Q&A: Microsoft on GFW - Live

Microsoft's senior director of global gaming talks about making the subscriber service free, the PC Marketplace, and DirectX 11.

If you missed CNET's earlier coverage of Microsoft's announcements from the GameFest 2008 conference, here's a brief recap:

Games for Windows - Live is now free at all membership levels.

In the fall, Microsoft will launch a digital distribution service called the Games for Windows - Live Marketplace. DirectX 11 is official, and it will include support for GPU programming, among other new features.

CNET had a chance to talk to Kevin Unangst, Microsoft's Senior Director of Global Gaming, and he provided some more details.

CNET: What was the deciding factor that led Microsoft to drop the Gold-level membership fee for Games for Windows - Live?

Kevin Unangst: Since we introduced Games for Windows - Live we've listened to developers and to PC gamers and they said look, there's a baseline expectation that multiplayer is a service that is just free on Windows; that is just how it works. Looking at it from a competitive angle, it makes sense for us to deliver on that expectation and to go above and beyond. We're confident we have the best matchmaking service on the planet with TruSkill matchmaking and we want to make sure that's available to the largest group of Windows gamers. Making this decision really was a natural part of focusing on what gamers want and what game developers told us they wanted.

CNET: Do you expect Xbox Live for the Xbox 360 will remain a fee-based service?

KU: This announcement in no way has an effect on our Xbox Live plan. If you look at what we announced at E3, there's innovation happening on the Xbox side that's going to deliver great value to Xbox Live subscribers. That's not going to change. What's interesting for us is looking at these two services as connected yet different. We're acknowledging that the needs of PC gamers and PC developers are different and we're going to meet those needs. And there will be unique features that show up on Xbox and don't go to Windows, and there will be unique features that go to Windows and that don't go to Xbox.

CNET: What kinds of unique features do you mean?

KU: The business model clearly now is a differentiator. Cross-platform is something the two have in common, but there may be different types of content between the two. Now that we'll have the Marketplace that we'll distribute content on, the content does not have to be identical, the game types may be different. Pricing models, which we're not going into detail on today, may be different as well, based on what the expectations and needs are of the PC market versus the console market. If you look at some of the things announced at E3, it is not a foregone conclusion that some of the things that are uniquely designed for a console will come to the PC and vice versa.

CNET: Do you have agreements with any publishers to sell their games through the Games for Windows - Live Marketplace?

KU: We haven't made any announcements and aren't at this point talking about who's going to be in the store, but you can imagine our goal is to offer the widest range of content we can to our consumers, whether that's free content or paid content. We have great relationships on both platforms with publishers, and we'll certainly be working with all of them to encourage them to take advantage of what we're going to offer in the new Marketplace.

You can expect to see additional announcements moving ahead as we get closer to that fall release, both in games that take advantage of Games for Windows - Live, as well as content that may be available through the Marketplace.

CNET: How do you intend to differentiate Games for Windows - Live from Valve's Steam service?

KU: We're not focused on how we compete with Steam. We're focused on what kind of value we can deliver to gamers and PC games that make them more desirable. We have a lot of experience on things like achievements, both for single-player and multiplayer games. We've got the cross-platform connectivity. There are a lot of community features built-in, things like being able to choose to prefer or avoid players in our matchmaking. The feedback system I think is unmatched, and that's what you get from having experience with many millions of Xbox Live users. Really our focus is on making the games better, and the publishers will decide for themselves. I think what Steam's doing is a good service.

CNET: Can you get more specific than "fall" for the Marketplace release date?

KU: I have no more specifics other than we have a developer's kit available for game publishers and developers. The release will coincide with the initial games that take advantage of the Marketplace when it first ships. "By the end of the year" is as specific as we can get, but we're targeting fall to release to developers the full, final kit.

CNET: And public availability will happen after that?

KU: The way people will be able to get Marketplace content will be from the Web or from a stand-alone client. When the first games ship that take advantage of Marketplace, that client will be available from Microsoft for download to consumers.

CNET: What issues are there regarding Games for Windows that developers asked you to address?

KU: The biggest issue was the technical requirements that we had for developers to meet in order to be part of the Live Network on Windows. We've reduced those by nearly a third in terms of the hurdles and the technology they needed to include for testing.

CNET: On to DirectX 11. When is that due out?

