On Wednesday, Microsoft announced its rollout plans for the Windows version of the Xbox Live service, which will be named Games for Windows Live. Concurrently with the launch of the new service on May 8, 2007, Microsoft will also ship the long-awaited Windows Vista version of "Halo 2," the best-selling Xbox game title.
"Five years ago, we began building a service that now defines the bar for online gameplay," said Microsoft corporate vice president Peter Moore, who oversees the company's Xbox efforts. "The benefits of expanding Xbox Live to Games for Windows titles is twofold: We're bringing together two communities that share a passion for playing online games, and we're enhancing the online experience for PC gamers who have long desired seamless game and voice connectivity. It's a win for everyone."
What Microsoft is doing is actually pretty revolutionary: The company is extending the Xbox Live online gaming service to Windows users. So if you've already got an Xbox Live membership, with its associated gamertag (name), rating, achievements, and other associated information, that will come across on the Windows side, and you'll be able to earn achievements and other accolades in both Windows and Xbox 360 games going forward. The first such Windows game, Halo 2 for Windows Vista, will allow Vista-based gamers to play against other Vista-based players, but future titles will allow Vista and Xbox 360-based gamers to compete together in online battles, the first time a cross-platform unification of this magnitude has ever been attempted.
Because the services are now connected, pricing for Games for Windows Live is identical to that of Xbox Live: The Xbox Live Silver subscription is free, providing gamers with a gamertag, common gamerscore and profile, single player achievements, text and voice chat with other members, a friends list with online presence information, and PC-only multiplayer game play capabilities. If you step up to the Gold subscription, you get all of the above, plus multiplayer matchmaking with friends, multiplayer achievements, and cross-platform gameplay, with combinations of Windows and Xbox 360 users.
In addition to Halo 2 for Vista, Microsoft says it will ship a new game called Shadowrun in both Windows Vista and Xbox 360 versions in June 2007. That game will allow Vista and Xbox 360 gamers to compete online together for the first time and will support 16-players in each game. On the casual gaming front, Microsoft also plans to ship a Vista version of UNO later in the year that will also allow for cross-platform competitions. UNO is already available on the Xbox 360.