off date no more titles published by Games for Windows Live will be sold but other publishers may continue. Any remaining points left unspent will be converted into their equivalent cash value of the account holder so they can be used with the new system that will replace this one.

Full details can be found here.

Image courtesy of Microsoft