KU: The final, commercial release will be available for both the next version of Windows and for Windows Vista at the time that the next version of Windows becomes available. We'll of course have developers' kits and other things prior to that. We want to make sure that folks know, we made a big leap with Windows Vista in terms of having to rewrite the graphics pipeline for performance and for new capability. Because we made that leap with Windows Vista, we don't have to make that kind of change moving ahead in terms of backward compatibility. DirectX 11 will support both Windows Vista and the next version of Windows. We'll also be compatible with DirectX 10 and DirectX 10.1 hardware in addition to new DirectX 11 hardware that comes out.

CNET: And because we have to ask, when can we expect the next version of Windows?

KU: There's no announced timing for any follow-ons to Windows Vista at this point.

CNET: How does DirectX 11 work with the other GPU computing software out there, like Nvidia's Cuda?

KU: There are different methods to implement similar goals. If you're going to do things like parallel programming for GPUs, the advantage with DirectX 11 is that the compute shader will be part of what we've done and have very similar functionality to the rest of the shaders and the rest of the language that we use in DirectX. We expect significant adoption, but that's a choice developers will make and how they want to implement it.

CNET: Is the goal similar to the streamlining that Direct3D achieved for 3D graphics drivers?

KU: The goal is really about adding the tools and functionality into the DirectX API that developers tell us they want. If that's multicore support or allowing more programmability on the shaders, all of those things are just about extending a known API that's trusted and used by literally millions of apps over the lifecycle of DirectX and extending that in a way that leverages the investment they already have.

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Discussion

84 comments
gagootza
gagootza

can i play a game thats for windowsl live on windows xp home edition

prensees123
prensees123

i want to now how to down load gta vI ???

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

Another reason I'm selling my 360. It's a rip-off. MS comes in and starts charging for something that has been free like the other guy said since Doom and they actually thought people would (no pun intended) buy in to it? Give me a break. This interview was part of their damage control to basically say, "Oops! We made a SNAFU concerning GFW by trying to charge the customer." 360 is no different. Yeah, like I really need to pay $50/year to get trash talked by 12-year-olds in Nebraska. Like the dude before said it has nothing to do with being able to afford it; it's all about the value you get.

sj420
sj420

just my two cents, fanboys feel free to skip. never get tired of the "60 bucks is nothing, you're p00r" comments... it's all about value for your dollar, and imo, i wouldn't pay 5 dollars a year for the "privilege" of playing games online, when i've been doing the exact same thing on pcs, for free, since doom. all m$ is doing is testing the gamers' limits. when the hell did the masses just swallow this tripe that you need to keep paying for a game to play it online? consoles represent RIGHTS. ms TOOK your right to run your own private game server, and shifted pc software to a system that does exactly that - limit your options. and people are ecstatic! live ftw, w00t, PLEASE. i've never heard of "game servers shutting down on so-n-so-date" until console gaming. you are at the mercy of publishers maintaining servers. want to keep playing that old fight night? or any sports titles? too bad. i played nba live and mlb for years on pc with user-created rosters, jerseys, etc. publishers didn't like that, and thanks to companies like ea and ms, our game playing is nicely controlled. i thank the people who made/make a _choice_ to provide online gaming for free, not like these m$ lame ducks that finally gave in cuz savvy pc gamers never bought into their b$.

Acurev
Acurev

What a joke, MS sucks

Gifted_One
Gifted_One

No free Xbox Live? Awe.. Oh well.

P0T
P0T

hey ahrui-san, why are you saying wiis avatars are free like 360s aren't? It costs NOTHING to do system updates on the 360, and the avatars will be included in an update, a FREE update. So again, explain your "wii had avatars for free" comment. YOu only play for LIVE to play ONLINE, you can download demos and whatever else you want with a free live account.

haloshalo
haloshalo

Congratulation to the ppl who bought the 600 or 700 $ unsupported direct x 11 gpu,s

GtheMVP
GtheMVP

The good old market dictating free GFL . Once the Playstation network picks up steam, M$ will have no choice but to offer 360, and future live services all for free, or no annual cost at least. Now if only our governments weren't so criminally corrupt, oil would drop to the prices it SHOULD be at. We're getting royally screwed people, heads will roll eventually!

dojodawg
dojodawg

Does this mean that mmos like hyborian adventures will be free too?

