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Games for Windows

Rich Wickham, director of Games for Windows, talks about MS's big PC gaming push

Unless you've been hiding behind the couch for the last few months you'll be well aware of Microsoft's grand plan to boost the PC as a gaming platform. In addition to introducing 'Games for Windows' branding and a huge marketing push at retail, Microsoft is also soon to launch Games for Windows - Live (Windows' version of Xbox Live), details on which were officially announced last week.

Literally a few days later Microsoft jetted into London for a Games for Windows event where Rich Wickham, director for Games for Windows, took to the floor to deliver a presentation in which he extolled the virtues of Windows Vista as a gaming platform. Once he was done, he was ours.

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You've been keen to point out that a lot of the features of Games for Windows - Live are free. Does this mean that currently the Gold side of it isn't as important?

Rich Wickham: No, absolutely not. What I was keen to point was that there are free features that are different from Xbox Live Gold so there's no confusion between the different services.

There was a lot of concern in the PC gaming market that we were just going to take the Xbox Live Gold model and stamp it on the PC. But that's not what we've done.

I still believe that Gold is a substantial value over Silver offering from a couple of perspectives. I think some of the Trueskill Matching we offer on Xbox Live that we'll offer in Games for Windows - Live Gold is really useful. Secondly, I think multiplayer achievements something people are going to be very keen to earn and you can only earn those when you're playing in Games for Windows - Live Gold.

And thirdly I think the cross-platform play, which is one of the real values of connecting the two platforms, is something people are going to look for as well.

Those three things plus some of the other features that are in Gold only still make that investment of 40 pounds - which is not a lot of money when you think about it, for year; you know, less than four pounds a month - is really useful and really valuable.

Yes, but PC gamers have been playing for free for years. Do you see an uphill struggle to persuade PC players of the value of Gold?

Rich Wickham: Well, you know, we're trying, right? And the second thing I'd say is that I think that if PC gamers are completely honest with themselves, they will say that the free experience they get today is not great.

I mean, the idea that you have to cobble together a multiplayer service with some sort of voice enablement if you want voice, some kind of matchmaking service like XFire, and you've got to basically put together your own witch's brew of services in order to get even what we're offering for free integrated in Silver.

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It's not great, it could be a lot better than it is. I think you'll find, with Games for Windows - Live, it will be better than it is today. And frankly anything that gets over and above that base line service in the PC space today does cost money.

There are a number of folks out there charging for a better online experience, and they're charging about the same that we're charging. So this is not out of line with that. I think if anything we're delivering a much better set of features and service than you get, for free and for 40 quid.

Will the only way to get updates for Games for Windows titles be through Games for Windows - Live?

Rich Wickham: No. Just to be clear on that, we will offer some updating and patching services with the Live client, but that's not the only way that you'll get them. And obviously there'll be plenty of games that either won't be Games for Windows titles or that don't play online at all, that will still have patches and updates available.

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