A little over two years ago, Microsoft aimed to show its support
for PC gaming with its Games For Windows Initiative, which unified Microsoft's retail branding to help users determine compatibility more easily.
Games for Windows head Kevin Unangst says the initiative was Microsoft's way of stepping up as category leader -- "Who would do that if Microsoft didn't do it?" he says.
Branding initiatives -- like DVD-style packaging reminiscent of console games -- can go surprising lengths toward changing consumer impressions about an industry, and Unangst says Microsoft is "very satisfied" with how things are progressing on that front.
On the other hand, Unangst believes some have failed to realize that the initiative is primarily aimed at increasing PC game quality -- part of the responsibility lies with Microsoft for that, he admits.
To earn the Games For Windows branding, Unangst says there are over 25 requirements, from ease of installation to Vista compatibility -- and he believes hardcore gamers are less aware of many of these, like compatibility for 64-bit, or properly-functioning Alt-Tab minimization.
"It hasn't been a great experience consistently on Windows when you try and come back, whether that program is still going to be running or not. We check those things, and it's really about trying to just get a better baseline of quality up," he says.
Unangst lists major titles that carry the branding -- Call of Duty [World at War], Crysis: Warhead, Sins of a Solar Empire, Age of Conan
, and Dawn of War II
, or example.
Not every major title meets the requirements, Unangst says, and some who do don't necessarily carry the branding; he hopes that publishers will see the initiative as an opportunity instead of an obligation.
"For us, the branding is important, but it's only as important as the publisher sees it to be," says Unangst.
One major publisher on the PC platform that does not carry the branding? Blizzard Entertainment -- who appears to be doing its share to bolster the PC platform without the need to join the initiative.
Unangst says Blizzard's user numbers and consumer excitement around Blizzard games are "doing a great service for Windows."
"Would we like them to carry the branding? Absolutely. Is it critical that they carry the branding? No, because they're actually doing good things," he says. "And we'd still, as a platform holder, provide the technical guidelines and support to any game that wants to develop on the platform."
"We absolutely do work with them and talk with them regularly."
[Gamasutra earlier covered Unangst's comments on the PC/Xbox 360 multiplayer cost divide between Games For Windows Live and Xbox Live.]