Why Windows Phone 7 Could Top Google Android Gaming

Last Updated Oct 12, 2010 12:51 PM EDT

Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows Phone 7 represents an earnest push into mobile gaming. Google (GOOG) Android should take notice, as its precarious second-place status on the mobile-gaming front is in danger for several reasons.

First, Windows Phone 7 has XBox Live while Android has nothing of its own. As of July, the popular XBox 360 online community had earned more than $1 billion in premium account fees, software sales and other multimedia purchases. According to Microsoft head Steve Ballmer, Windows Phone 7 users will be able to connect their XBox 360 avatars. Like the home games, the mobile games will earn achievement points, the theoretical, yet important score that increases as gamers reach certain in-game goals, so console gamers will be rewarded for playing Microsoft mobile games and vice versa.

XBox Live gives Microsoft a built-in online community of millions -- something neither Android nor Apple (APPL) iPlatforms have, even with a head start of several years. Interested in playing Monopoly with a friend on her home console? She'll be connected as soon as you've bought a Windows Phone 7.

This is one area dominant Apple is struggling to catch up: As reported previously in Gadget Watch, Apple tried to cut off the XBox Live community off at the pass with its GameCenter. The problem is that game companies, perhaps caught off guard by Apple's hasty GameCenter launch in September, have been slow to enable the service: As of this writing, only about 50 of the iPlatforms thousands of games actually use GameCenter. All XBox 360 games support both XBox Live and achievement points, and mostly likely those on Windows Phone 7 will as well.

Android is the worst of the bunch here, as it lacks the online community or achievement supports of iPlatforms or Windows Phone 7, and the support given within a particular brand -- say, all Electronics Arts (ERTS) games -- is limited, of course, to interacting with gamers playing a game from that brand. Indie online communities like Open Feint, which connect gamers and provide achievement points across several brands, are already making themselves compatible with GameCenter. It's safe to assume the same thing will happen with Windows Phone 7. Android is the odd man out.

Finally, Microsoft has the strongest video game branding among the smartphones. As reported in Gadget Watch, Halo and other AAA titles have been confirmed for the Windows Phone 7 platform. Apple may sport Angry Birds (which, contrary to reports, hasn't been announced for Windows Phone 7) and other original titles, but Microsoft has those serious goods that could make it the platform hardcore gamers take seriously. PC game innovator John Carmack recently said his highly anticipated first person shooter, Rage, will be launching on mobile first, then consoles and computers. In an interview, Carmack also told me he and other game developers were frustrated creating for the different Android devices. Connect the dots and Microsoft has the ability to hurt Apple and mortally wound Android.

iPlatforms may be the most popular base and Android the most prolific, but Windows Phone 7 can give Apple games a serious run for their money -- and blow Android's gaming strategy out the water.

Photo courtesy of laihiu // CC 2.0
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