The weak link in Windows Phone 7 game plan

The weak link in Windows Phone 7 game plan

Summary: Microsoft is keen to point out that the Windows Phone 7 platform is a game-centric platform. But there's a weak link in this gaming ambition.

SHARE:
33

Microsoft is keen to point out that the Windows Phone 7 platform is a game-centric platform. But there's a weak link in this gaming ambition.

Here's the plan, according to Mary Jo Foley:

All in all, there are 50 titles Microsoft is announcing today that will be available for Windows Phone 7. According to a spokesperson, these “are just the beginning of a full portfolio of games and applications coming to Windows Phone 7 this holiday – there is much more to come. Additional titles will be announced between now and the Windows Phone 7 launch this holiday season; once the phone launches, new Xbox LIVE titles will be added to the games portfolio every week.”

OK, so what's the problem here? It's simple - the touchscreen.

I know that Apple started this with the iPhone and the iOS platform, and I know that everyone else just copies what Apple does without really giving it any real though, because, after all, Apple can't make any mistakes. Problem with is photocopier approach is that these clone devices have the same flaws at the original, only amplified because the cloners are trying to avoid as many patented technologies as possible.

Gaming on a touchscreen sucks. It's not an issue of graphics, which is good on the iPhone, but the fact that the on-screen graphics have to share space with the user interface, and then you're fingers and thumbs which then obscure both the game graphics and the controls. With physical buttons, they're separate to the screen so you digits don't obscure the on-screen fun. Also, you can feel the buttons under fingers and thumbs, so you don't need to keep looking to make sure that you're on the right button or control.

Touchscreen gaming sucks.

Now, Apple isn't a company that has a gaming heritage. Sure, some games do run on Mac OS, but the Mac isn't seen as a gaming platform, let alone a hardcore gaming platform. Apple doesn't really do gaming, so its mistakes are easily overlooked.

But Microsoft knows gaming. Gaming has been Microsoft bread and butter for years, starting as far back as DOS, evolving immensely when Windows came along, continually evolving as DirectX and GPU power grew, and then evolving even further into the Xbox. There are Microsofties that have years of gaming know how, and one thing that should the patently clear is that good, immersive gaming requires decent controls, something which a tiny touchscreen can't offer.

The iPhone is a decent platform for casual gaming, the sort of gaming that appeals to the FarmVille and Happy Aquarium player. That sort of thing works because people aren't that invested in the game (heck, they're free games designed to absorb some free time). Investing good money ($10+) in a game that ends up being unusable because of the user interface sucks, and it's the sort of thing that will upset gamers.

So Microsoft is trading a dangerous path here and needs to be careful that it doesn't tarnish the Xbox brand by aligning it too closely to an inferior smartphone-based gaming platform. I know Microsoft is desperate to squeeze as much halo juice as possible from the good feelings people have for Windows 7 and the Xbox, but it's possiblee to take things too far. And I think Microsoft might be doing just that here.

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

33 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Why do you bloggers constantly ignore reality?

    <i>I know that Apple started this with the iPhone and the iOS platform</i><br><br>You do realize, don't you, that MS has been doing mobile gaming for at least 10 years, right? You've essentially done the same as saying <i>Snow Leopard is a copy of Vista because Vista has mouse support and so does Snow Leopard but Vista came out before Snow Leopard.</i><br><br>MS isn't copying Apple by providing games for smartphones. WP7 is simply the latest in a long line of MS mobile products that supports gaming.

    [i]Problem with is photocopier approach is that these clone devices have the same flaws at the original, only amplified because the cloners are trying to avoid as many patented technologies as possible.[/i]

    Funny, I would say that it is just the opposite in many cases. Take the iPhone for example. The first iteration was a very poor clone of Windows Mobile but it was a clean slate with no baggage. This allowed Apple to gradually improve the device to the point where the iPhone 4 is finally a good phone (all iPhones before iPhone 4 sucked big time). The ability to learn from the mistakes of your competition without worrying about backwards compatibility is very powerful, one that Apple took advantage of with every successful product they've ever released. Apple has no new ideas. They simply sit back, watch a market develop, look to see where the true innovators made mistakes, and then swoop in much, much, much later. Add some great marketing and you get Apple's success right there.
    NonZealot
    • RE: The weak link in Windows Phone 7 game plan

      @NonZealot
      Good trolling fodder! I'll bite.

      I lived with WinMo almost 3 years before I got an iPhone. Believe me, the iPhone was no clone. In fact, it's safe to say it single-handedly killed WinMo. Let's see if games will satisfy the remaining business users of the platform.

      I love it when MS zealots say the only reason Apple is successful is because of marketing. Gee, someone should let Microsoft know because obviously they haven't thought of it or don't have the money!
      rynning
      • No, NonZealot's right.

        I was running games on PocketPC/Windows mobile long before there ever was such a thing as an iPhone.

        As for the iphone being superior? I just don't see it. It's really not much different then a WM or Android phone, just different variations of the same thing.
        John Zern
      • @John Zern

        [i]"As for the iphone being superior? I just don't see it. It's really not much different then a WM"[/i]

        I also was told Commodore VIC-20 (WM) could do everything as well as an IBM-PC (iPhone). They were wrong as well.
        Bruizer
    • Your trolling is usually better than that

      @NonZealot

      How can you have a very poor clone and yet be a clean slate? Poor clones always have the baggage with none of the good parts.

      Apple sat back and watched the stagnation of Windows Mobile and decided they could do better. The stagnation of Windows Mobile was probably worse than the stagnation of Internet Explorer 6. Only this time a money backed corporation decided to eat Microsoft's lunch instead of an open source movement.

