At the Game Developers Conference today, Microsoft announced some intriguing new improvements to Games for Windows. Here's how Microsoft is improving the lives of developers and (maybe) gamers:
- Anti Piracy: According to Microsoft, zero-day piracy protection and server side authentication will prevent game piracy before street dates, and "protect publishers and consumers by requiring authentication for online play." I'm not sure how requiring authentication will help consumers -- that kind of thing always seems like a hassle more than help to me -- but I do see how it would help publishers.
- In-Game Marketplace: These new marketplaces will let developers create in-game store fronts and "experiences surrounding the sale of additional content." This is meant to provide developers with extra money and gamers with "a seamless gaming experience."
- Roaming: Gamers will be able to save personal settings from Games for Windows - LIVE accounts to the cloud, giving you instant access to your account and details from any Windows PC.
While these announcements are aimed at developers, obviously (Microsoft was speaking at the Game Developers Conference, after all), all these changes to Games For Windows will affect gamers too. In my opinion, this is a mixed bag of good and bad news.
The good news: Roaming. This feature will be a godsend to any gamer on vacation, traveling, at work, at a café or otherwise mobile. Of course, if you happen to hop on a Mac, you're out of luck. Still, way to take advantage of our interconnectedness, Microsoft.
The indifferent news: Anti-piracy. As a "legitimate" gamer, I only begin to care about piracy when anti-piracy schemes and tactics start to affect my enjoyment. I'm not a criminal and I don't like being treated like one by my software. There haven't been a ton of details announced about how Windows new anti-piracy measures will work from an end-user perspective. I'm sure Games for Windows doesn't intend to make piracy protection my problem by adding complications to my online play... they wouldn't do that...would they?
The bad news: In-Game Marketplace. Okay, maybe I'm a bit of a hippie, but I don't like being marketed to -- all the time. I understand money is the lifeblood of the games industry (and every other industry), but I get nervous when I hear about innovative ways of selling me things... I guess it will depend on how developers implement this feature, On the worst-case-scenario side: Imagine almost completing an RPG and getting a message saying, "deposit 10 dollars to fight final boss!" I wouldn't care how "seamlessly" the pitch was embedded into my game world, I still wouldn't be happy. But it remains to be seen how (and if) this will be used, so I'm holding off judgment.