The end is almost in sight for the blighted Games for Window Live service, and there was much rejoicing. The Windows Live Marketplace shut down last year, and a now-deleted official post for Age of Empires Online stated that GfWL would be dead by July, and further implied the game would no longer be playable after that date. Microsoft has refused to comment on the matter, however, and that’s putting a lot of developers in a pickle.
Without an explanation from Microsoft, many studios are concerned that their titles will be effectively unplayable come July, and thus have begun the process of removing GfWL and adding Steamworks instead. Unfortunately, an even greater number of publishers have absolutely no plans to remove GfWL from some of their games, leaving them without online support and in some cases, potentially broken.
BioShock 2, Fallout 3, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Batman Arkham Asylum and Arkham City GOTYs switched over a while ago, though this has led to lost progress if you’re in the middle of a game. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon also implemented a patch removing GfWL just two days ago, allowing players to retain their saves.
Others, like Red Faction: Guerilla, DiRT 3, the F1 series and Super Street Fighter IV are planning on removing GfWL and either switching to Steamworks or implementing their own online service.
But that leaves countless other games out in the cold. Many of them, pretty big titles. Fable 3, Street Fighter X Tekken, Dead Rising 2, Resident Evil 5 - all games where the publisher has made no plans in regards to GfWL shutting down.
Namco Bandai are exploring options for Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition, but as of right now have no plans either, even though they have been asked countless times by players what will happen to their game, a game still being played by a substantial number of people today.
So the good news about the demise of GfWL is tainted with the threat of games not working, online support becoming non-existent and the loss of save files - though there are apparently some work-arounds for the latter issue.
What’s even more concerning is that these games are still being sold. You can grab them right now, even though they might be unplayable very soon. With Microsoft refusing to even discuss the issue, countless consumers won’t even know that their purchases are at risk.
And we’re getting ever closer to that big day. July 1st was revealed to be the shutdown date all the way back in September, giving Microsoft plenty of time to explain what’s happening, and yet it continues to be silent.
Without confirmation about what exactly is going on, it makes sense that some publishers and developers have yet to plan for the end. A GfWL removal update and the hunt for an alternative costs time and money, and many of these games are long in the tooth or are simply no longer supported.
This whole mess highlights a concern that people have had ever since digital titles became the norm on PC: what happens when the service shuts down? And thanks to Microsoft, we don't know.