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Games for Windows Celebrates Two-Year Anniversary Like a Rockstar

A washed up, drugged out, over-the-hill rockstar. I’ve derided Microsoft’s “Games for Windows” initiative since I first heard about it (see my review) for a variety of reasons—the experience is nowhere near as seamless as that of Xbox Live, Microsoft originally charged for features other games have offered for free for years, and the promised Xbox/Windows interoperability was as much a sham as it was a one-time novelty. But they’ve made some changes. And this year, they’re back. With this.

Microsoft celebrates its second anniversary of the Games for Windows initiative this month with the news that the year’s biggest blockbuster, “Grand Theft Auto IV” (Rockstar Games), will debut on the PC this November exclusively as a Games for Windows-branded title, joining a growing list of more than 85 top PC games from today’s hottest publishers. Liberty City comes to life through a revitalized Games for Windows – LIVE experience, including expanded online matches, cutting-edge DirectX 10 graphics, and new LIVE features such as a redesigned game interface, out-of-game client and marketplace.

In addition to “Grand Theft Auto IV,” some of the year’s most-anticipated titles will take advantage of Games for Windows – LIVE, including “Fallout 3” (Bethesda Softworks LLC), “Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II” (THQ Inc.) and “James Bond: Quantum of Solace” (Activision Publishing Inc.).

Games for Windows – LIVE delivers a truly connected experience for PC gamers, letting users enjoy a common Gamertag, Gamerscore, and unified friends list that carries across both supported PC games and the Xbox 360 console, as well as single and multiplayer Achievements, voice chat, text messaging and TruSkill online matchmaking.

So. Not much, in other words. I can’t imagine this brand is going to have any legs. And it’s time for Microsoft to stop treating the big gaming audience in the world—Windows gamers—like second class citizens. I’m talking simultaneous Halo releases on both Xbox and the PC. And an Xbox Live Marketplace that works identically across the console, the PC, the Zune, and Windows Mobile. It’s time for real integration, not half-hearted copying of certain features.

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