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

Microsoft makes so much money from all their other services and products (Marketplace) that they shouldn't need a subscription fee for Xbox360 either. Look at every service that Microsoft provides on the 360 platform. You will see that nearly everything has a cost associated and MS gets a cut for everything sold. The items that you find for "Free" have been paid for by a sponsor. Heck, people have been PAYING for gamerpics and themes. Two items that should have NEVER had a cost associated with them. Point in short is: You can't offer a service for free on one platform and then justify making the same service a subscription service on the other platform. You can, but it is not morally correct. The business aspects are covered with all the other "scams" MS has on the Marketplace.

akhorahill
akhorahill

I'm sure XBOX360 owners are pleased to know they're paying the costs of having us PC gamers on Live for free. Now that you guys are paying, I might even bother to download and try it. Thanks for your support!

n4m3l335
n4m3l335

It's about time they made it free. But at the same time, how many games exactly are available with this thing? I mean, it has like Halo 2, Gears of War, Shadowrun, Company of Heros, and that's pretty much it. Xbox Live may still be a pay to use service, but I like the most.

Great_Ragnarok
Great_Ragnarok

er...good thing I stuck to Xp. I can still play crysis so all good!

gamefreak3111
gamefreak3111

whens the new os coming out?!? i just bought an $900 computer with vista, and now its outdated!!!

Razzi65
Razzi65

lolzz.... im wondering Ps3 is costly??? haha.. so pc gamers would spend more money for their games.... oh not games may b one GAME like crysis2..

HOMIE_G64
HOMIE_G64

Well, you really can't use Steam on the 360 so I don't know why you are all hating...

Redsyrup
Redsyrup

I bet this 'service' comes integrated into Windows 7.

nemes1s3000
nemes1s3000

XBL blows donkey ass, Steam is the true way to go.

JangoWuzHere
JangoWuzHere

now I can say this XBL is a rip off really why should you have to pay "tax money" for their services when services like steam are far better and you don't have to pay a cent. Not to mention price cuts or free games during weekend deals.

the_real_VIP
the_real_VIP

@ OmegaBob: Did you read PS3_3DO before mine? Guess not.

darkride66
darkride66

peeweeshift said "I stopped playing cod4 on ps3 and bought the 360 version too cause it lags more on the ps3 servers." That's odd. I've been playing COD4 since it came out and I've almost never experienced any lag to speak of. Certainly not enough to justify paying $50 a year, every year, for the "privilege" of playing my games online. I'll keep my money and continue to game online for free on my PC and PS3, thanks very much.

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

we have the best gaming servers of all. There has only been downtime twice in its whole history. That is a record that no other company can touch. I stopped playing cod4 on ps3 and bought the 360 version too cause it lags more on the ps3 servers. anyways people who bought dx10 arn't shafted. we will see many more improvements now because of 11 coming. It's like dx7 and dx8 whcih came just before 9. People all had 7 and when 8 was pushed on us few bought it and 9 came right after. By the time it comes out vista will surpass xp users, and whatever windows 7 is will arrive, and dx11 will be apon us. compare a dx9 game that was playable with dx7 and you get the point. Halo 1, Call of duty were all playable yet they looked like crap and lagged a hell of a lot on the pc played with dx7. dx9 was a signifigant upgrade. Having a DX10 card now will still be ok since you can use it with windows 7.

okassar
okassar

WOW,some people here are either stupid or fanboys of others systems in disguise.The reason Xbox Live is so good is because we pay for it and also because of MS pwnage.Is 60 bucks reallly too much?Even Runescape,this stupid online game my brother plays that runs on Java,sets you back like 70 bucks for a year of membership.I pay 60 bucks every year for it and I don't regret it because I log on to Xbox Live at least 3 hours a day and on weekends sometimes I've done 9.So stop complaining and I don't think XBL will ever be free for 360.i don't want it to anyway.Maybe if they bring it down to 30 bucks and keep the quality,I wouldn't mind.But not free,think about it,the money goes into developing the service further and maintaining it the perfect way it is.

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

So...basically he said that if Xbox360 owners would stop paying for the service and wait...that they would make it free for Xbox too? I will never pay for XBL Gold again. There is no reason to. It is not justified for them to offer the same (differentiate my asz) services, but charge one group because they are using the service on a different product. That is shady business.

GriffinLord602
GriffinLord602

I think that DX11 is being released way sooner than it took DX10 to exceed DX9... and they are already talking of new versions of windows, so Microsoft are on the move (H).

Cipher92
Cipher92

DX11 sounds like just an extension of DX10. DX10 was a complete overhaul on the overhead used on the hardware, which is hwy it was supposed to run faster than DX9. But since that leap, DX10 is the new base line and future ones will at least be backwards compatible for a while to come, unlike DX10 compatibility with DX9 which jsut wasn't possible.

