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Summary:

Microsoft last week declared Windows Phone 7 its mobile platform for games. But the company will need to offer superior gaming hardware if it is to differentiate its platform from Android and Apple’s iOS. Right now, that isn’t happening.

mobile_gaming

Last week, Microsoft said it has no plans to launch a dedicated platform for mobile gaming, with one executive adding the Windows Phone 7 is “[the company's] mobile platform for games.” But to gain a real edge in gaming, Microsoft needs to offer a device that appeals to both casual and console-type gamers, and to do that, it will have to offer more game-friendly hardware alongside its new OS.

Microsoft already has almost all the factors in place to tap an exploding mobile gaming business. The company has done a good job in attracting the attention of app developers, and there’s no denying that the 23 million-plus Xbox Live users could be an enormous competitive advantage in the superphone era. And Microsoft has the brand name and deep pockets to make sure consumers know about Windows Phone 7.

But as far as gaming goes, the Windows Phone doesn’t offer the sophisticated controls and features that make hardware devices like the Nintendo DSi and Sony’s PSP so compelling to hardcore gamers. Touchscreens are great for casual titles like Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, but they’re tough to use for, say, a first-person shooter or a high-action football game. A true gaming phone needs at least a half-dozen raised keys that are easy to use. The device must be easier to grip and control with two hands than a smartphone, and it should sport a screen of at least 4.3 inches. Finally, a gaming phone should rock one of the dual-core processors that are just beginning to come to market and can deliver a faster, more immersive gaming experience.

I’ve questioned Microsoft’s decision to focus on gamers at the expense of the business users that had been the company’s bread and butter in mobile. But Microsoft is clearly gambling that Windows Phone can compete with Andriod and iOS by appealing to gamers. For that gamble to pay off, it will need to support the platform with some devices that are better for playing games. For more reasons Microsoft should consider a dedicated gaming device, read my column at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image source: Flickr user jontintinjordan.

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  1. They should just release a successor to the Zune HD that is powered by WP7. This would help to reach the younger market (the some ones who spend all day on XBOX LIVE), those who want to give WP7 a whirl without a contract, and expand the outreach of WP7 to attract more developers.

    1. I agree with this comment. The ZuneHD & WP7 are two mobile products that MS did a good job with. A revamped ZuneHD sporting WP7 would be a great option to the iPod Touch.

  2. This article reads more like wish fulfilment than analysis. It’s essentially the same argument that has been used over and over again for why “Apple needs to add buttons to iOS devices for serious gamers.” The unspoken assertion being that touch gaming isn’t really “serious” gaming and that there has to be buttons at some point down the road or “serious” mobile gaming is lost and “serious” mobile gamers will go elsewhere.

    No one has yet produced any kind of evidence to back up this assertion, and this article certainly doesn’t provide it either. It’s based mostly on the subjective wants of a small group of folks who consider themselves the “serious gamers,” and can’t envision themselves not pressing buttons and wiggling little sticks.

    I’m not even saying that they are necessarily wrong. Just that the construction of the argument is wrong in that it’s completely unsupported by any kind of facts. The assumption at the root of this argument is simply that, an *assumption*.

    It’s an emotional argument not a logical one.

    1. The games that can be designed for these new devices demand buttons. Gaming = buttons. Five years ago the games sucked and didn’t warrant controls. Since the advent of gaming, it involved joysticks and buttons in some form or another. So I think you need to rethink what gaming is all about. Touch and tilt is hardly what I would consider “gaming”.

    2. I don’t own a portable gaming device, Gazoobee, and gaming simply isn’t a priority for me when it comes to a smartphone. So your *assumption* that my argument is an emotional one is invalid. :)

      Actually, I think it’s very logical. MSFT needs to differentiate its platform from iOS and Android, and it has decided to focus on gaming. The way to fully exploit that strategy is to offer hardware that supports gaming better than anything else on the market.

  3. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times prior to e3 I’ve been thinking of an xBox Portable. In my mind, when I got the first generation PSP, I always thought that Microsoft would soon release a direct competitor that would leverage xBox Live.

    At this point I *don’t care* what the hell Microsoft might come out with. If it’s not windows I don’t care, because it’s either a second rate product or vaporware.

    I’ve always hated fanboyism, and I’m not partial to any company (I use Symbian, iOS, Android, Windows, xBox, PSP and DS Lite Regularly, and I play games on *all* of them) but its just something about speaking of the device that I wasted most of my late adolescence thinking of sparks some form of geek rage in me. If Microsoft does come out with a portable system running windows phone 7, I’ll probably get it. but it’ll be too little too late… and I’m getting sick of it.

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