Things you should see.

Games for Windows Marketplace & More Digital Delivery Foolishness

What's wrong with this picture?

Whether it boils down to appeasing retailers or just criminal half-arsedness, a lot of digital storefronts are content to let themselves look stupid. I recently wrote about Steam’s Australia tax and generally clueless pricing. Today, I look at Microsoft’s offering; the newly revamped ‘Games for Windows Marketplace’ and it is no less silly.

Take a look at the above screenshot. That’s right. You can get Batman: Arkham Asylum for $49.99USD, or the Game of the Year Edition, which comes with more stuff, for $39.99. This tells me two things, first of which is that Microsoft doesn’t give enough of a shit to curate what’s chucked onto the store and check for obvious pricing curiosities like this.\

Secondly, it seems Microsoft has no interest in pricing competitively. The GOTY version of Arkham goes for $29 on Steam, arguably this service’s chief competition. It also goes for $29 on retailers like Play-Asia and considering those boxed versions come with 3D specs to boot, it’s not half bad a deal. Other titles like Age of Empires III for $39 and Fallout 3 (without any DLC- they come at the original $9.99 a piece) for $49 are terribly overpriced and handly beaten at retail and most other digital storefronts that sell them.

Speaking of Fallout, Fallout: New Vegas is nowhere to be seen. Nor are last year’s bestseller Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 or current record-breaker Black Ops. That’s because these games are tied up with Steam via Steamworks. However Microsoft is cutting off its nose to spite its face here if they exclude games using Steam’s overlay and DRM- Direct2Drive learned this lesson last year and quickly added Modern Warfare 2 to its library after initially refusing to on these same grounds. What makes these notable omissions from the GFW Marketplace even more apparent though is that older instalments in each franchise are not only available, but are present on the store’s ‘Featured’ tab. Oh dear…

So what draws does Marketplace have? Daily deals for a start, but then the prices aren’t that great. Exclusive titles like Gears of War but little else- Halo and Halo 2 are inexplicably absent. Steam has auto-updates, Steamcloud and a vast library, has its app compatibility patches and ‘no DRM’ policy and D2D has its no-nonsense approach. What does GFW Marketplace have to set it apart from the crowd? Nothing that I can think of.

I like the layout of the Games for Windows Marketplace, but entering the market now, it is essentially asking me to convert over from Steam and I think that’s how most people in a position to buy and download games online will see it too. That said, it doesn’t seem very interested in competing on price, on the strength of its library or bringing anything else to the table. I see little reason to buy into this store and Microsoft needs to step things up right quick if it doesn’t want to see this venture dift into obscurity.


Visit the [Games for Windows Marketplace] if you dare…

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