If anyone stands a chance against Microsoft's pay-to-play Games For Windows Live service, it's Valve's Steam. Turns out the gloves come off in just a few weeks.
Starting in July, Valve plans to offer a free update that adds social networking services like personal pages and gamer profiles, groups, game scheduling, the option to see who's played what games (or with whom), and both voice and text-based chat. The services work across all existing titles, old or new. And for all that, you'll only have to pay? Absolutely nothing.
Microsoft Live currently has Halo 2 and Shadowrun, the former an oldie (if goodie), the latter a middling multiplayer-only shooter. Steam has Half-Life, Half-Life 2 (plus all the upcoming episodes), Medieval 2: Total War, Trackmania, Civilization 4, Hitman: Blood Money, Sid Meier's Pirates, Counter-Strike, Geometry Wars, Sam & Max, The Movies, DEFCON, and several dozen more critically well-received games.
Microsoft gives 360 and PC players the as-yet dubious privilege to play cross-platform. Steam doesn't, but charges you nada for all its matchmaking and forthcoming community features. Xbox Live has six million subscribers (as of March 2007) and who knows...perhaps a handful more courtesy Microsoft Live. Steam has thirteen million and growing.
Okay Gabe Newell (Valve president and co-founder), I'm sold. Now you just need one more teensy-weensy thing to make me a true believer: a simple, clickable option to play in "offline mode." Oh sure, you already can, but you have to go into your firewall software and explicitly block the service from accessing the internet, at which point a routine in the application kicks in, says it can't connect, and courteously asks if you'd like to play anyway. It's a needlessly roundabout way to make your customers unlock one of your tool's "features," designed to be just troublesome enough to confound (and keep connected) anyone who's never poked around in a firewall app before. Remember, options are our friends!
Source:? PC World
Valve's Steam, Microsoft Live, Windows Live, Gaming, Online Gaming