As expected, Microsoft's new online shopfront for PC games has gone live. We were promised a bigger, better store. So has it delivered?
I don't like it. Not yet, anyways. It certainly looks pretty, its minimal appearance a nice break from Steam's clutter of buttons and menus and buttons within menus within menus. This theme carries into the individual game information screens, as you get a few screenshots, a short information blurb and the button to buy the thing.
But as a functional store? As in, a place where you can browse things? It needs work. While you can sort games by things like price and release date, the store will only ever display 10 games at a time, meaning you need to plough through page after page of search results to browse the entire catalogue. From beginning to end that's fourteen pages of games. While you can search by title, it needs options to break things down a little, like Steam's "show me everything under $US5" menu.
It's also (in most cases) far too expensive. Age of Empires III for $US40? If you pay more than $US20 for that game, even at an online retailer, you're mad.
I like where it's going - especially compared to the old marketplace - but if Microsoft hopes to lure customers away from Valve's greatly superior service, it's going to have to do a lot better than just make everything look a little nicer.