Fans of Dark Souls were ecstatic to hear the game would be finding a home on the PC. Namco Bandai had finally caved to fan pressure and announced they would work on the game. Unfortunately, that announcement also included the words "Games For Windows Live."
The GWFL platform has become a curse for gamers everywhere. It is unwieldy, adds the requirement for additional log ins and updates, and generally causes huge problems for gamers who legitimately purchased the title. So why is it around?
The answer is simple: Console ports. Microsoft has a market share majority among hardcore gamers. For more than a year, the Xbox 360 was the top-selling console in the US (source) and so many games have been created based on the Xbox Live networking platform. That means Xbox Live is an incredibly important and commonly used resource.
Despite what some might say, PC gaming is not dead. That means there is also a huge demand to see our favorite console games made available for us mouse-and-keyboard users. That means a lot of copied and borrowed code to get the game from one system to another. Included in that code? The infrastructure to make the GFWL platform a simple solution to networking. It's quick, it's dirty, but is it the best choice?
My school's engineering department had an unofficial motto: "Cheap, fast, good: pick two." Like some sort of venn diagram, the engineers knew that you could only feasibly have two of those options in any given situation. Quality takes time, and time costs money. It's that exact conundrum that allows GFWL to continue to exist. It isn't the best choice for developers, and I'm sure most of them know that. There's most likely a good number who cringe at the idea of using the platform, and with good reason. It's a platform designed to be fast and cheap for console ports, but it isn't good.
We need to see this from the position of the AAA developers who are still unconvinced the PC market is viable. Why should they spend time and money making sure the port to the PC is on the best platform? The PC is the easiest platform to pirate on, has incredible hardware variation, and is routinely changing.
The PC computer scene is also perhaps one of the most brand loyal of any gaming group out there. It's a source of fan mods, indie titles, and a professional e-sports group. In short: the PC platform is pretty darn awesome. That's what we need to show developers and publishers.
Games for Windows Live is not an excuse to pirate a game instead of buying. Especially if it's going to be a game like Dark Souls. If Namco Bandai does launch the title for the PC with GFWL, the best we can do is purchase the game to display interest, but calmly and rationally contact the company and let them know what is wrong with the platform.
Remember, this is the basic economics of cheap, fast, good. The only way a company will learn that it's in their best interest to make "good" the common denominator of that statement is if we make it in their best interest.
For the record, according to Forbes, Namco Bandai still isn't settled on GFWL, so there's definitely still time to calmly and rationally let the developers know our opinions.