On the heels of providing a new firmware update to the Zune HD that provided support for forthcoming games, Microsoft is rolling out those games starting on November 11.
The firmware update, version 4.3, enabled 3-D gaming on the new Zune HD. The new six games that are available for download from the Zune HD Marketplace today for free (but ad-supported -- there's an ad at start-up) are:
Audiosurf Tilt: Audiosurf creates a rollercoaster ride from any song.
Checkers: A classic checkers game that can be played against a computer or a buddy.
Lucky Lanes Bowling: Bowl in different game modes: exhibition, blackjack, golf -- either against the computer or up to four friends.
Piano: Play your own tune, or play along with music.
Project Gotham Racing: Ferrari Edition: A racing game using multi touch controls and the built in accelerometer.
Vans Sk8: Pool Service: "Put these Vans skaters to the test with all the tricks in their bag and achieve hero status once you unlock their pro model skateboards."
A spokesperson sent me the following update, as well:
"As we’ve said in the past, we will be delivering additional applications for Zune HD including Facebook and Twitter in the future."
I bought a Zune HD a month or so ago and have been showing it off to some disbelieving Apple die-hards. "Are you sure this is a Microsoft product?" is often the reaction I've gotten. Being able to change the music I've got on it whenever the mood strikes (thanks to a $15 per month ZunePass subscription) has been a great way to sample lots of new content. If this device had been available a couple of years ago, when I was searching for any MP3 player as long as it wasn't an Apple one, I'd have snapped it up long ago...
But, as I've noted before, Microsoft isn't planning to put a ton of resources into developing apps for its dedicated Zune HD players. Microsoft officials have said the not-so-long-term plan for Zune is to turn it into a service. There will be "at least one more" player release coming, but after that, it sounds like Microsoft is planning to integrate the Zune music and video services into its Windows Mobile, Xbox and possibly other third-party platforms. (The new Xbox Live services including Zune video went into public beta on October 21. The go-live launch date is still to be announced. is November 17.)
Microsoft officials still won't give a firm yes or no answer as to when or if the company will make the Zune HD available internationally. (I ask periodically but still can't get an answer.)