Games for Windows

Frequently Asked Questions

Table of Contents

What is the benefit of games that use Games for Windows — LIVE?

We created Games for Windows — LIVE with the same philosophy that inspired the creation of Xbox LIVE for the console—to create a service that improves the gaming experience by connecting users to their friends, letting them compete or play cooperatively, earn achievements, download new add-on content, and have easy ways to find and play games, with voice chat built right in. And because it’s the same service as Xbox LIVE, you have only one log-in account (your Windows Live ID) that you need to worry about – it’s the same login/password on Games for Windows — LIVE, Xbox LIVE, and even Zune. That unified ID means that users have only one friends list, one set of Microsoft Points, and one collection of achievements across all the platforms, from PC to console to Windows Phone—it’s the same service, spanning multiple platforms.

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Are Xbox LIVE and Games for Windows — LIVE two different services?

Games for Windows — LIVE and Xbox LIVE connect to the same service, so you can use the same account and have access to many of the same great features, such as multiplayer gaming, voice chat, text chat, achievements, and the same pool of Microsoft Points. Games for Windows — LIVE lets users see what their friends are doing online – using the same account as on Xbox LIVE, Zune, and Windows Phone.

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Can I use my Xbox 360 account with Games for Windows — LIVE?

Absolutely! The identity system used by both systems is one and the same. Achievements earned on either platform are added to your total gamerscore, and you will see the same friends list on both platforms when connecting with the same account, as well as the same balance of Microsoft Points.

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What's the difference between Steam and Games for Windows — LIVE?

Steam is Valve’s digital distribution client. Microsoft offers digital distribution through the Games for Windows Marketplace, available at marketplace.xbox.com/PC.

The service Valve offers that compares most directly with Games for Windows — LIVE is Steamworks. Steamworks and Games for Windows — LIVE are similar in terms of their primary features – achievements, multiplayer, and DLC.

Steam started as a marketplace that added social features whereas Xbox LIVE started as a social platform that added marketplace features, so both have their own strengths and overlap significantly. Here’s a high-level view of some of the differences:

Gameplay Features: Steam GFW - LIVE
Multiplayer Play X X
Skill-Based Matchmaking   X
Game Invites X
(Join-in-progress)
X
In-Game Voice Chat X X
In-Game Text Chat X X
Achievements X X
Persistent Leaderboards   X
In-game Party Support   X
Community Features:    
Voice Messages   In-Game
Text Messages X In-Game
Friend Groups (Events/Calendars) X  
Multi-User Voice Chat X In-Game
Multi-User Text Chat X In-Game

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How does Games for Windows — LIVE's DRM compare to Steam's?

The biggest differentiator between Games for Windows — LIVE and Steam is access control. Steam controls access to games you download from Steam by requiring an online verification to play those games. If your Steam account is stolen or banned, access to your entire collection of games downloaded from Steam could be lost.

On the other hand, Games for Windows — LIVE does not control access to your collection through online verification. You can install your games anywhere and play your games offline without online verification. You can also launch games directly without running the Games for Windows — LIVE client. The only time you have to connect to Games for Windows — LIVE is when you want to receive LIVE services. Then Games for Windows — LIVE does verify that your account is authorized to play the game on Games for Windows — LIVE.

Games for Windows – LIVE offers publishers several tools to help secure their games. Microsoft also supports many security features the publishers commonly decide to implement. Choices of DRM and how to implement are purely made by the publisher and developer, and Games for Windows — LIVE simply respects those choices. This may include installation limits, if the publisher feels this is an important part of their game.

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When an update is available for my game, do I have to update before I can play?

You will not be able to connect to Games for Windows — LIVE and play multiplayer, but if you choose not to download and apply an update for your game you will still be able to play the rest of the game. When you choose not to apply an update, your Games for Windows — LIVE account is logged in using the offline mode. You will still have access to game add-ons, saved games, and achievements while signed-in offline. You can then download and apply the update later when it is convenient for you.

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How does Games for Windows — LIVE activation work?

Games for Windows — LIVE online account activation is not required for offline game play, such as single-player campaigns. If you would prefer to play offline and not connect to the Xbox LIVE service and not create your LIVE profile, you must create an offline profile. Note that when playing offline, a separate system of protection, such as a Digital Rights Management (DRM) system, may also be used by the game's publisher.

