Five ways Windows Phone 7 Series will change mobile gaming

Features Peter Gibbons 16:42, 22 Feb 2010

After numerous delays and the worrying news that it won’t be backwardly compatible, Microsoft is finally ready to deliver Windows Phone 7 Series. But what does that mean to mobile gaming?

We’d almost got to the point where we didn’t expect to see Windows Phone 7 Series, after it was repeatedly delayed and Microsoft seemed to be more interested in its Zune HD device. But Windows Phone 7 Series stole the show at this year’s Mobile World Congress, and for good reason.

It finally looks as though Microsoft is back in the running for the smartphone throne, with a superb feature list that’s got developers as excited as users.

Xbox Live
It’s about time Microsoft began to unify its technologies, and it looks as though Windows Phone 7 Series is likely to be the nexus point. Xbox Live has established itself as a hub for Microsoft gamers, who use the online resource as a social network every bit as much as a game download store.

Harnessing the Xbox Live infrastructure will be a powerful tool for Windows Phone 7 Series. Linking up to the achievements system, as well as established friend networks, gaming communities, news and information while on the go is the kind of feature that could sway a smartphone buyer’s decision.

Details are a bit thin on the ground at the moment, but our fingers are crossed that we might even get some cross-platform gaming going on, which isn’t entirely unreasonable when you consider the kind of hardware likely to be sporting the new Windows Phone 7 Series.

Next-gen hardware
Even though Windows Mobile 6.x has struggled to keep up with the likes of Android and iPhone, hardware manufacturers have continued to turn to Microsoft’s smartphone stalwart when they wanted something reliable and supported. However, HTC has been veering wildly toward Android of late, though even a superficial glance at Windows Phone 7 Series has prompted the premier smartphone designer to reaffirm its support for Microsoft.

This is coupled with The Vole’s ultra-strict hardware requirements, which will demand all devices have a minimum processor speed (currently pegged as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon powerhouse), a multi-touch display, three hardware buttons, digital compass, accelerometer and an 800x480 pixel fixed ratio screen (and OEMs can include a slideout Qwerty if they wish).

This might sound overly strict, but it’s actually very important as it will help Microsoft avoid the hardware fragmentation that’s plagued Java, and is currently threatening Android.

Microsoft Games Studio
Microsoft’s internal, first party game studio might not churn out games at a rate of knots, but it’s well known for producing some seriously top quality games. With the right hardware bubbling beneath the screen, Xbox Live integration could easily see enhanced support from the company’s dedicated roster of AAA titles.

Alan Wake, Crackdown, Dead Rising, Fable 2 (and 3), Gears of War, Ninety-Nine Nights, Perfect Dark Zero, Project Gotham Racing, Saints Row and, of course, Halo 3 are all games that aren’t likely to appear on any other systems, yet could provide a backbone for cross-platform gaming between Microsoft’s living room console and its new line of hard-hitting smartphones.

Windows Marketplace
As much as Windows Phone 7 Series is apparently not backwardly compatible, it seems this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Some software is still expected to work, so right from the outset there’s going to be a wealth of smaller, more basic smartphone applications and games waiting for the new Windows-based handsets.

But Microsoft is looking more at establishing Series 7 in its own right, and has already prepared a revamped Marketplace designed from scratch to present its hot new mobile games. This app store appears to be built very much around its slick new user interface, which not only makes access to its games easy, but very attractive.

Already Microsoft is insisting it’ll be targeting quality and not quantity when it comes to populating this new marketplace, which is certainly no bad thing – so long as there’s still a decent quantity of quality games on there, of course.

Zune HD
During the lull before the Windows Phone 7 Series storm, we started believing Microsoft was more interested in the Zune HD than smartphones, though the iPod touch-killer didn’t really seem to gain much traction either. Rumours filtered out about the possibility of a Zune HD phone, and while that’s not quite the angle that Microsoft has taken, it appears it’s not far from the truth.

Instead, it’s Windows Phone 7 Series that looks set to absorb the Zune HD, and that’s exciting for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Windows Phone 7 Series hardware requirements are considerably higher than Zune HD’s, and secondly the media player has –albeit briefly - shown its gaming potential.

The Zune multimedia delivery system has been confirmed for inclusion in WinMo7 (just as it has with the Xbox 360) but the Zune name carries a lot more promise than just music and videos. For one thing, it could well be these smartphones that deliver the Zune HD (in disguise) to the rest of the world, and offer up a far more console-like gaming experience for Microsoft’s new gaming-on-the-go visage.

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