"Games for Windows" branding -- Image courtesy Paul Thurrott
Microsoft takes a new approach to PC gaming with Vista

For all the talk about the security features of Windows Vista and the controversy surrounding its inclusion of a number of utilities and file formats that have some up in arms, there's one aspect of Vista that hasn't gotten much attention -- gaming. Microsoft looks to take a new approach to gaming with Windows Vista and is using the operating system as a launch pad for its new "gaming centric" focus.

With Vista, Microsoft is putting a lot of emphasis on DirectX 10 technology which will offload all rendering to the graphics card as well as most computational functions. DirectX 10 will be a Vista-only proposition making Vista the only choice for a number of hot titles launching in the coming months and Crytek proclaims that DirectX 10 is the only way to go to see Crysis in the way it was intended by the developers.

Microsoft is also bridging the gap between the XBOX 360 and PC gaming with the XBOX 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver. The USB peripheral plugs into your PC and allows you to use all of the 360's wireless peripherals including the upcoming Wireless Racing Wheel and Wireless Headset.

Also of note is new branding for games designed for Windows Vista. Microsoft is looking to give PC games more visibility in the retail space by creating "Games for Windows" branding and marketing. Epic’s Mark Rein already expressed his thoughts on the poor showing of current PC games in the retail space back in July. The branding will give game packaging a more uniform appearance akin to what we see with PS2, Gamecube, XBOX and XBOX 360 games. Microsoft also wants to see PC game kiosks of the same breadth and scale that consoles currently have in retail outlets. Paul Thurrott goes into detail on how the new “Games for Windows” branding will be implemented:

In fact, these Games for Windows titles will be packaged just like Xbox 360 games: Instead of a white bar at the top with a green Xbox 360 logo, you'll see a white bar at the top with a blue Windows Vista logo. Bravo. Getting the logo isn't a walk in the park, but the end result is that consumers can expect a much simpler and more console-like experience when installing these titles. While Microsoft has yet to release the full list of requirements, I was told about a few of them this week: The game must support an "Easy Install" option that installs the title on your PC in the fewest possible steps and mouse clicks. It must install an icon and associated information into the Windows Vista Games Explorer. It must be compatible with the Xbox 360 common controller. And it must install and run properly on x64 versions of Windows Vista (though the game itself can be 32-bit).

It seems as though Microsoft is on the right track with specific PC games branding, universal PC support for XBOX 360 controllers and Live Anywhere support that plugs in with XBOX Live allowing users from both services interact with each other. The state of PC gaming appears to be in flux right now, so hopefully this new initiative will restore some order.

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