In the face of strong competition from Steam, Direct2Drive and other digital services, Microsoft is revamping its digital distribution strategy for PC games with the introduction of Games for Windows Marketplace.
The new online storefront, due to launch November 15, adopts a web-based interface that integrates users' Xbox Live and Games for Windows -- Live accounts with service.
: The Games for Windows -- Live Client -- currently required to download games from the marketplace -- will continue to receive updates, Peter Orullian, product manager for PC and mobile gaming at Microsoft told Gamasutra.
"The way that you can think about the client is that the client has to have a value," he said. "In response to feedback, we're making transactions easier to bring them to the web. The client will be really useful for large downloads, and a great place to go and look at your transaction history."
He added, "You can expect us to take the same evolutionary path around community features as we did around the console, but I am not here to announce any of that today."]
Microsoft said that the redesigned storefront will be "optimized for speed" in terms of the amount of clicks it takes to purchase a game. Customers can redownload games that they purchased for no extra cost. Games for Windows Marketplace will also have a search function, as well as continue to host a Deal of the Week.
The introduction of the new storefront comes as Valve Software's client-based Steam digital distribution Steam dominates the PC gaming landscape. The company recently announced that the service reached 30 million
Microsoft said that it has 25 million users across Xbox Live, Zune Marketplace and Games for Windows -- Live. The Games for Windows Marketplace will support the Microsoft Points currency as well as credit card purchasing.
"With Games for Windows Marketplace, we set out to create a digital store built for PC gamers end-to-end," said Kevin Unangst, Microsoft's senior global director of PC and mobile gaming. "And by integrating with our existing Xbox Live and Windows Live services, we’ve made it easier than ever for millions of gamers to see for themselves how easy buying PC games can be."
Microsoft said the launch lineup for the new Games for Windows Marketplace includes 100 titles, such as Fable: The Lost Chapters
and Grand Theft Auto III
. Major publishers are on board to expand the game portfolio, including Capcom Entertainment Inc., Square Enix, Take-Two and Warner. Microsoft also said that it plans on bringing new indie games to the storefront.
First-party franchises coming to the service include Flight Simulator, Gears of War, Halo
and Zoo Tycoon
, and upcoming games like Fable III
, Age of Empires Online
and Microsoft Flight
[UPDATE: Shacknews reports
that Games for Windows Marketplace, like other digital distribution storefronts, will not host games that use Valve's Steamworks DRM. Steamworks-enabled games require users to download the competing Steam service. "If a game is a Steamworks game, it's not something we're selling," said Orullian.]
Below is a mockup of the new service, provided by Microsoft to Gamasutra: