Microsoft Needs More On Xbox Live For Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7 - it's the platform we hate to love. Why? Because despite being a fantastic example of what Redmond can achieve when it innovates, it's been let down by slow reaction times and average hardware. And while the partnership with Nokia will help on the hardware front, the slow reaction times are still hanging around, as exemplified by Xbox Live.

Windows Phone 7 is over a year old now, and while it has in many ways lived up to the promise found in that first version, it has also been an exceptional disappointment in others. Despite having one of the strongest brands in the gaming market integrated into the phone, Microsoft's effort on the Xbox Live WP7 portal is average at best.

Where are the games?

One of the reasons Microsoft was able to carve out such a strong position in the console arms race was the strength of its exclusive franchises. To this day, the mere mention of the word "Halo" conjures up images of an Xbox console with an oversized Duke controller with late nights on a CRT TV. Throw in Fable, Gears of War, Dead or Alive, Forza, and Viva Pinata and you have not only exclusive games, but exclusive franchises all waiting to be exploited for mobile gaming.

But it's an opportunity being missed, and missed badly. To date, only Fable: Coin Golf offers any real access to any of those franchises in a playing capacity, and it's nothing more than a virtual version of a game kids play during free periods to quell boredom. Halo Waypoint offers some integration between the Halo universe and the WP7 platform, but there's no actual playing to be done.

Meanwhile, if we take a quick peak over at Cupertino, we see that the developers at Chair - a subsidiary of Epic Games, and the makers of the Xbox exclusive Gears of War, no less - have created a sequel to the breathtaking Infinity Blade for iOS. It exemplifies everything mobile gaming can be, and shows why Apple is becoming a leader in mobile gaming. There's no real reason that a game like Infinity Blade can't be developed for WP7, except the fact that it's not really in the developers best financial interest to do so at this point.

It doesn't even have to be an Xbox exclusive game to help drive the Xbox integration. Looking at soccer games, for example - iOS and Android both have the marvellous FIFA 12, which WP7 has an old, awkward version of PES. It's fairly obvious that both iOS and Android have the market share to make developing for them an attractive option for games companies, but Microsoft is going to need to take matters into its own hands to even the balance if it really wants to compete.

But given how successful the Xbox brand is, the fact that there are only 90 Xbox Live games available on my HTC Mozart after 12 months is not only disappointing, it's depressing.

Sorry, How Much?

Angry Birds costs $0.99 on the iOS app store. It's free on Android, albeit laced with annoying ads. On WP7, the same game is $3.49. What. The. F^(k?

There is no possible explanation that could justify that price increase for the same game. And it's ultimately going to hurt the Windows Phone 7 platform. The reason iOS is so successful in this space is that there's a combination of affordable and free titles, mixed in with premium titles, all of which are significantly cheaper than a handheld console. Microsoft's decision to price all its games at a level higher than iOS is an indication that it greatly underestimates the appeal of cheap games to casual users and developers alike.

Angry Birds is but one example though - its clear across the entire store that a premium is placed on all WP7 games. Coupled with the relative lack of variety on the store, and a lack of exclusive titles, and Microsoft is falling further and further behind its Apple rival as a gaming smartphone platform. Given it has the Xbox brand in there, that seems like a ridiculous situation to be in.


Comments

    One point I'd like to add is the Tablet factor. I am a Windows Phone user, but I probably have a bigger investment in iPhone apps simply because I also own an iPad and there are quite a few of the app I have that support both devices.

    I am actually considering a switch to an iPhone 4S because while I like Windows Phone, it currently lacks in areas that form part of my usage.

      trust me switch to the iphone 4S and you wont ever look back. it's the best and most flawless platform. Unlike rubbish android

        LOL!
        Hey I am a iPhone person myself but most FLAWLESS?? lol How's your battery life?

        I went from iPhone to Windows phone and wont look back.

        Still have an iPad though...

        Seriously, why do you even post at all. This rampant fanboy crap doesn't help anyone. You're not going to convince that guy to just uproot, you're not converting current IOS-users and you'll just obviously trolling.

