Microsoft announced that it will shut down Games for Windows Live on July 1, 2014. The service will run as is until then, but when that day comes, it may have consequences for games that utilize the service.
Games for Windows Live started as a paid service, just like Xbox Live is nowadays, but Microsoft had to terminate the fees eventually as it would not really take off with them. One issue with Gfwl was that it used its own authorization system. This was especially troublesome if a game was bought or activated on Steam, as users had to go through two authorization processes before they could even start the game to play it.
And this highlights one of the issues that games may experience when they buy, install or play Games for Windows Live after July 1, 2014.
The activation and authorization servers are shut down at that point in time, which means that it will no longer be possible to activate a game or log in to the Games for Windows Live service.
The games affected? Not that many but several high quality titles such as Fallout 3, Warhammer 40k Dawn of War 2 Chaos Rising, Street Fighter IV, Resident Evil 5, GTA IV, BioShock 2 or Batman Arkham City.
If games do not get patched by then, they may become unplayable. This is especially true for multiplayer which usually requires users to authenticate with a server before they can jump right in and play against others online.
Other games store save games only if you are signed in to GFWL, and this too would likely mean that players would lose their save games even if they can continue to play the game.
The big question is if developers will patch unplayable games before that date so that gamers can continue to play them. If developers do not offer patches, it is left to the community to deliver them. If that does not happen either, you end up with a game that you can never play again.
There is evidence that some developers are already working on patches for their games but it is not really clear how this will turn out for the majority of games.
As far as community projects go, there is a mod for Fallout 3 that disables Games for Windows Live so that you can play the game without it.
If I plug in a C-64 game disc in the computer today, it will play just fine. The same is true for Amiga games, and games on classic console systems such as SNES, Sega Genesis or the Playstation 2. The introduction of DRM has put an expiration date on games that removes control over the game from the people who purchased it to developers and networks running those DRM systems.
While this particular shutdown may turn out all right for the majority of games, as they may get patched by the company that produced them or by the community, it is likely that some games won't receive a patch after all.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.