Games for Windows is a brand owned by Microsoft and introduced in 2006 to coincide with the release of Windows Vista. The brand represents a standardized technical certification program and online service for Windows games, bringing a measure of regulation to the PC game market in much the same way that console manufacturers regulate their platforms. The branding program is open to both first-party and third-party publishers.
Games for Windows was promoted through convention kiosks and through other forums as early as 2005. The promotional push culminated in a deal with Ziff Davis Media to rename the Computer Gaming World magazine to Games for Windows: The Official Magazine. The first GFW issue was published for November 2006, and the magazine was defunct as of 2008.
Packaging for games that have been certified by Microsoft feature a prominent "Games for Windows" logo stripe across the upper front. Microsoft claimed they had increased their sales of Games for Windows-branded games in stores that had been giving the games greater focus, and said they planned on increased marketing efforts of the brand.
- An "Easy Install" option that installs the title on a PC in the fewest possible steps and mouse clicks
- Compatibility with the Windows Vista/ 7 Games Explorer (see below)
- Installs and runs properly on x64 versions of Windows Vista/ 7 and is compatible with 64-bit processors (though the game itself can be 32-bit)
- Supports normal and widescreen resolutions, such as 4:3 aspect ratio (800 x 600, 1024 x 768), 16:9 aspect ratio (1280 x 720, 1920 x 1080), and 16:10 aspect ratio (1280 x 800, 1440 x 900, 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200)
- Supports parental controls and family settings features in Windows Vista/ 7
- Supports launching from Windows Media Center
Starting with Halo 2 on May 31, 2007, some Games for Windows titles have access to Microsoft's Live network for online play and other features, including voice chat, messaging and friends lists, accessed from an in-game menu called the "Guide". Users can log in with their Xbox Live gamertags to gain achievements and play games and chat across platforms (not every game supports cross-platform play.) Some features, including cross-platform multiplayer and multiplayer achievements, initially required a subscription to Live Gold.
However, on July 22, 2008, Microsoft announced at Gamefest 2008 that Games for Windows Live is now free of charge. This means that all users are able to access features that would normally be available to only Gold members, such as the features listed above. In addition, Microsoft launched a Games for Windows Live Marketplace. Like its console counterpart, Xbox Live Marketplace, users are be able to download content such as game demos, add-ons, and gamer pics. Some items are free, while others need to be paid for using Microsoft Points, as determined by the publisher of said items. Microsoft also plans to make the Games for Windows Live interface more PC friendly, and reduce the technical requirements for developers. This is in direct competition with the leading digital distributor on computers, Steam.
Included with all versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7, this special folder showcases the various games installed on one's computer. When a compatible game is installed, the system adds the game's shortcut to the Games Explorer and also downloads the game's box art and content rating information (e.g. ESRB, PEGI, CERO, etc.) for that game through either developers' own game definition files or from information provided by All Media Guide.
Compatibility generally depends on the age or popularity of the games with newer games having better compatibility. For example, StarCraft is fully compatible despite being nearly a decade older than Windows Vista. If a game is incompatible with the Games Explorer, the user can manually add a game by dragging a game's shortcut to the Games Explorer (though there is a very large chance that box art and rating information will be missing).
The Games Explorer is fully compatible with Windows Vista and Windows 7 with parental controls. Parents can restrict how long a child can play and what kind of games they may play, based on ratings and/or specific titles.
Tray and Play
Tray and Play is a technology developed by Microsoft for Windows Vista. It allows users to put the game disc into an optical disc drive and start playing almost immediately, while the game installs itself in the background and streams off the disc with minimal or zero caching, just like on a game console. The first and currently only commercial game to use this technology is the Windows version of Halo 2.
- List of Games for Windows titles
- Games for Windows – Live
- List of Games for Windows – Live titles
- Windows Games on Demand
- PC Gaming Alliance
- PRESS RELEASE: Rail Simulator attends Leipzig Games Convention
- Ziff Davis Media's Official "Games for Windows" Press Release. Archived from the original on 2006-11-07
- The Video Game Librarian: Games For Windows Magazine Goes Online-Only
- December 7, 2006 IGN.com conversation with Microsoft
- "Games for Windows Vista" at Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows
- About Games for Windows. Microsoft. Retrieved on 2008-11-21
- Games for Windows LIVE Gets Major Changes
- Breckon, Nick (July 22, 2008). Games for Windows Takes on Steam, Set to Launch PC Digital Content Distribution Platform 1. ShackNews. Retrieved on 2008-07-23
- "Legacy Game Support" at Microsoft Developer Network