      Or wait 6 months and get a Windows 8 tablet.

        Probably more like 12 months...
        But good point though.

        Has it been confirmed anywhere that it will be possible for a single app to work on a Windows Phone and a Windows 8 tablet? I'd love it if it could but I am not sure that's part of the plan.

        Tablet compatibility is only one of the reasons I am considering a switch, I could probably write a whole article on my reasoning.

          Don't forget that while Microsoft are apparently making MS Office for iPad, I doubt you'll see it for 6012 months after Windows 8 tablets hit. Otherwise they'd be giving half their advantage away to Apple.

            Yes. They have introduced a cohesive platform and single market store. All apps written for it will work on all devices, and xBox.

    Seriously Nick? You couldn't find any possible justification at all for the price increase? How about the fact the WP7 usually commands the bottom spot for market share in some of the biggest markets - 0.46% in the UK for example! (http://www.pcworld.com/article/245364/ios_devices_stretch_market_lead_over_android.html), 2% in the USA, and single percentages pretty much everywhere else (http://wmpoweruser.com/windows-phone-7-crosses-2-market-share-in-usa-has-7-of-german-market/). I'm no genius but maybe that has something to do with it....lower potential for sales.....higher price?

      Charging a higher price because you're not the market leader is not a business strategy I've ever heard of - if anything it should be cheaper for that exact reason.

        Also, Microsoft don't set those prices, the game publishers do. So surely they're better placed to answer your question on why the increase?

        But conversely, with more users, you can dilute the cost of development over a much larger market. Hence the reason Angry Birds can be free on Android is because the ads reach a LOT more eyeballs. Without this incentive on WP7, they have to concentrate making money off a much smaller % of users, hence more expensive.

      Yep - called ROI (return on investment)

    don't think the WP7 hardware could run infinity blade. There's the main reason people aren't developing for WP7

    I've been wanting a WP7 but the market place pricing does seem a bit excessive. I think I'll have to stick to free apps until the prices drop more reasonable. Or just stick to the iphone

    If you think games are pricey, you ain't seen nuthin' until you try to buy music. I was looking at a few things but they all worked out at around $30 an album (1800 stupid M$ points). Screw that when I can get the CD's delivered to my door for $20 each.

      Why don't you just get a Zune pass? $129 a year for all the music you could want.. Partner got it the other day and has been going nuts on the music downloads.

        Because collecting music is as important to me as simply listening to it (I have around 1000 CDs). I also use 3G internet (because I live on a boat) so that makes streaming quite expensive and less than handy. My ZuneHD also requires wi-fi, which is even more limiting.

    Where are the Windows Phone games on XBox Live???

    Where are the games period?!? A lot of games that I would like to purchase (like FIFA 2012) are simply not available through XBox Live. I am still required to go into the store to purchase! Sure a Demo is available for almost anything. but then you find the actual games is not available for download.

    I'd prefer them to put effort into PC gaming. I want to see the rest of the halo games get ported and a complete redo of Games for Windows Live but, you know, slightly more functional.

    I thought a lot of the reason we're not seeing great games on WP7 was the requirement to use XNA?

    Which is especially weird since Win8 supports C++ for apps no worries.

    Okay, while I agree with most of the criticism, and would add "Where are the XBox live MULTIPLAYER games?" saying there are only 90 games is unfair and misleading.

    Those are just the Xbox Live/Microsoft published games, there are hundred of really good indy games available on Marketplace as well which really should get the credit they're due. Pixelman, Bye bye brains, Krashlander, Unite, Square off, those are just some of the indies I prefer to spend my money on than the MS branded ones.

      I'm gonna need your recommendation list when i get my Phone!

    Hallooooo! Some people still don't get it. WP7 was born dead. So what do you expect? That software companies burn money for a platform which doesn't succeed? The times where when Microsoft is written on a software guarantees great sales figures are gone. And the fact that XBOX started to work profitable after many, many years of heavy money injections doesn't guarantee the same for WP7.

      Obvious troll is obvious.

