Games for Windows Live was a great idea bogged down by poor execution. Microsoft attempted to bring the Xbox Live experience to PC games, but the software itself was nowhere near as convenient as Steam. A recent hire at Microsoft may indicate that the Redmond-based company may be trying to improve its Games for Windows initiative.
Gamesindustry International reports that Jason Holtman has accepted a job at Microsoft where he'll focus on making Windows an attractive platform for PC games. For those unfamiliar, Holtman was in charge of Valve's Steam service for the past eight years before he mysteriously departed the company in early 2013.
In a statement, Holtman said that he believes Microsoft can bring PC gamers back into its fold:
"Yes, I have joined Microsoft where I will be focusing on making Windows a great platform for gaming and interactive entertainment. I think there is a lot of opportunity for Microsoft to deliver the games and entertainment customers want and to work with developers to make that happen, so I'm excited to be here."
Over the last few years, support for Games for Windows Live has dropped off the map. The last major release to support the platform was Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition, and that was mostly due to the developers porting over code from the Xbox 360. As for the upcoming sequel, it's looking like it won't be using the client.
The above scenario is the exact problem that Holtman has to address. Steam doesn't only sell games. It's a set of tools for developers to integrate online play and other services into their games. Microsoft provides a similar service, but it's just nowhere near as convenient. It's one saving grace - being able to play with people on Xbox Live - was killed off with the critical and commercial failure that was Shadowrun.
With the launch of Xbox One and Windows 8.1, Microsoft has another opportunity to push Games for Windows Live. It really needs to make the software client more convenient before anything else. After that, it can focus on bringing together the Xbox Live and PC gaming community into one big happy family.
With Holtman's help, Microsoft may just be able to turn Games for Windows Live into a service that can actually compete with Steam. As it stands, PC gamers groan when they learn that a game requires the Games for Windows Live client. Holtman's job is to at least eradicate that groan, and maybe even turn it into a smile.