There is no way I can put it any better; Games For Windows Live (GFWL) is awful. Not only is it cumbersome, especially when combined with other forms of DRM such as those built into Steam, but it openly punishes gamers who most want to use Microsoft products.
Way back when, my first encounter with GFWL was Fallout 3. At first, I thought it was pretty cool that I could play Fallout 3 on my PC and get achievements in it that were reflected in my Xbox Live account. I don’t recall having any problems with using my Xbox while playing Fallout 3, so I didn’t get why so many other people had complaints about GFWL. It was just one more login to get it started, what’s the big deal?
Not too long ago, I bought the Game of the Year edition of Fallout 3 through Steam so I could play through all the DLC that I missed. I wasn’t thrilled to find out that even the Steam version had GFWL, but that didn’t immediately make me regret buying it. Since then I’ve gotten Fallout: New Vegas, which uses Steamworks, which provides the achievements and the ability to buy DLC through Steam.
I’ve played through Fallout: New Vegas and purchased all the DLC separate from my initial purchase, and never had a single problem. Throughout almost the entire game, I’ve watched TV shows and movies through Netflix on my xbox 360, which requires me to login to my Xbox Live account because an Xbox Live gold account is required to use Netflix.
Now I want to go back to Fallout 3 and play through it again, except when I start the game, it logs into my Xbox Live account and promptly disconnects from my xbox. GFWL and Xbox Live will not allow me to be logged into both services at the same time on the same account, despite the fact that I’m doing entirely different functions on two different devices.
I want to play Fallout 3 on my PC, and watch Netflix (which requires its own login and account, with its own costs!) on my Xbox 360. Because of Microsoft’s policies, I cannot do both without some inconvenience, being either having to re-login every time I finish an episode of a TV show or movie, or risk having achievements malfunction and not being able to use the DLC that I want to play in Fallout 3.
Because of these hassles, I can barely muster the enthusiasm to play Fallout 3. During my vacation, I sank over 40 hours into Fallout: New Vegas and watched an unholy amount of Netflix because the DRM and copy controls were not preventing me, the legitimate, paying consumer, from using those products which I’ve paid for. The other side of that is Fallout 3, where the DRM is actively working against me to prevent me from using both products at the same time.
These frustrations are what drive so many others to video game and movie/TV piracy. If I were downloading movies and TV shows illegally, I could watch as much as I want while being logged into GFWL because watching local media on an Xbox 360 does not need an Xbox Live gold account. Similarly, if I were playing a pirated, cracked copy of Fallout 3, I’d at least be able to play the game while being logged into Xbox Live because the cracked copy would bypass GFWL.
This doesn’t just affect Fallout 3. I have Section 8: Prejudice, which also uses GFWL, which I also can’t muster any enthusiasm to play. Section 8: Prejudice is also mostly a multiplayer game which takes advantage of GFWL matchmaking services. There is no logging in, logging out, logging in like sometimes works out in Fallout 3. It’s either GFWL or Xbox Live but never both. With these kind of irritations, it affects the community of a game. If it’s a hassle to play Section 8: Prejudice because of GFWL, it’s easier just to play one of the bazillion other multiplayer action games on PC that don’t need GFWL.
DRM only punishes legitimate, paying customers. It’s not a hassle for people who illegally download and pirate games and movies. Games For Windows Live is particularly bad because it doesn’t just affect one product, it affects multiple products across multiple platforms. I will be more wary in the future not to buy games that use Games For Windows Live because it sucks.