Microsoft announces games-on-demand for Xbox Live

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Is it end of days for storefront retailers like Gamestop? Just after its boisterous, much-ballyhooed E3 press conference, Microsoft dropped another zinger: Games-on-demand for the Xbox 360. As in if you want it, you can buy it, then download it, directly from Xbox Live.

The service is queued to launch in August with 30 games, including popular titles like Assassin's Creed, BioShock, Call of Duty 2, Crackdown, Mass Effect, and Oblivion. (Time to upgrade those hard drives, people!) Prices should be about what you'd pay at retail, and to buy something, all you'll need is a credit card, or a sufficient number of Microsoft Points.

Microsoft already offers a wide variety of games for purchase and download through Xbox Live Arcade, a free-to-access online service for Xbox 360 users. Most of those titles have been shareware-quality games, remakes of classic coin-op arcade fare or smaller-scale titles that weren’t economically feasible to press onto disc and put on store shelves — in some ways similar to what Apple’s been doing for the iPhone and iPod touch in the Games section of the App Store.This announcement shows that Microsoft is ready to open the floodgates to full games that have already seen successful commercial runs, but that gamers may be reluctant to buy at retail because they’re “older” titles.

Like most online sales portals, the new service will include an option for users to tag games with star ratings, extending Microsoft's community-centric philosophy. No word whether those ratings will plug into their just-announced Facebook hookup, but it's a reasonable guess they might.

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(Macworld's Peter Cohen contributed to this report.)

This story, "Microsoft announces games-on-demand for Xbox Live" was originally published by PCWorld.

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