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Microsoft added and then removed a blurb on the official Xbox Support website indicating that Games for Windows Live will be discontinued starting July 1st of next year. This follows suit with the recent closing of the Games for Windows Marketplace shutting down this week, too.
While we're all glad that GFWL will be closing its doors, with it comes another problem: only a few games are migrating to Steamworks (e.g., BioShock 2, Batman: Arkham City) while the rest haven't migrated yet and no announcements have been made about the migration.
What this means is that when Games for Windows Live support ends next year, any game that hasn't had its DRM removed or replaced with a more up-to-date or current system, will have features that will no longer be accessible by anyone.
In simple terms, single-player games that require a login authentication to the GFWL servers will no longer be playable, just as games that require multiplayer login authentication through GFWL will no longer be accessible. This isn't hyperbole or some pessimistic anti-DRM talk, this is reality and reality kicks in starting July 1st, 2014.
Gamers had a small taste of what this feels like when Darkspore's DRM went down and gamers were unable to access or play the game anymore. Thankfully EA was nice enough to fix the problem.
While the information was originally available on the Xbox Support site, it was later edited. You can view the original post indicating the closing of the GFWL servers below.
Now some of you are probably saying “But I thought you hated GFWL? And what does this have to do with the Xbox One?” Couple of things really:
1.) Games For Windows Live is worth hating. Having it close down is good for the community because it was an unnecessary blockade for legit customers and nothing but a cumbersome form of DRM.
2.) The problem with this situation is that it gives every other third-party publisher just one year to retract all use of GFWL as DRM in their games. If the service shuts down before a game is patched or the DRM is removed (by the publisher) some games will be rendered digital coasters.
3.) The original Xbox One's policies were identical to this setup, with games being registered to profile accounts the same way digital games are registered to Games for Windows Live. When the service shuts down you lose your games.
4.) Microsoft is known for doing stuff like this. They did it with the Microsoft Gaming Zone, they did it with the original Xbox Live for the first Xbox, they're doing it now with the Games for Windows Marketplace, and according to their own website, they'll be doing it again with Games for Windows Live. This is why people fear for the longevity of the Xbox One, assuming it goes all-digital at some point.
Now I don't mind some companies moving toward an all-digital future. I think Sony and Nintendo are at least easing in the transition and making it bearable. They're also leaving physical goods just the way they are because not everyone has a fiber-optic connection.
The main problem with the Xbox One is that it's under a company who doesn't seem to stick with anything for very long, and it's even more scary thinking about whether or not Microsoft will re-implement the original DRM policies after gaining enough market share with a healthy install base.
Unlike the current situation with GFWL -- where third-party publishers can at least opt out and patch in to Steamworks (which is what Rocksteady is doing with their Batman games) -- the Xbox One's titles would have been directly linked to Microsoft's Azure cloud service, meaning that there would be no option to opt out and use something else. If the Azure goes down everyone's games goes down.
This news is bittersweet because it's great that GFWL won't be used in anymore games, but at the same time a lot of gamers worry about current PC games such as Street Figher IV, Dark Souls and Grand Theft Auto IV (a few amongst many titles that employ Games for Windows Live).
Hopefully publishers will at least announce patching plans to either remove or provide a workaround for GFWL when it eventually does shutdown, or at least announce some alternatives before July 1st, 2014.
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