In part one of this special feature on the new Games for Windows LIVE Marketplace, we gave you an introductory overview of the service as explained to us by Peter Orullian ,Group Product Manager for Games for Windows Live. After that introduction, we were allowed to ask any questions that we had regarding the service, and Part Two is a transcript of that conversation. PLEASE NOTE: We're still waiting to hear back from Microsoft on the following points: * What DRM will be used for the Marketplace. * What specific countries will not have the service at launch. * The finalised launch date. At the moment it's just "Mid November".
PLEASE NOTE: We're still waiting to hear back from Microsoft on the following points:
* What DRM will be used for the Marketplace.
* What specific countries will not have the service at launch.
* The finalised launch date. At the moment it's just "Mid November".
Strategy Informer: Let's talk about the Metacritic requirement. Now, most of the time the games press is more or less in line with the mood of the public and reality. If Metacritic shows that a game is rubbish, it generally is, but Metacritic isn't perfect, we're certainly not perfect, so what happens then if you don't host a game that actually should be hosted simply because it's score isn't great?
Peter Orullian: The way we look at Metacritic is that it's just one data input. So the decision on what we bring into the store is not solely based on that. I mean our portfolio team is made up of hardcore gamers, they know games and so they'll have pretty good intuition, and will have played many of these games. So Metacritic is just one factor, I mean there are classic and adored games, there's even some Microsoft Games Studio games that don't have the greatest Metacritic score but we'll still feature them.
Strategy Informer: You mentioned how you wanted to separate transactions from the in-game client, does that mean the new store won't be accessible from the In-game client, you can only access it through a web browser?
Peter Orullian: If it's a Games for Windows LIVE game, you'll still be able to do all the things, moving forward, that you can now. The Publisher can enable the ability to get content in-game if they want, in fact they can use it in the same robust way that they do now. What we're saying is that the marketplace, whilst it will sell every LIVE-enabled game, it's just not all we will sell.
Strategy Informer: Indie Developers are really starting to get platform now and gain more prominence, do you plan to work with Indie developers as well to get their games featured?
Peter Orullian: We do.
Strategy Informer: Will you're opening portfolio feature any Indie games?
Peter Orullian: The launch portfolio... I'm thinking through it now. To be honest I don't remember if there are any Indie games in the launch portfolio, but what I can tell you is that I'm working very closely with the launch team, and there are definitely Indie games they are interested in, and they get called down on all the time by Indie developers, so that's definitely part of the on-going strategy, so it's not just about the larger known publishers.
Strategy Informer: Does this revamp of the market place tie in with Microsoft's re-commitment to the PC platform? Does this meet any goals there?
Peter Orullian: Yeah I think that's absolutely right. When I think about it we've recently announced a bunch of new PC games, the store itself began to be a destination for PC gamers all-up, not just about service games. We've got this new store launching next month, and I can tell you we've already got a wealth of features that we're considering to build upon. All of this is what I think is a track record and really is telling a story of our commitment to this platform. The fact that we have an entire marketing, engineering and studio team highlights that.
Strategy Informer: This might not concern the Marketplace specifically, but a huge part of PC gaming is the modding community. Are any of the changes going to support them in anyway, or take them into account at least?
Peter Orullian: I don't think that at launch there is a lot of inclusion of mods or anything like that in the store. What I can tell you is that we have a community channel, and we're very supportive of the dialogue and the connection people can make around modding. I would say in relation to community, it matters a lot to us, it's in our DNA. The example we like to use is Xbox Live, at the beginning there was no LIVE integration, it was mainly only available in game and then gamers said they would like to text and chat outside of game session, so then we enabled that, and so on. That same evolutionary progress you've seen on the console is the exact approach we want to take with the PC.
Strategy Informer: Not to beat about the bush, this new store is going to put you in more direct competition with the likes of Steam, and obviously many games carry the Steam client. Will you sell games like that in the GFWL store?
Peter Orullian: If a game is specifically Steam-enabled, we will not be selling it, and we're already not selling those kind of games. But if a game is just available on Steam, then we'll make sure it's available with us as well.
Strategy Informer: What is it about the Marketplace that you think will make it a viable competitive alternative to Steam?
Peter Orullian: I think it's this, it's a couple of those things that seem simple but, when talking to our community, tone of the things where they resonated loudly was that they didn't want to be encumbered by a client. The thing in the PC space that's different from the console is that the cost to change or move to another destination is a click. So thinking about what our gamers are trying to tell us and to try and have a good marketplace that is easy to use, so I think what makes us unique and what makes us a viable competitor is that we've removed the barriers, we've made the path to getting your games very very easily, everything down to the discoverability of the content. If you're like me and visit a lot of gaming sites it's like sensory overload, It's hard to track where you need to go to try and find what it is you're trying to get. We've taken a lot of care in the design so that the discoverability and the searchability is very intuitive.
From there what we've done is, if you're convinced you want to get a title, we've made the path to getting that in terms of purchase equally as intuitive. So you don't have to fire up any sort of client, you can just get it right then and there. Once you make the decision, a lot of our users are going to be console members, so they can use the ID they already have. People who are on Messenger, or on Hotmail, or anything like that - they've already got an ID, so they can sign in with that. IF not, well getting a LIVE ID is free, and then we've offered multiple choices for purchase, so if you want to buy points or just run your credit card and be done. So all of these things amount to choice and making it a simple and easy path to get gaming. Instead of having to fire up a client, or work through confusing UI, and given you all kinds of purchase options.
Strategy Informer: Will this service be available to all countries that currently support Games for Windows LIVE?
Peter Orullian: Our target is to do that, but I know that there's some countries that won't have it on day one. Our intention though is to absolutely make sure all LIVE markets have the Marketplace. Again though probably not all of them at day one.
So, what do we all think then? Will this prove to be a viable alternative to Steam? Valve's creation is unique, whereas there are plenty of browser-based stores out there at the moment, including our own GameWatcher. There are plenty of 'big' players in the market, but so far Steam seems to be beating them all. Perhaps the weight of Microsoft behind it will be enough to make a difference. The main issue, as we see it, is that a lot of their appeal depends largely on how many people dislike the idea of a client itself, as many would say Steam is very accessible.
If you have any comments or questions you'd like us to follow up with Microsoft, please email them to Joe (at) strategyinformer (dot) com.