Microsoft mulls full PC game downloads

GFW - Live interface update lands tomorrow, desktop Marketplace slated for December; Fallout 3 DLC first in the hopper.

Next week, Microsoft will launch the much-anticipated New Xbox Experience dashboard overhaul for its console-based online service. Features included in the update are Mii-like avatars, Netflix's on-demand movie service, full-game hard-drive installation, and the ability to order Xbox 360 games via Xbox.com.

GFW - Live's new look.

With NXE in the queue for console gamers, Microsoft also said that PC gamers would be receiving some love this year, thanks to a series of updates to its Games for Windows - Live service. The first of those updates entailed dropping the Gold-level subscription fees to allow free access to all previously available features. The publisher said that, later in the fall, it would also be overhauling GFW - Live's user interface as well as launching a PC companion to the Xbox Live Marketplace.

Today, the publisher confirmed that the first of those planned changes--the new UI--will be available as a free update through the service tomorrow. Microsoft also narrowed down the release window for the launch of the GFW - Live Marketplace, saying that PC gamers will be able to download trailers, demos, and add-on content beginning in December.

When the PC Marketplace does go online later this year, Microsoft confirmed that Bethesda Softworks' best-selling Fallout 3 will be the first game to offer downloadable content--the same DLC as will be offered on the Xbox 360. Other games signed on to take advantage of the GFW - Live Marketplace include Grand Theft Auto IV, James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, Red Faction: Guerrilla, and Battlestations: Pacific.

In a debriefing on the service, Microsoft also confirmed for GameSpot that downloadable content is only the beginning of the publisher's digital-distribution efforts through the desktop-oriented Marketplace. The publisher also said that it plans to offer full-game downloads through the Marketplace "somewhere down the road." Unfortunately, Microsoft was reticent to provide more details on this service or when it will be rolled out.

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