We recently sat down with Games for Windows (GFW) Marketing Director Kevin Unangst and PR Manager Michael Wolf for a brief pre-launch tour of gaming on Vista. Admittedly, the implementation hasn't changed much since we first previewed Vista nearly a year ago. Even so, from a GUI-perspective, Vista features a user-friendly central location for cataloging, accessing, and tweaking (settings, parental controls, updating, etc.) GFW-branded games -- non-GFW games won't necessarily be excluded, but they won't feature many of the required functionalities built into the branded titles.
Games for Windows is still very much a vision. The first priority, a retail initiative, is currently underway. By employing marketing strategies used by console makers, namely platform-branding, Microsoft hopes that PC gaming (under the 'Games for Windows' banner) will become less intimidating to mainstream consumers -- no longer will the PC games isle be a cluttered mess of disparate titles. Computer Gaming World was also renamed as Games For Windows to help drive Microsoft's new brand. Aside from retail consolidation, this branding will ensure certain requirements are met by games' publishers. To earn the GFW brand, a title must comply with certain Microsoft-tested specifications, including widescreen support, compatibility with the Xbox 360 controller, parental control features, and simple installation. GFW games will also begin to carry a system rating, based on a 5-point scale. Vista will assess the value of your PC's gaming abilities and assign a rating (or "WinSAT"), say 4.5. You can then weigh that rating against a game's recommended rating (example: 5.0) and its required rating (example: 3.5) before purchasing. Update: The scale will begin at five points, but is designed to grow as newer technologies enter the market.