Precyse
Precyse

First off it's sounds like they listened to gamers and understand we will not pay a fee to play mp, and also have subcription fees like the 360. Good to see they might have additional content for the games like the 360, but of course it would have to rival any good modders imagination for me to be interested. Well see if their able to get pubs. on board to allow their game's to be purchased, however, there are a lot of game sites that offer AAA titles for dl and steam and other sites defenietly have the upperhand now and when their marketplace debuts. Hopefully they take their "Games for windows" slogan seriously and invest a lot of focus on their pc gaming. And sometime in the near future however long that takes, dx 11 and a new os will be available to upgrade to. Although it's good to hear that vista will support dx11.

Irve
Irve

I think as PSN gets better and better there will come a point where MS can't charge for Live .. but to be honest ... that's still gonna be at least a year away .. and if MS is smart they would have already worked out how they can afford to run the service for nothing

DiabloRaul
DiabloRaul

I only have a 360 so I might be biased here but I can say that Xbox Live is pretty worth the money I pay. I make enough to not mind paying for it because God only knows I play Live a lot. I understand that MS doesn't want to charge PC gamers because a PC gaming rig of good quality can cost upwards of $1000+. I know PSN is free and that is awesome to say the least but I hear that the interface is not very good. I know Sony is improving their services and products including Home which I think is an excellent idea and I can't wait to see it implemented. With the price drop of the 80GB PS3, I have more incentive to buy a PS3 and once I do that, I will be buying most games on PS3 that are cross platform because of the free online service while still playing exclusives on both respective consoles.

Ahiru-San
Ahiru-San

"there's innovation happening on the Xbox side that's going to deliver great value to Xbox Live subscribers" you gotta be kidding me, tell me there's no competition between consoles too - they are even changing the visuals and adding avatars... wii got avatars for free, ps3 gets tweaked for free, and although the new visuals on th 360 is free, they justify the "great value" with their annual fee to play online - a feature that is also free on other consoles... they just made the wrong service free - what competition they have on windows pc gaming?? well, it's their platform anyways... steam seems to be their only rival there.. i must agree that the xbl is the best among the 3 consoles (i own them all, i can tell - but that's just my opinion), but still should be free...

Icehearted
Icehearted

No no no, I knew someone would misunderstand what I was saying at some point. , I was talking about more than one online service for the console, not all consoles. If there was a competing service for Xbox 360 owners to be connected without having to do so through Xbox Live I believe the attitudes shown here would change and the competition would mean MS couldn't get away with gouging their customers so easily. Again, the fact that it is all MS owned proprietorially driven services really are the only honest reason why they charge for Xbox Live, since other services have been doing it better and or longer than they have for free. My point, really, is that they do it because they can get away with it, and I refuse to accept that they offer anything that justifies having to pay to play games online.

combatsoldier
combatsoldier

PS3_3DO that is extremely biased comment. I have both consoles and yes the live is better for 360 but there is no need to console bash and insult sony users. Remember to be respectful to others. However yes, live is better. I wish they would make it free though.

jackrocks123
jackrocks123

ps3 3do, well duh, wh ystate the obvious of course xbl its better the psn you pay for it so it should be better, why state the obvious? isxbl better just cause of 8p chat, wow gonna have to get it now, also netflix make it so better.....

Kh1ndjal
Kh1ndjal

i think windows 7 is closer than we think

Kfoss
Kfoss

I KNEW I KNEW IT I KNEW IT!!!!!!! Microsoft is totally screwed over... freaking WINDOWS 7 project hu! Direct X 11?! ya cant even get 10 work properly with VISTA MAN!!! GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!..*grabs home built tower, throws through window*....i hope this does not turn out to be a massive FRACKUP! (again) please let windows 7 be Vista's XP!!.... *cross fingers*.. LOL "There's no announced timing for any follow-ons to Windows Vista at this point." Add ons! ADD ONS!! is this guy posturing or what... 3BILLION down the drain for xbox repairs and an OS people run and hide from...NO its not JUST an "add on"..its vistas replacement...(*locks copy's of vista away with M. E.*) lol.. i hope...

PS3_3DO
PS3_3DO

This fall XBL is going to prove why it's the best console Online gaming service once again. PSN isn't going to touch XBL in a few months even with Home. Avatars, eight party chat system, netflix movie rentals, In game features of the dashboard when you press the guide button. Yeah XBL costs money because its the best out there.

bob9999999999
bob9999999999

When you consider Netflix and the other options that Microsoft gives with XBL it isn't a bad deal. Nor is it unfair to charge on the 360 when the PC is free. Microsoft knows they will make back the money spent on servers for PC because everyone runs Windows. However they lose money on the 360, so this is a reasonable way to get money back. I think this model is better than the alternative, because it gives gamers a CHOICE. You don't have to pay extra for XBL if you don't want it.

