Games for Windows goes gratis, DX11 detailed

Pay-to-play multiplayer services for all Microsoft-branded PC games now free; first info on next DirectX framework revealed.

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Although Microsoft's Games for Windows brand has enjoyed ample support from third-party publishers, gamers have been less enthusiastic with its adoption than its console counterpart, Xbox Live. One of the primary reasons for the aversion is that a number of services usually taken for granted as free by PC gamers are available only for those who subscribe to Microsoft's Gold membership, which carries a $49.99 annual fee.

However, this week Microsoft is tearing down that barrier to adoption. The company has announced that effective immediately, all multiplayer components of its Games for Windows - Live service are free. All gamers will now have unlimited access to multiplayer matchmaking with friends, TrueSkill matchmaking, multiplayer achievements, and cross-platform gameplay, which were previously available only to Gold subscribers. Those features are in addition to previously gratis goods, including friend lists, text and voice chat, and single-player achievements.

The GFW - Live multiplayer update applies to both current and future games that are compatible with Microsoft's PC brand. The publisher also reiterated several announcements made during its E3 Media & Business Summit presentation, saying that a PC version of the Xbox Live Marketplace will launch this fall, and that the Windows Live in-game user interface will undergo a significant revamp. The publisher did not reveal whether the new PC interface will make use of the recently revealed Xbox Live avatar system.

In related GFW news, Microsoft also dropped a few tech-head details for the next revision to its application framework, DirectX 11. Calling DX11 "a big step forward for gaming," Microsoft said that its newest game-development tool will implement new computer-shader technology, which it claims "lays the groundwork for the GPU to be used for more than just 3D graphics, so that developers can take advantage of the graphics card as a parallel processor." DX11 will also feature increased support for multicore processors and "tessellation, which blurs the line between super-high-quality prerendered scenes and scenes rendered in real-time."

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