Microsoft said late Tuesday that it will no longer charge a fee for PC game players who wish to connect with each other over the company's Games For Windows Live online service.
Games For Windows Live is "now offering completely free online multiplayer" service, Microsoft said in a statement posted on the service's Web site. The company previously charged a monthly fee of $7.99. However, the emergence of several free online gaming services may have prompted Microsoft to drop the monthly charge.
Games For Windows Live gives players an online identity, called a "gamertag," that shows their scores, profile information, and other user data compiled from online play. The service also features a friends list that works across multiple games to alert players when friends are online.
The service is cross-compatible with Microsoft's Xbox Live network, which lets Xbox 360 owners play games against each other online. Scores achieved in Games For Windows Live contests can be transferred to players' Xbox Live accounts, according to Microsoft.
Games For Windows Live is powered by the same infrastructure that hosts Xbox Live, which now counts more than 12 million members, according to Microsoft. Microsoft said it plans to make downloadable content -- such as game add-ons and other extras -- available through Games For Windows Live in the future.
Microsoft introduced the Games For Windows program last year in an effort to bring console-like dependability to the PC gaming market. Titles bearing the Games For Windows logo are guaranteed to be playable online or offline on systems that meet certain specifications, according to Microsoft.