Microsoft Announces Games For Windows Live

March 14, 2007

Microsoft has announced the next leg in its previously announced Live Anywhere solution first revealed at E3 2006, by launching Games for Windows Live on May 8 alongside the Windows Vista version of Halo 2. The service will allow users to have one Gamertag, profile, reputation, and more across both the PC and Xbox Live platforms.

And while Halo 2 will only support gameplay between other PC users, the June release of Shadowrun for both the PC and Xbox 360 will allow of cross platform online matches. Later in 2007 Microsoft will also release a PC version of the Xbox Live Arcade title UNO, allowing for existing XBLA players to take on their friends in the PC world in the cutthroat world of of calling “UNO!”

But nothing in life is free. Just like with Xbox Live, membership for Games for Windows Live will come in two tiers, free Silver memberships and paid Gold memberships costing $49.95 annually. The free membership permits users to only play against other PC players, but also affords the ability to have a single online presences across both the PC and Xbox 360, as well as a single friends list and the ability to earn single player achievements. By upgrading to Gold, players get the cross platform gameplay, as well as multiplayer matchmaking and mutliplayer achievements.

Also worth noting is this in one price across both platforms, so if you are already an Xbox Live Gold member user, you already are a Games for Windows Live subscriber and will be good to go on May 8. Similarly, if a Windows users hops on board with this service and then later picks up an Xbox 360, he or she will automatically have the benefit of a Xbox Live Gold membership as well.

I spoke with Microsoft’s Xbox Live general manager JJ Richards on this announcement yesterday afternoon, and have a [url=]Q&A up on Gamasutra[/url] that may help to address any lingering questions. One of the issues I brought up to him was the concept of chatting, since PC users have several options at their disposal, as opposed to the single unified option found in Xbox Live, tho which he responded: “We will continue to offer consumers choice. We’ll leave it up to the developers as far as how and what types of voice chat will be available in certain games.”

He continued: “For the service itself, we have private chat among players in voice and text for free with Silver memberships, with in-game voice chat for Gold.”