Games for Windows: The PC asserts itself at E3

by Erin Bell, special to CBCNews.ca

Whenever I found myself about to refer to Microsoft's E3 press event as the "Xbox conference," (as many people still do), I had to check my words. The truth is that Microsoft's PC gaming initiative, which the company has branded Games for Windows, earned just as much time in the spotlight.

The biggest Games for Windows-related announcement was that the smash hit Xbox 360 shooter Gears of War is coming to the PC – and not simply as a port, but with new campaigns, three new multiplayer maps, a new multiplayer game type, and a game editor for tinkering with the maps, modes and creating new content.

Crysis, Hellgate: London, World in Conflict, BioShock, and the massively-multiplayer online role-playing game Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, will be among the key Games for Windows titles launching by the end of the year with DirectX 10 support, which allows for enhanced graphics, more detailed and realistic environments, and more processing power.

Screen shot from Crysis.

Microsoft also announced that starting with Gears of War, and moving forward for the foreseeable future, Games for Windows titles will be compatible with both Windows Vista and Windows XP, as opposed to being Vista exclusive.

Several games were also announced in support of the Games for Windows Live online service, which allows gamers to share a single online identity (including gamertag, friends list, achievements, reputation and gamer score) between Xbox and PC. Among the first Live-enabled titles announced were Gears of War, The Club, Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men and Viva Pinata.

According to Kevin Unangst, global director of Games for Windows, the idea behind the initiative was to create a unified brand with distinctive packaging that could make a strong impact in stores, much in the same way that console games are grouped together on shelves in easy to identify sections according to platform.

All Games for Windows developers will be given a set of guidelines to ensure consistency among the brand, including an easy installation procedure, widescreen support, and support for Vista's game explorer and parental controls, Microsoft said.

Erin Bell is a Toronto-based freelance video game and technology journalist, and is reporting on her fourth E3.