Microsoft recently confirmed that it will be cutting 5000 jobs, with the first round of 1400 jobs expected to focus on the company's Entertainment and Devices division, and that Early would be among the casualties. VentureBeat attempted to contact Early for comment but only received an automated response saying that his time at the company "has come to a close."
Games for Windows Live debuted in mid-2007 and was intended to help boost the PC gaming industry by providing a service similar to, and compatible with, Xbox Live. But the system has been very slow to develop - a client to access Games for Windows Live while not playing a game still isn't available - while Steam, Valve's competing service, has grown rapidly and become a hugely popular platform.
It's too early to predict what this signals for Microsoft's commitment to Games for Windows Live, if anything at all. It could be a sign that the company is stepping back from an operation that continues to flounder despite its best efforts, or it may simply be a necessary trimming of fat. With a bit of luck, Microsoft will make its intentions known in the very near future.
UPDATE: Microsoft has issued a statement addressing the layoff of Chris Early and the future of the Games for Windows Live platform. "Moving ahead, Microsoft will continue to invest in Windows as a first-class gaming platform through great Windows out of box experiences, our online gaming services including Games for Windows - LIVE, MSN Games, and Messenger games, and through new games for Windows developed by Microsoft Games Studios," the company said.
"Our Windows gaming service efforts will be led by General Manager Ron Pessner, who is joining Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business," the statement continued. "He comes from within Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices Division. Working closely with Ron will be Dave Luehmann, a long time Microsoft games veteran and General Manager within Microsoft Games Studios, who will now be overseeing internal development and publishing for all Windows-based games."
Microsoft declined to comment on the reasons for Early's layoff "at this time."