AdmiralDan
AdmiralDan

Soupflakez your statements are laughable. How can you claim PSN is anywhere near XBL? XBL has more non-game content, has more gamers on multi-plat games (like GTAIV, COD4), has far better integration of gamer cards and achievements, and finally has better online games to enjoy. Not to mention add-on content. Do you remember the debacle with the latest PSN update? It was pathetic.

OmegaBob
OmegaBob

@ the_real_VIP 360 20GB: $299.99 360 controller: is included - $0 Wifi adapter: not needed - wired connection - $0 360 game: cost of game is irrelevant as both systems have the same max cost. As such, I'll pick a new game from the bargin bin for $9.99 XBL Gold subscription: $39.99 Circuit City sale price (happens often) Total: $349.97 -finally, BD not needed to play games

FrankenLife
FrankenLife

@Spiteful49 a videogame fanboy? WTF are you talking about? You don't know me. You don't know anything about me. Your statements have no ground. You are the one putting out personal attacks because I don't like XBL. That is it. I stated my opinion, and then I explained it. Why are you getting so butt hurt about me not liking XBL? It has not only been my experience but the experience of many others that I have talked to that there is tougher competition on the PSN than on XBL. I am not saying that you and millions of others suck. but I am saying that there is a higher proportion of kids and other crappy players that bring down the average on XBL. I have played against many fantastic players on XBL, but I played against a lot more crappy players. You can't deny that the demographic of 360 owners contains a high percentage of kids, and they all have a mic. That isn't a problem on the PSN. From what you have said you seem like the kind of people I don't want to play with on LIVE, and you probably have mic. Yes I understand that it costs tons of money to run the servers, keep the whole network running, and update it. Yes the consoles sold early in it's life cycle are sold at way below cost. They plan to make their money back in game sales etc. Both Sony and Microsoft are multi-billion dollar companies. They make their business plans with the long term in mind. The idea is that over time they make their projected earnings. Decisions this generation may not be intended to turn results until well into the next generation. Eventually both companies will get more than enough money from me to pay for my usage of their services. So I am presented with the choice of two services that do the same thing. Once service I like and the other I don't. The service that I like is free. So i can spend that 50 bucks on a game instead, and depending on the game I can play it online for free. The same service that they are charging you for on the xbox they are giving free for the PC, and only because PC users don't want to pay for it. It is time that Microsoft offer LIVE for free. But they don't have to because people are willing to pay for they have no other choice if they want to play online on the xbox. Yes I am happy to have paid all the money I did for my 360 and my PS3. They are both great systems. I also earn enough money to do that. I have no problems putting the money down for something that I like. But I don't like XBL, so I won't pay for it. Why are people getting so upset about my feelings toward XBL? It is just a service.

Fyre8892
Fyre8892

Free online PC play seems like a great move for MS, but they have to be careful because a lot of Xbox Live subscribers might feel screwed over by this. Especially when you consider that PS3 has free online play aswell (albeit it is widely considered to not be as good). Even though $50 a year isn't that much I think it might cost them a lot of easy customers. I think lowering their yearly rate would satisfy most console players while allowing them to still yield a profit.

Soupflakez
Soupflakez

Icehearted: Does Home ring any bells? It may of suffered several setbacks and delays, but from what I can tell, it can give XBL a run for it's money..literally. Microsoft should start singing a different tune as soon as possible. Why can Sony, in essence, offer the exact same service for free (exempt cross-game chatting)? Finally, cross-game XMB is up (full XMB, which is superior to the mini-guide you get when hitting the guide button on the Xbox 360). Sony may be playing catch-up, but they're doing so very efficiently and they're doing it FOR FREE! In my opinion, if PC XBL users don't have to pay, why should console XBL users? "Different" content doesn't make a difference for having to pay an anual fee. The services still function, primarily, the exact same way (seeing that they're both online services). There doesn't seem to be any legitimate excuse for Microsoft to charge XBL (console) users any fee..even less so that they don't charge PC users for it.

Icehearted
Icehearted

The only reason they wouldn't bother making a cut to Xbox Live is a lack of competition. If another company were able to offer a similar service for the Xbox to compete directly with MS for the same customers MS would be singing a different tune, but MS and the Xbox Live service is the very definition of a monopoly, and so the squeeze will stay on us for as long as they see fit to do so. This is pretty much every reason why I hate anything proprietary.

Spiteful49
Spiteful49

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

infect999
infect999

DX11? less suck out of GFW Live? this is one of the happiest days of my life

GeigerdolylWodd
GeigerdolylWodd

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]