Microsoft Trips Over Its Halo on the Way to Windows Phone 7

Last Updated Sep 15, 2010 4:12 PM EDT

If you have a teenager who is taken with video games in which players shoot aliens, then you probably know about Halo: Reach. Written by Bungie and exclusively available for the Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox 360, this is the latest and final installment of a sales blockbuster series. However, early glitches show how difficult it is to roll out a game to millions and manage online play without problems. It has to make you wonder whether Microsoft can reliably rely on gaming as a strength for Windows Phone 7.

The main hiccup in reports today is the cooperative play -- called co-op -- feature for those who own an Xbox 360 Slim 4GB model. Co-op is a huge aspect of the game, as players want to meet online and have it out in teams. But apparently you must have an Xbox hard drive to play in this mode and not all the new slim models do, as Nukezilla reports. The issue is known and goes back to at least one previous version of the game:

Amusingly the UK retailer Comet are selling an Xbox 360 4GB Slim bundled with Halo: Reach.
Problems were apparent in the greater Halo ecosystem as I took my son to the local GameStop (GME) at midnight on Tuesday to pick up his copy. Although we registered for an advanced purchase and brought the confirmation email, the order wasn't in the company's system. A good hundred or more other people at the same store apparently had no trouble, but the clerks were scratching their heads, trying to understand how it could have vanished.

There was also a code for game add-ons and some virtual goods, but redeeming them was problematic. My son typed in the code and he got an error message. He clicked Try Again and the prompt cleared as he was told that the code had already been used. A friend of his experienced the same thing. Eventually, he went into some system settings, found an option to download the specials again, and was able to do so.

However, you don't want to rely on the comfort and technical prowess of consumers in online gaming, and that becomes even more of an issue as Microsoft sees games as a potential advantage in the roll-out of Windows Phone 7. Here's a hint: It's only an advantage if you don't have to think to make titles work.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.