Although it withdrew the notice almost immediately, Microsoft reportedly today announced the long-anticipated demise of Games for Windows Live, its much-derided DRM and community features suite for PC games.
Polygon reports Microsoft posted and then withdrew this statement on the Xbox Support website for Age of Empires online today:
"Games for Windows Live will be discontinued on July 1, 2014. Although it is available through Steam, Age of Empires Online requires features of the Games for Windows Live service. You can continue to enjoy all the features of Age of Empires Online as the service will remain 100% operational until July 1, 2014 when the server will shut down."
Although many Master Race members are probably turning backflips, it's not all good news, unfortunately; in addition to the apparent closure of Age of Empires Online, there's no word on how the service closure will affect first- and third-party games which rely on it for activation - or online features like multiplayer. While some, like Batman: Arkham City, will likely go activation-free or switch to another service via an update, others, like Fable 3, are so raddled with GFWL features that the possibility of patching it out seems near impossible.
The Games for Windows Marketplace is closing next month, and Microsoft may be preparing to launch a successor; it's managed to woo former Steam champion Jason Holtman to its side.
Throughout its lifespan, Games for Windows Live has never managed to win over gamers the way Steam has; of all Valve's rivals, including the oft-criticised Uplay and Origin, it is far and away the most derided.