      It wasn't just Microsoft that had stagnated but the whole industry. Apple reinvigorated the entire market.

      I am not an Apple fan. There isn't one single thing that I own that has Apple's logo on it.

      You must give credit were credit is do. Everyone is know adding features, redoing their operating systems, and driving innovation thanks to Apple.
      dragosani
    • iPhone was a poor clone of WinMo???

      @NonZealot

      Dude, you need to get back on your Meds. They were similar in that each could make cell phone calls and each had a processor. One crashed repeatably (and that is not the iPhone) and the other did not. One was usable (that one was the iPhone) the other not so much.
      Bruizer
  • Havent you seen the sony ericson unit with slide out controller?

    what makes you think the other handset oems wont have WP7 models like that instead of a slide out keyboard which you dont really need, especially since all the reviews say the WP7 sip blows away the iphone/android experience to the point where you can type as fast as swype.
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: The weak link in Windows Phone 7 game plan

      @Johnny Vegas Oh, those Sony dedicated game buttons/controllers/etc. Too bad they NEVER SUPPORT THEM WITH GAMES.

      I bought the W660 because it had dedicated buttons for gaming. NONE of the games I downloaded for it used them. None!

      I love SonyEricsson's phones, I love the cameras, I love the music players. But they suck at content.
      erikswanson
  • Touchscreen gaming sucks, yes, but...

    If you are buying a phone just to game, then you need your cranium checked.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: The weak link in Windows Phone 7 game plan

      @NStalnecker

      Exactly! And who knows maybe some sort of attachment can be made or phones designed with different or better control schemes.
      bobiroc
    • RE: The weak link in Windows Phone 7 game plan

      @NStalnecker

      I guess its a good thing that people buy phones to do many things including gaming.

      Convergence device is a convergence device.
      SlithyTove
    • RE: The weak link in Windows Phone 7 game plan

      @NStalnecker Wow, take all morning to think that one up?
      cyberslammer
  • Touchscreen gaming isn't all bad

    It really depends on the game. Strategy games like Plants vs Zombies, civ type games, etc work very well on touch, roughly on par with a mouse and better than a D-pad button combo certainly.

    Puzzle type games like Bejeweled and certain types of rpgs also work very well.

    But a lot of action type games do indeed suck. As a general rule, if it has a virtual d-pad or virtual buttons mounted on the bottom left or right, its going to suck on a touchscreen.
    SlithyTove
    • RE: The weak link in Windows Phone 7 game plan

      @SlithyTove I agree- there are many genres of games that work as well or better with a multi-touch/accelerometer/gyroscope control mechanism:

      RTS (Red Conquest, Galcon)
      Puzzlers (Trism)
      Tower Defense (Zombie Attack)
      Strategy (Civ Rev)
      FPS (N.O.V.A)
      RPG (Zenonia)
      Indie (Envirobear, Magnetic Shaving Derby, Pocket God)

      Not to mention tons of new types of games that have never been done successfully with controllers, like Tilt to Live, Doodle Jump, Labyrinth, etc.

      Or games that rely on constant network connections or GPS would never have seen the light of day on the PSP/DS (Farmville type games, Eliminate Pro, My Town).

      Sure, there are some genres that will probably always be better with a controller or keyboard/mouse (Fighting games, complex MMOs, competitive FPS, etc), but to anyone that says 'touchscreen gaming sucks' I would recommend heading over to toucharcade and checking out some the popular touchscreen games.
      Gritztastic
  • RE: The weak link in Windows Phone 7 game plan

    Adrian, you're point here is moot. As has been stated; a phone is not meant to be a "serious" gaming platform, simply an enjoyable and available and expectations will allow for the "problems" you mention. People like the iPhone gaming experience and will like it on WP7 just as much.

    BTW, getting picky here but maybe you should proof read your posts a bit better. I see at least two spelling mistakes and "trading a dangerous path..." should be "treading". I only point this out because this is ZDNet, not Adrian.blogspot dot com.
    Darren Humphries
    • Live in a glass house?

      It should be "your" not "you're" in your first sentence. <br><br>That is unless you meant to say: "Adrian, you are point here is moot."

      Also, "proofread" is one word.
      donniebnyc666
    • RE: The weak link in Windows Phone 7 game plan

      @Darren Humphries beet me two hit. Adrian's spell checker works, but he obviously didn't poof reed the text. :-)
      galley
    • RE: The weak link in Windows Phone 7 game plan

      @Darren Humphries

      I have been wondering why a phone can't be a "serious" gaming platform. After all PSP and DS are quite popular.

      I think it mostly stems from the fact that the race-to-the-bottom price points on the iPhone have meant that no serious developer can develop for the platform and have a hope of an ROI.

      My suspicion is that W7 games will have considerably more serious titles but also much higher average prices per title, more in line with PSPes and DSes.

      Also, XNA is easily best-of-breed for a mobile game development platform at this point.

      I really have no doubts that it will prove a competitor not just to Android and iPhone gaming but to dedicated portable gaming devices as well.

      The only question is whether or not MS will be able to generate sufficient critical acceptance mass out of the gate to sustain the whole thing.
      SlithyTove
  • RE: The weak link in Windows Phone 7 game plan

    I knew soon as I read the title this was another Microsoft hate piece from AHK. It sounds like you are giving Apple a free pass for having sucky games on the iPhone but not Microsoft just because they are Microsoft. Did I get that right?
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: The weak link in Windows Phone 7 game plan

      @Loverock Davidson I guess you missed the part where he said [i]Gaming has been Microsoft bread and butter for years, starting as far back as DOS[/i].

      I think the bean counters at MS would beg to differ with him on that point. Not to mention the developers.
      babyboomer57