        I wouldn't rule WP7 out, but what about his comment was trollish exactly? Microsoft lost millions on the Xbox brand and had to write off the entire first generation of the only, they only became profitable with the 360. And the same is happening again with WP7. Microsoft gave many financial incentives to devs to develop on their platform to spur interest, that have not worked out.

        Right now, MS is hoping that WP7 can claw its way from 3rd place to marketplace dominance, like the Xbox did in the Sony/Nintendo console market. There's no fanboy wiggle room here, that's just fact.

      Harald, I'm sure you said all the same things about the original X-Box and, if you didn't, everyone else did. Now X-Box is the no. 1 console so why, exactly, would you be so stupid as to expect a different outcome here? You might think you are smart but if you think you know more than Microsoft, you are a complete idiot.

    I just got a Samsung Focus S, I wish I would have gotten iPhone 4S. I messed up.

      Let me know how much you want for it :D

    Had my WP7 for about a year now. Hate the lack of software support from just about everyone - banks, businesses, gaming. But the OS is so good I'm willing to overlook those faults for a while longer yet. By about May next year I'll be looking at my next phone and I'll expect the platform to matured.

    It is the developers and publishers that are to be heald accountable for lack of cross platform availibility. Even when it was not even close to market popularity, devs shifted to iOS WHY????
    MS have a great product in WP7 and i am sure the hardware is more than capable of running any game on Android or iOS (barr the 4s that has finally raised the graphics bar a bit, not that the "ARM" chip is any different or not possibel on other hardware, I mean come on, not that special lol).
    It is disspointing to see app after app on android or ios when Windows phone is a clear third option. I have made numerous calls directly to publishers and developers on this. My call is that Apple were paying them to come to the platform, you'll never hear it due to contracts to keep quiet but i can almost guarentee it, why else would a dev or publisher make a game for a market looser that only just recently has come to market share high enough to warrant the time and effort?
    Windows Phone will make it and it will do it in a world of hate for the giant that is M$, but you know what, Microsoft are a far more responsible company than either Apple or even Google. I knwo which horse I am backing and feel morally free by doing so.

      "i am sure the hardware is more than capable of running any game on Android or iOS"

      The hardware is NOT capable of running 'any game' on either of these platforms. Microsoft's spec benchmarks, which were designed for a cohesive experience across all devices and software optimisation, has now shot them in the foot. WP7 specs are going to remain EXACTLY the same in the near future. Same single core processor, same 480x800 resolution display, same 256mb RAM.

      This lags behind what the 4S and Android are offering now (dual-core standard, 720 native resolution for ICS), and will continue to trail as these two spec up in 2012. Windows Phones hardware is optimised for WP7, not 3rd party games. So while your OS might run buttery smooth on sub-par specifications, it does not mean you can simply port anything over to WP7 and expect it to run.

      "why else would a dev or publisher make a game for a market looser that only just recently has come to market share high enough to warrant the time and effort?"

      This is incredibly ignorant. Marketshare is NOT the same as profitability. IOS has a MUCH higher revenue than Android, despite losing on sheer numbers. This is because, for whatever reason, IOS-users are far more likely to spend money on iTunes and the IOS Appstore.

      http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-11-21/tech/30424434_1_ios-android-free-apps

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/appsblog/2011/nov/22/android-paid-apps-revenues

      This canard that Apple must be bribing devs is just hilarious to me. Especially considering that it was MICROSOFT who started handing out cheques to devs to incentivise them to develop for WP7 prior to its launch. You have your priorities wrong and judging from the fact that you personally made calls that (in your own words) accused developers of accepting Apple money, shows you have some sort of vested interest in WP7 and spreading ignorance via message boards.

      http://gigaom.com/2010/11/15/microsoft-opened-its-wallet-to-build-wp7-app-success/

      http://www.fiercemobilecontent.com/story/microsoft-paying-developers-build-apps-windows-phone-7/2010-07-14

      "Microsoft confirmed reports it is offering financial incentives to mobile software developers to stir interest in new applications for its forthcoming Windows Phone 7 operating system [...] software giant is providing everything from free tools and trial handsets to software development funding, even offering revenue guarantees in the event apps fail to sell as expected."

