The impact that the shutdown of Games for Windows Live has on games that use it

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 23, 2013

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.

games for windows life

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.

Closing Words

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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  1. Ropable said on February 1, 2014 at 1:36 am

    if i cant play RE5, GoW, GTA IV, or Fallout 3 after they shut this down, i will boycott all MS products, which means my WP8 is going in the bin (which it probly should anyway), ubuntu becomes my OS of choice, and the dust gets blown off my PS3.

  2. Leaving The G said on November 14, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    A lot of Steam games that also had you use GFWL have patched them out. Arkham Asylum/City/Origins have it patched out, and even upgraded all installed copies of the previous series to the GOTY editions.

  3. Hi Der said on November 7, 2013 at 6:45 am

    Every single GFWL game already has a “DRM-free” patch, i.e. “crack” available since the games have launched, so the impending shutdown is fairly irrelevant, and people can continue to play their games as they always have, with these cracks.

  4. Anonymous said on September 14, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    im glad its going i lost my password and have not been able to play dear rising because of that

  5. Anonymous said on August 26, 2013 at 1:12 am

    This is probably a move by Microsoft to force people into their Xbox One.

  6. Jim said on August 24, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    First order of business, go d/l the cracked versions of my Windows Live games. Luckily it seems I only have two, Batman and Fallout 3. I’ve still got Fallout 3 new in the shrink wrap, never had time to play it. This online junk is going to kill PC games. Steam appears to be the only exception, but who knows when they’ll go away..

  7. paul said on August 23, 2013 at 8:58 pm


    1. Anon said on August 25, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      Indeed. There are so many games that I fear will never see a patch to cleanse them from the infection that is GFWL.
      Another example is Age of Empires Online, which will have to be shutdown entirely because GFWL is too hardcoded into the game. That’s just great, microsoft.

      This whole outcome is so retarded. Surely they must know that removing the GFWL service will cause alot of trouble for existing games, but they obviously don’t give a single shit since they’ve decided not to work on the existing service rather than remaking the whole thing.

  8. ilev said on August 23, 2013 at 5:43 pm
    1. Lindsay said on August 24, 2013 at 12:30 am

      Kicked out? Let’s not get too hyperbolic. He announced his retirement. Anything more than that is pure speculation on your part.

      That said, it’s about bloody time.

      1. ilev said on August 24, 2013 at 7:02 am

        Remember When Steve Ballmer Said He’d Retire in 2018?

        “I’ve been at Microsoft, as I said, 28 years. I tell people I’m planning on being here another — here at Microsoft another nine, ten years, ’till my last kid goes away to college……”

        Yes, he was kicked out.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on August 23, 2013 at 6:51 pm

      Wow that is big.

  9. YB said on August 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    I am confident that Rockstar will patch GTAIV but Bethseda probably will not. Fortunately, You do not need the Live service to play Fallout 3 or you can use FOSS Mod or Use Xliveless for GTAIV which removes GFWL.

  10. Justin said on August 23, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Some games will be playable even without GFWL. Online mode will not be available but the rest of the game shoud be there. Also even if the service is shut down, the client is still available and even included with the games. As a last resort we could use an offline profile.

    I only have a few games using GFWL but, unless it was bought straight from that service, I don’t think cracking should be necessary.

    1. tacticus said on October 25, 2013 at 8:33 am

      Batman: AA doesn’t save reliably if you are on an offline profile many games require updates to run reliably and some of those are only available over gfwl

      others have dlc only available over gfwl

      Yeah the death of this product is something that was bound to happen with the fucked in the head management at MS but the way it is going to be handled will probably make us all yearn for the comparatively magical management that was demonstrated at microsoft

  11. Maou said on August 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    That´s good news I think, I never liked this service but I hope I wont have to crack my games to be able to play again.

  12. David said on August 23, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    From what I’ve heard, GFWL a highly unpopular and trouble-prone service. And since MS is now focusing on Xbox Games for Win8 initiative, the decision to pull the plug is hardly surprising.

  13. Lindsay said on August 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    And they continue to wonder why piracy is (as far as they claim, anyway) rampant.

    Reminds me of PlaysForSure

  14. Anders said on August 23, 2013 at 10:50 am

    DRM is evil

  15. Ann said on August 23, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Yesterday they called it hacking a game.
    Tomorrow they will call it : creating a custom mod to bypass GfwL

    BTW. I don’t think that you can actually run a C-64 game from disk on a PC, but if you use a emulator or better a real C-64/128 “computer” then it might still work (after all this time). Mine are long broken.
    But your point is 1000% correct, the hassle of DRM and the non benefits it brings to customers.

    1. ME!!! said on November 30, 2013 at 11:31 pm

      You can load a C64 game floppy disk on a PC, There are several different hardware solutions to accomplish said feat.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on August 23, 2013 at 10:53 am

      Ann, I meant running a C-64 disc on a classic C-64 system :)

  16. Dave said on August 23, 2013 at 10:09 am

    I am playing GTA IV and if it stops working i will sue them! I paid good amount of money for the game! I wish they remove this Games For Windows crap from it as it only annoys me and i do not thing it does anything useful.

    1. Anonymous said on September 14, 2013 at 7:16 am

      sue them?

      suuuure ya will….lol

  17. ilev said on August 23, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Zune Marketplace and Games For Windows Live Marketplace end today.

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