In addition to new Windows Live social-networking features, Microsoft will soon be offering digital distribution of PC game titles.
Chris Early, general manager of games for Windows Live, confirmed in an interview with Shacknews that Microsoft has definite plans to distribute full PC titles through its Marketplace application, taking on market leader Steam.
This is a very smart move by Microsoft, though I would have expected the company to have either bought its way into the market or to have made PC game distribution a bigger part of its online footprint already.
If you consider the vast number of PCs that run Windows and then look at the number of PC games sold every year, Microsoft already has the dominant platform. This approach will further cement games into the Windows user base.
Steam and Valve have done a fantastic job at defining the way these distribution services work as well as innovating new ways to store user settings and data in the cloud. These advanced features will be difficult for Microsoft to catch-up to. But considering they own the underlying operating system, they should be able to do so.
Of course, Microsoft should also be able to fix bugs in less than seven years.
It'll be hard for Microsoft: Steam is a much stronger brand than Games for Windows Live, a faceless concept that evokes imperialist Microsoft tendencies and the vast, flaccid tentacles of their Live services. The only way they can make this little adventure work is by shoehorning themselves in, as they have suggested they will do with Fallout 3 DLC, and forcing a market presence. It's a certainty that they can't beat Valve, but with the amount of clout they've got, they're guaranteed at least a spot in the lineup.
Windows Live remains a bit "spray and pray" as Microsoft tries to make the services relevant and consistent. Gaming is something that Microsoft has gotten good at and the locked-in user base should be an easy target.