Microsoft goes all digital with newly planned download store

Not to be outdone by the iTunes App Store, Android Market, or the upcoming Mac App Store, Microsoft has unveiled plans to update its Games For Windows Marketplace to centralize how PC gamers buy games.

It will be as simple as going to a website and choosing which game to buy. From there, the customer’s credit card will be charged and the game will be available to download immediately. There’s no need for a special download client or any external software.

And if you own an Xbox 360, use Windows Messenger, or have a Hotmail account, you already have a Games For Windows Marketplace log-in. It’ll be tied to Microsoft’s universal Windows Live system, offering PC gamers more seamless access than ever before to gaming content – whether it’s solitaire or Grand Theft Auto.

Publishers Rockstar Games, Capcom, 2K, and Square Enix have all signed on to be part of the new digital download service. It could take some steam away from Steam (apologies for the pitiful pun), a third-party service from PC game giant Valve, which up to now has sort of acted as the “App Store” for computer games. Valve, which itself provides fantastic PC game products, gets a cut of every game sold through Steam. If gamers turn to Microsoft’s first-party delivery system, it could be a big blow.

As the Xbox 360 begins to deal with the possibility of diminishing returns, Microsoft has been channeling some of its gaming energy around other divisions. It plans to launch Windows Phone 7 next month, which offers integrated Xbox Live connectivity so gamers can play mobile games and unlock Gamerscore points and achievements right from their phone. Games For Windows titles also have interactivity with Xbox Live.

PC gaming, which looked to have a bleek outlook not to long ago, has seen a bounch back thanks to the efforts of companies like Microsoft and Valve, and also recent high-profile releases like Starcraft II. And with Kinect coming out soon, the PC will soon be the only platform that doesn’t become riddled with fad-riddled motion-control games.