Games For Windows Live can't catch a break. Just when the service is finally getting a few things right, its general manager's getting the boot.
Make that Chris Early, general manager of Games For Windows Live, Microsoft's online service for PC gamers. He's been pink-slipped, according to VentureBeat, implying that more divisional cuts could follow in the latest shakeup following Microsoft's 5,000 jobs attrition plan.
Early's exit isn't a complete jaw-dropper. GFW Live stepped out on the wrong foot when in launched in May 2007 and has a mixed rap with gamers. It was Vista-only at a time when Vista was persona non grata. It was styled like someone lazily screen-scraped the overlay from Xbox LIVE – an interface modeled for standard definition TVs – and clumsily shoehorned it into a space designed for keyboard/mouse and much sharper video resolutions.
The first few games that supported the service had teething troubles. Shadowrun – a multiplayer-only shooter – had little to do with its esteemed license, and further estranged online shooter wonks by shipping with a paltry nine maps. Just a few months later, it's developer, FASA Studio, sadly shut down.
One of the service's allures, cross-platform gaming which allowed Xbox 360 gamers to compete with their PC peers, was a fascinating idea, but to date, the official site lists just three games that support it.
And as of today, the GFW Live games catalog only tallies 12, with just one or two recent releases.
Last November, the service "rebooted," remedying many of GFW Live's shortcomings, but the changes were well past overdue. It took Microsoft roughly a year to smooth over rough edges, when it should have taken months. With online delivery juggernauts like Impulse and Steam offering vast catalogues of games for instantaneous download, along with increasingly sophisticated community interaction, Microsoft could ill afford to let GFW Live languish.
We're probably seeing some of the fallout from the service's inability to effectively adapt in Early's departure.
Matt Peckham is still waiting for the other shoe(s) to drop. You can follow his dispatches at twitter.com/game_on.