Games For Windows Live is a blight

So, a little while ago I had my first experience with a Games For Windows Live game, that being Red Faction: Guerrilla which I’d gotten as a part of a bundle.

About three hours into that process, I realized that Games For Windows Live (GFWL) is a blight on the face of PC gaming.

Shiny new game, hooray. Let’s get it all nicely installed.

Done. Let’s fire it up and play!

Wait. It’s telling me that I need a GFWL account otherwise I won’t even be able to save my games. Okay, off to the GFWL menu.

Okay, it tosses me out to an external web-browser to create an account. Email address, check. Long, randomly-generated password from my password manager, check.

Now, I return to the game, and it asks me to log in to GFWL with the new account.

Email address, check.

Password… what? No pasting. I have to type in all 32 characters of the password that I’d randomly generated. Gah! Switch to the password manager, and hand-write the password onto a scrap of paper.

*taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap(did I get that right?)taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap(umm… think I hit the wrong key, backspace)taptaptaptaptaptap(where am I up to again?)taptaptaptaptaptaptap*


Thankfully, that’s over with.

GFWL now asks me for my product key on the next screen. Steam gives me that with SHIFT-TAB, and offers me the option to copy it for pasting.

But no. I can’t paste it, and I can’t have both on the screen at once. More hand-writing.

More careful typing.

Okay. Good to go. Hit the button, and GFWL goes off and thinks.


It won’t tell me if I mistyped the password, the email address or the key, but I now have to re-enter them all again.

Much typing ensues, more carefully than last time.


A third effort. Check that everything I’ve written down is right.


A fourth effort, very very very very very slowly, so that I’m sure I’m hitting every key exactly once and right on.

Success. At bloody last.

After thinking for a little bit, and starting to download my GFWL profile (whatever that really is) it tells me that there is an update for GFWL, and that I can either allow it to do that, or I can give up on the notion of playing and saving the game.

Okay. Update time.

The system downloads about 130MB of data, and then crashes to the desktop.

Try again.

GFWL fails to connect properly.

Try again.

GFWL fails to connect properly.

Try again.

Success, but GFWL tells me the downloaded profile data is corrupt or incomplete, and I have to go through, find out how to delete that and then log in again. That takes me some time.

GFWL fails to connect properly.

Try again.


GFWL downloads my profile data, tells me there is an update, downloads 130MB of data and crashes to the desktop. But, at least it isn’t asking me to reenter my email address, password or product anymore.

Okay, well, GFWL has a standalone client. Maybe I can run that and it will update itself, right?

No. It runs alright, and produces a badly messed up display of the GFWL store, but there’s no updating going on.

Try the game a few more times, interspersed and in parallel with the standalone GFWL login. Hope springs eternal, right?

No luck.

Start using forums and Google.

Okay, apparently the update gets downloaded to a specific place on the hard-drive, and I can manually extract parts of the update and copy them across to the folder where the game is installed and that works for some people.

Checking. The folder where the update is supposed to be is there, but the files aren’t. Hmm.

Okay, run the game in Window mode, go through the process, and this time I’ll keep a window open and watch that space.

But wait, GFWL won’t connect. It refuses to login successfully for about an hour.

Finally, it changes its mind and decides to let me on.

Watching everything like the proverbial hawk now. (This is about the three hour mark, where I decide that GFWL is a blight)

Yes! There’s the update file! It appears in the folder for about 3 tenths of a second just before the application crashes to the desktop, and vanishes again.

More time with Google leads me to an obscure part of the official product Web-site where there is an official, manual patch. It may or may not be for my version, and reports are that it may or may not mess up my installation.

What have I got to lose at this stage, other than more time and composure really?

Download yet-another-130MB (I’ve now downloaded about a gigabyte of data just in patch attempts), back up all the game files in case I need to revert, and install the patch.

Run the game… Looks okay. There’s a new version number on the menu screen.

Try to log in with GFWL, which doesn’t work.

Try again.

Try about ten more times.

Get coffee.

Try again.

Do something else, like playing another game.

Try again.

Reboot and try again.

Get more coffee.

Rinse and repeat for two more hours. Yes, I’m now about five and a half hours into the process.

Okay, a successful connect… which then fails because my profile data is messed up.

Manually delete profile data, and try again.

GFWL fails to log in. Twice more.

Then succeeds, and does the profile download again, then thinks, then tells me I must download an update.

I’m almost past caring at this point. Alright. Go on. Have it your way.

The download works, but requires me to reboot.

I do that. I finally get into the game, and connected to GFWL, and it is ready to play.

I try it for five minutes, and it works.

I save the game and go to bed. It is now a little six hours after I started.

I’ve played the game some since, and GFWL has been well-behaved (that is, if I start the game, I have to go and get coffee while GFWL connects, because if I don’t wait, it doesn’t get connected properly and warns me that I won’t be able to save my darn game).

It’s an enjoyable single-player game, I’ll grant – but I can tell you one thing right now: I’ll likely never, ever touch the multiplayer features of the game, because they run through GFWL. Sorry if you’re one of the folks who worked on the multiplayer side of Red Faction: Guerrilla, but that was a wasted effort from where I stand.

Seriously. It probably requires a week of fiddling and standing on my head whistling the Warsaw Concerto to get it to work or erases my saved games, or causes hair-loss in pets.

So, that’s my very first Games For Windows Live title – and I have no doubt that it will be my last. In my opinion, GFWL is a technology that needs a warning label.

gfwlwarninglabelSure enough my opinion is empirically based on just a single experience, but I think that experience has been more than memorable enough to justify forming a lasting opinion.

6 thoughts on “Games For Windows Live is a blight”

  1. I can see the windows 8 ads now: enter gamer dood – “I told Microsoft I wanted a gaming platform kinda stable like steam or that ps3 thing, that just, yaknow, worked mostly. They listened! Windows 8 was my idea.” :p

  2. GTA 4 on Steam requires you to login if you want to play online or upload acheivements or whatever crap, but I think you can still play offline though. I havn’t had a problem with it so far, but I wouldn’t trust their digital download service, or EA’s for that matter.

  3. I feel your pain, hon. At least you had a real keyboard. I had to type in my 63-character WPA2 passphrase onto the on-screen keyboard of my iPod Touch.

  4. so the other night i watched that shitty syfy red faction movie. which sucks which was expected, but it did make me want to grab my copy of rfg and play it again. it took me 4 hours to get gfwl patched, and another 2 hours to get my joystick working in game. i play for 4 more hours and save.

    now i try to log in to play some more and gfwl just hangs at the login screen. for 2 hours now. i dont like the fact that my game is dependent on some poorly maintained server to have basic functionality like saved games. its damn near asinine. and they expect me to buy rfa now, and granted ive been into red faction for awhile now, but if i see gfwl anywhere on the box, i might just have to rethink my preferred gaming franchises.

  5. The really sad thing is it’s now well over a year since you posted this, and I’m having *exactly* the same issues trying to get GFWL working to play Fable 3 for PC … nothing has been fixed or updated, people have been having the same issues with the Xbox 360 version and those problems have been carried over into the PC platform.

    I was able to play for a while, then the game crashed and wouldn’t even fire up for ages. I put everything into compatibility mode for XP SP3 (I’m on win7 SP1), not sure if the SP1 patch or the compatability mode helped, but at least the game will start now … but I still can’t sign in, going in the same endless loop with downloading profiles, downloading updates and failing, and can’t access my saved games.

    Did get it running on hubby’s Vista machine but couldn’t copy my saved games over. Have put too much time into the game to want to start over.

    I am so unbelievably angry about the whole GFWL experience, and will never ever buy another game that uses it. Ever.

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