Microsoft announced this week that their multiplayer Games for Windows – LIVE service was now completely free. When Games for Windows — LIVE was announced in March of 2007, it was billed as “the extension of the Xbox LIVE games and entertainment network to the Windows platform” and the consumer pricing was the same with a free Silver level and a paid Gold level which allowed cross-platform play among other things.
It is not clear how lucrative that monetization scheme was, but it did draw complaints that Microsoft was charging for what was available free for other PC games. Whatever the reason, it is all free now as an unalloyed loss leader for supporting PC games and Microsoft will be rounding it out with an online PC gaming marketplace equivalent to that available for Xbox LIVE:
Microsoft today announced that its Games for Windows initiative is set to expand with the launch an online PC gaming marketplace this fall. The service will deliver free and paid downloadable game content, along with trailers, demos, and other content comparable to the company’s Xbox Live offerings.
In addition to the added features, the Games for Windows Live interface will also be redesigned to be “much more PC friendly.” Microsoft has not yet specified whether full games will be made available for purchase on the network.
And full game sales are clearly on the Microsoft radar screen according to Microsoft Senior Global Director of Games For Windows, Kevin Unangst.