        Sorry Steve, but my understanding is that those are MINIMUM requirements only, except for the single core thing. The Samsung Focus will even accept a microSD card, which is definitely NOT part of the spec, so I tend to think the minimum thing is accurate.

          Well of course they're minimum requirements. But with the occasional rebel like the HTC Titan, no-one's attempting to even break the WP7 mould. And with the overwhelming majority of WP7 phones using the same somewhat low-spec hardware, this is what devs will be optimising for, with no incentive to make taxing games.

          And I somewhat agree with you about games. I personally don't buy mobile games, I think it's just more productive to organise my email on the train, but I have given the odd game a spin to pass the time.

          "Don’t they have lives?"

          You don't think this is pigeonholing at all? You think the fact that someone plays mobile games on their phone, is enough to make a sound assessment on whether they have a social life or not? And while I acknowledge that gaming isn't necessarily for someone like me, I also know that plenty of people DO play them, and it IS an important factor in choosing a phone. So attempting to discredit and minimise the importance of a WP7 "feature" because it sucks relative to the competition, while only trumpeting its strengths is somewhat disingenuous.

      +1 and don't forget review websites like ummm this one!!

    Spot on. When WP7 was announced I expected the next Halo game would come with some WP7 phone content to drive uptake. Even when this didn't happen I expected some of the more recent titles to do the same. Nope. Why can't you play Skyrim on the XBOX and then continue playing on WP7 when on the move? Instead of poring some funding into WP7 exclusinve tie-ins they waste it on corn-ball Windows 7 advertsing.

    I love the XBOX and use mine as a media centre but it is sadly lacking when it comes to content and Microsoft just seems to continually miss opportunities to bury the competition. They sat on the fence for HD-DVD instead of going all in and including it in the console. Hell Toshiba held off everyone else all on their own. They refused to provide PVR capabilites as they relied on linking to a Windows Media Centre. A feature that the PS3 had no problems providing. Actual content outside of games is pretty sparse on XBOX live.

    C'mon Microsoft, lift your game!

    About the pricing issue... I'm not sure I agree!

    Firstly, it's the developer that sets the price. Microsoft DOES NOT set the price. Therefore the price is set by the developer according to the size of the user base and expected demand.

    Secondly, for many people a WP7 phone will be the first smartphone they own. Therefore, they probably don't know or don't care what the price of an app is for iOS or Android.

    Thirdly, don't forget that you can download many apps on trial and test it before buying, which means that users can decide whether they think it is worth paying for.

    Lastly, whether an app costs $99 or $3.49, it's still cheaper than a coffee in town!!! I mean, can you honestly say that $3.49 for software that can keep you entertained for a long time is expensive? Really? That's probably the thing that most people forget, which when you put it into perspective, you realise that $3.49 is hardly going to break the bank and it still offers tremendous value for money for what you get.

      I think the point of the article isn't that Angry Birds costs $3.5, that's just a symptom. The more systemic issue is that WP7 still lags behind IOS and Android in gaming when MS of all should be pushing gaming the most to close the gap with IOS/Android, and make it as user-friendly as possible. 3X the price of a game isn't user-friendly.

      Microsoft has the unique advantage of owning a valuable gaming platform, Xbox, and it's being squandered. IOS's Game Center is terrible compared to XBL, and Android's "Playstation-Certified" is stumbling because Sony understandably wants to jealously guard the name from other Google partners. WP7's two biggest competitors are floundering and MS isn't even taking advantage of it.

    Wow!
    Angry birds on WP7 costs 1/2 the price of your cup of morning latte and you're in arms against microsoft?...
    What do you think?
    Do you think Apple would let their flagship game sell cheaper on WP7?
    (hint the game release delayed over and over on WP7)
    Hope you like the apple cool aid aftertaste..
    this issue has most likely nothing to do with the microsoft marketplace but most likely is marketing greed from the game company and Apple...

    Do people really play games on their phones? Don't they have lives? I've had a WP7 phone for 9 months now and I've not looked at the Games section of the Marketplace at all. I'd rather be down the pub.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now