By Jared Newman | Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 7:29 pm
Microsoft is being Microsoft and stepping into a market that the competition proved fertile a long time ago. This time, the company’s offering on demand downloads of PC games, going toe-to-toe with Steam, GamersGate, Direct2Drive and others.
The service, called Games on Demand, launches on December 15 as part of Games for Windows – LIVE. (I guess that awkward en dash prevents people from thinking of Windows Live, which is something entirely different. Chalk it up to bad naming habits, maybe?)
Anyway, I’m scratching my head, looking at Microsoft’s press release and trying to determine how Games On Demand will distinguish itself from the competition, particularly Steam, which rules the market. Looks like a pretty straightforward download service to me, but the company swears this one is different: “With Games on Demand, we didn’t just want to create a cut-and-paste version of existing digital distribution services,” Mike Ybarra, general manager of Live Engagement Services, boasts.
The one specific benefit Microsoft describes is the ability to “re-install your games whenever you want, wherever you want.” Steam does that too, because games are linked to your Steam account, rather than a specific computer. As for games, Steam already sells everything Microsoft lists as launch titles, including Resident Evil 5, Red Faction Guerrilla, Battlestations: Pacific, World of Goo and Osmos. Also, the features you get with Games for Windows look pretty much like Steam, with matchmaking, voice chat, text messaging and achievements.
I’m not questioning Microsoft’s move — they’re now selling game downloads on the Xbox 360, so they might as well get some PC action too — but I don’t see any clear reasons for gamers to abandon the download services they already use.