Microsoft Taking Games for Windows Live

Microsoft has formally announced plans to extend its successful Xbox Live game and entertainment service to Windows Vista beginning May 8th. Games for Windows—Live will enable Windows Vista games to interact with (and eventually compete with) with the over six million games already connected to the company’s Xbox Live service. Games for Windows will debut May 8th with a Windows Vista version of Microsoft’s first-person action game Halo 2; in June, Microsoft’s forthcoming Shadowrun game will be the first title to connect Windows Vista players to Xbox 360 gamers in cross-platform matches—although we don’t think that milestone is going to settle the debate between proponents of game controllers and keyboard-only fans. For the non-shoot-em-up crowd, Microsoft also plans to release a version of Uno later in 2007.

“Five years ago, we began building a service that now defines the bar for online gameplay,” said Peter Moore, corporate VP of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business. “The benefits of expanding Xbox Live to Games for Windows titles is twofold: We’re bringing together two communities that share a passion for playing online games, and we’re enhancing the online experience for PC gamers who have long desired seamless game and voice connectivity—it’s a win for everyone.”

Pricing for Xbox Live and Games for Windows services will be identical: Silver membership is free, Gold membership is $4995 a year. Current Xbox Live members will be able to tie into Games for Windows using the same gamertag and friends list at no extra charge.

The formal announcement of Games for Windows comes almost a year after Microsoft founder Bill Gates described the company’s gaming vision as an all-encompassing service which would span game consoles, computers, and movile devices; bringing Windows Vista into the live gaming family is a major step towards that goal. Xbox Live has been a surprisingly succesful venture for Microsoft, and has become a strong selling point for the Xbox 360 console as well as a significant sales and promotional channel for Xbox 360 games.