Recently it has been announced that GFWL is in the process of being removed from Steam titles and the entire service will be wound down over the next year. This is a somewhat perplexing situation for gamers to find themselves in. On the one hand GFWL was one of the most egregious examples of Micrsoft heavy-handedly inflicting infuriating and unwanted services upon the consumer that they never wanted or requested and that served no real purpose. While the initial concept had some decent ideas, barring the fact that as a console gamer a had no real desire to be repeatedly destroyed by the mouse and keyboard crew and therefore cross-platform was doomed from the start, the ability to track friend’s achievements and communicate with them was a nice one.
The implementation however was dire, if it had integrated seamlessly it would have been a useful addition but as it was the constant need to login and be verified by slow buggy Microsoft servers meant it could be difficult to even get as far as playing the game you’d just paid for, an infuriating circumstance to find yourself in.
With all this in mind you may have been forgiven for thinking that this was an opportunity for Microsoft to regain some much-needed credibility and by listening to customers gain a position as a trusted developer whom has customers best wishes in mind. However the service is to be unceremoniously removed and the upshot of all this is that many people’s save files will become unusable meaning that they need to start numerous titles from scratch.
The inevitable conclusion we have to draw from this is that the service has been terminated not due to the immense dissatisfaction of those who were forced to use it, but rather that it was done away with due to the fact that it was not a profitable endeavour. This isn’t Microsoft attempting to listen to consumer demand but them cutting their losses at the expense of consumers.
It is undeniable that there is a trend within Microsoft of foisting unwanted services and problems on the consumer. The XBox One, Windows 8, Windows RT and the Surface, not to mention reports of the Windows 8.1 update creating massive issues for gamers, makes it seem as if they are not only incapable of creating products people want, but cannot even admit their failures with good grace.
In turn it is important to view this in light of other radical game-changing occurrences happening right now. Recently Microsoft has been advised by the company of co-creator Paul Allen to shift its focus from search engines like Bing, and more interestingly from the Xbox, back towards its original and perhaps still most lucrative focus of corporate infrastructure. Given recent events, the Windows 8 furore, the troubles with their tablets, the XBox One, the aforementioned GFWL disaster, this appears to be a sensible notion, albeit a radical one. It’s hard to dispute the fact that corporate business is Microsoft’s original and most lucrative source of revenue. While they remain a powerful contender in many different markets it has to be said that in most of them their reputation has been tarnished by a string of failures. A total departure may seem radical but in turn may be what’s needed to keep the company competitive over the coming years.
In fact with the disdain for the Xbox One, the recent emergence of PC as the fastest growing platform for gamers, and the vast amount of Linux titles beginning to make an appearance on Steam, it begins to look like Microsoft would do well to re-focus on its core priorities before it is muscled out of every other sector for good.