Online account activation is required on Games for Windows — LIVE in order to connect to the Xbox LIVE service and enable a game's online game play and features, such as multiplayer modes and leaderboards. When doing so, users will encounter an activation system that uses either Server Side Authentication or Per Title 5x5 access keys. Publishers determine the activation system that best meets the needs of their game. Key features of these two activation systems include: 

  1. Server Side Authentication (SSA): This system ties the game's Games for Windows — LIVE access code to an individual user account, allowing the user to install, activate, and enjoy virtually unlimited play on multiple machines. Note that only the account used to activate the game's access code can enable online play of the game.
  2. Per Title 5x5: This system uses a 5x5 access key that is tied to a specific game title, but not a user's PC or Xbox LIVE Account. This allows one gamertag to access and play games from an individual user's PC. At the same time, this system prevents access keys from being shared across Games for Windows — LIVE games.

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Does Games for Windows — LIVE have installation limits?

No, there is no installation limit built into Games for Windows — LIVE games. You can install a Games for Windows — LIVE game on as many machines as you like. As mentioned earlier, if you play offline there’s no activation.

Games for Windows — LIVE offers publishers several tools to help secure their games. Microsoft also supports many security features the publishers commonly decide to implement. Choices of DRM and how to implement are purely made by the publisher and developer, and Games for Windows — LIVE simply respects those choices. This may include installation limits, if the publisher feels this is an important part of their game.

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What countries does Games for Windows — LIVE support?

In order to connect to the LIVE service, you need to live in www.xbox.com/LIVE/countries.

If you do not live in one of these countries, you can still play the game but you won't be able connect to Games for Windows — LIVE.

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Do users have to create a LIVE account to play a Games for Windows — LIVE game?

No, you can play offline without ever connecting to Microsoft or creating a LIVE profile. Games for Windows — LIVE supports the creation and use of an offline “local” profile that exists only on the user’s computer. This account will let you play the single player portions of the game, but the user will not be able to play multiplayer, gain achievements, or take advantage of the other LIVE features. However, Microsoft strongly recommends that users who wish to play offline create an online account and then use that account to log in “offline.” This makes the end-user experience better, since it ensures that saved games, purchasing /downloading add-on content for the game, and keeping the account across Xbox LIVE, Games for Windows – LIVE, and Xbox LIVE on Windows Phone remains consistent.

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Do you need to activate to play when using an offline account?

No, if you create and sign in with an offline account, the Games for Windows — LIVE service is not contacted and therefore no activation or Internet connection is required.

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Does GFWL support playing offline with my LIVE account?

Yes, similar to the Xbox 360, you can create an online profile and then go offline with that profile as you wish. Any achievements you gain while offline will be added to your online profile when you connect.

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What's the disadvantage of using an offline account?

You will not be able to play multiplayer, purchase or use game add-on content, and your saved games may not work from one computer to the next. Game add-ons, multiplayer, leaderboards, and other online features of a game require an online account. If you decide to later switch to an online account, please be aware that your game saves probably won’t transfer as they are typically tied to the active profile.

If you wish to remain disconnected while playing games, we recommend you create an online account but simply play the game with that profile without connecting so no Internet traffic is used.

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Does Games for Windows — LIVE cause users to lose save games?

Games typically tie save games to your account. So if a friend signs in with a different account on your machine, your friend will have their own set of saved games. If you sign-in with a new account, typically you can’t access the first account’s save games. This behavior is similar to Xbox 360 and other PC digital distribution providers that require sign-in to play.

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Can Games for Windows — LIVE games be sold on Steam and other digital distribution providers?

Yes, games such as Fallout 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV use Games for Windows — LIVE and are sold on Steam as well as other digital distribution providers. In contrast, Steamworks titles are rarely sold on other digital distribution providers because the Steam client is required to install, launch and play the game. Since Games for Windows — LIVE games are sold in more places, there are more consumer choices where the game can be digitally purchased and thus more competitive prices for consumers.

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Does Games for Windows — LIVE support dedicated server support?

Yes, Games for Windows — LIVE allows games to add dedicated servers, however not all games choose to do this. In fact, Games for Windows — LIVE has even allowed some Xbox 360 games to have dedicated servers running on a PC to increase the size of multiplayer matches.

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Do you have to use Microsoft Points to buy games?

No, you don’t have to use Microsoft Points when buying a full game. Similar to the Xbox 360, you can use a credit card when purchasing a game from the Games on Demand catalog.

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