Windows 7: What Happened To Gaming?

In 2006, then Microsoft Vice President Peter Moore apologised for what he called a dereliction of duty to the company's number one gaming platform: The PC.

Now more than three years after promising, and some say failing, to deliver a PC gaming renaissance with the Vista operating system, Microsoft is set to roll out Windows 7.

But this time there are no apologies or promises. PC gaming, it seems, has taken a back seat.

When Windows 7 goes on sale on Oct. 22, PC gamers will have little reason to run out to buy it, says Matthew Murray, managing editor of ExtremeTech.

"I don't think there's a lot about (Windows 7) that's going to make it that much more compelling to gamers than Vista," Murray said. "It's a bit better using memory, and it's a bit faster in certain areas, but the performance overall isn't really that much different. If you have Vista and you're happy with it, you can probably keep it, at least for now."

To be fair, much of that promised renaissance in 2006 was tied to the Games for Windows initiative, which launched alongside the Windows Vista operating system.

While the two hit at the same time, they're not directly connected.

The biggest idea behind Games for Windows was to make it easier to play games on your PC. This was done by creating a set of criteria that computer games needed to meet to have the Games For Windows label on their box.

Those criteria included compatibility, easy installation and including parental controls. There were also a number of neat ideas tested out, but never fully realised. Most computer games require an installation before playing, but the Tray and Play option was meant to allow gamers to pop a game in their computer and start playing almost immediately, similar to what most console gamers experience now. Unfortunately, only one game, Halo 2 for the PC, currently uses this system.

The most noticeable way in which Vista and Games for Windows crossed over was the operating system's Game Advisor and Games Explorer.

The Game Advisor ranks a person's computer and available games making it easier to tell if a title would play on a PC.

The Games Explorer was meant to collect all the games installed on a computer and display them in one folder. It's here that Window 7 does bring a modicum of improvement for gamers.

One of the biggest issues with Games Explorer was that it often didn't detect games that were purchases through online retailers and providers like Steam.

While Windows 7 still doesn't seem to include Steam in the Game Explorer, it now has the ability to if the company wants to support the service. If a game provider does choose to be listed in the Game Explorer, computer owners will be able to view news from the service and information about the service's games, all inside the window.

Another update to Games Explorer allows you to be notified when a game you own has an update or patch and then install the update from the explorer without having to launch the game.

Finally, Games Explorer will track statistics for the games you play, showing you how many times you've played, how long and your win and loss ratio.

Currently only the included games seem to support this function, but I'm sure more will include it after the operating system officially launches.

Murray says the only improvement he can find in Windows 7 for gamers is in the Games Explorer, but even he doesn't find it that useful.

"Being able to check for updates for all your games in one interface is a nice feature, but since it doesn't install the updates automatically (the way Windows Update itself) does, I don't know how useful that's going to be to a lot of people," he said. "And I've never gotten that into using the Games Explorer anyway—I tend to just add icons to the new taskbar, as with everything else. Aside from that, there aren't a ton of game-friendly changes I've come across."

The problem I have with Windows 7, though, isn't its failure to vastly improve the gaming experience, it's Microsoft's failure to take advantage of the attention brought by the launch of a new operating system to once more thrust PC gaming into the spotlight.

The biggest promise the Games for Windows initiative made when it initially was unveiled was that it would be backed by a huge marketing campaign, one similar to the push Microsoft gave the Xbox 360 when it hit.

But that was never fully realised and PC gaming was left to suffer as a second favourite system next to the Xbox 360 and Microsoft's continued marketing blitz for its gaming console.

In the vacuum left by Microsoft game developers, chip manufacturers and PC builders have come together to try and reinvigorate PC gaming though the PC Gaming Alliance. But even this effort seems oddly absent during Window's big week?

If Microsoft want its PC gaming platform to thrive they will need to do more than offer lip service in the future. But with the lasting success of the gaming console and PC gamers' ability to seemingly put up with anything, why should they?

Microsoft declined to comment for this article.

Well Played is a weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Feel free to join in the discussion.


    if you have vista, do yourself a favour and get windows 7. So much better then vista its not funny. Performance is a lot better too, depsite what this douche says. He obvoiusly doesnt actually play games on vista.

      I'm still using XP 'cause Vista performance was such a backwards step from XP. Glad to hear that Windows 7 may improve on that, but I'll wait and see for now. What's game compatibility like for Windows 7?

      Care to elaborate on why 7 is so much better than vista? ive run my own tests and any difference in gaming performance is hardly noticeable between the two OS.

    Anyone still running XP because "Vista is trash" or for whatever stupid reason, needs to pull their head in. Vista was a buggy mess at launch, but so was XP. Not only that, XP was a buggy mess after the first service pack as well. It wasn't until service pack 2 that XP was even close to what it promised and even now, at service pack 3, there are features that still don't really work.
    After service pack 1, Vista is faster, prettier, more full featured and FAR MORE STABLE than XP ever was or will be. I have seen a total of 2 vlue screens in 2 years on Vista and both were because of the dodgy Japanese drivers for the dodgy Japanese network card I picked up in an emergency.
    Vista for gaming wasn't what it promised to be, but it sure as hell was a huge improvement on XP.

      Exactly my thoughts.. but people just keep wanting to think that Vista is a failure.

        I too have found Vista to be a good OS, i got it around November last year and since then its been very stable, pretty co-operative when it comes to gaming and nothing like other people complain.

        Only real gripe i have with it is the security features RAM whoring.

        An OS that uses 1gb memory just to run is not a good OS.

          Why don't you instead run the stysem recovery tool in your start menu and do a destructive recovery. That will get rid of everything and reset your computer back to factory.It is probably in a directory that is related to your computer manufacturer which you have not provided, thus the generic answer and instructions.

      I've been using Vista since SP1 release, it's been fine.

      I use Win7 Pro x64 RTM, and it is better than Vista, but I don't really think it's worth buying over Vista if that's what you're running on.

      Even if GFWL is a disappointment, we've still got Steam to push PC gaming forward :D

      Why would I "upgrade" to a slower operating system? My XP runs near flawlessly, and I don't care for prettier desktop graphics at the cost of speed. I don't know that Vista is "trash" I just know it's no better than what I've got, and from benchmark results, it's actually worse for what I want to do, and it requires hardware upgrade to compete with what I've got now (2GB in XP). Just because both XP and Vista had bugs at launch doesn't mean it's a good idea to upgrade to Vista from XP. Why am I even bothering... sigh.

      I agree also, I've found Vista to be a fantastic operating system. I'm not sure why people still bash it's current form, seems totally unjustified to me.

    Games for Windows is the best, all you need is one CD key and you can play any game online.

    I don't think alot of people use Vista if they know what they're talking about. I was using XP until I upgraded to Windows 7 a few weeks ago and I had completely forgotten about all the nifty things it was supposed to do with games.

    All I can say is I upgraded to a PS3 and have never looked back, PC gaming died for me a long time ago but batman can look sweet on PC, if you spent $10,000

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