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Windows Phone 7 Gaming: Emergent

Our last mobile platform is arguably the weakest, for the simple reason that Windows 7 Phone still hasn’t had a massive impact on the mobile phone market, and games aren’t currently coming thick and fast to the device.

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This is a shame, because Microsoft has done a lot right with WP7 as a mobile gaming platform. Integrating mobile and console-based Xbox Live profiles was a brilliant move, allowing you to take achievements and friends lists from console to phone and back again, receive game invites through your phone and use one Avatar on both devices. Setting an agreed set of hardware specifications gives developers a target and ensures that games should look good, whatever the phone. What’s more, WP7 makes it easy to find and buy new games from within the Xbox Live tile, even if the best titles are steadily getting submerged by the usual lazy clones and me-too ports.

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The best games look good too. Titles like 3D puzzle/platformer Ilomilo, and Microsoft’s fine sci-fi RPG, The Harvest, are a great showcase for hardware like the HTC 7 Trophy and LG Optimus 7, proving that these handsets have the screens and 3D performance to make very capable gaming devices.

Tie-in games, where your performance earns bonuses in the ‘grown-up’ Xbox 360 version, is another brilliant idea, and one successfully executed by the highly enjoyable Fable: Coin Golf. Our one big concern is price. Where iOS and Android titles are generally hitting 59p to £2.99 price points, with a premium for tablet titles, £2.49 seems to be the baseline for WP7 games, with some titles soaring to £5.49 or more.

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And the future? Microsoft hopes that the release of its Windows Phone 7 Mango update will revitalise the platform, and there’s a chance that new handsets from Nokia, Acer, Fujitsu, LG, Samsung, HTC and ZTE might give WP7 the strength to compete with upcoming iOS and Android phones for 3D horsepower. We’re also intrigued by talk of hooking WP7 up with Kinect.

Most of all, though, the platform needs games. A few choice announcements at next month’s E3 conference wouldn’t hurt, and not just the new ‘Must Have Games’ promotion, pushing such exciting, never-before-seen classics as, erm, Angry Birds, Doodle Jump and Plants vs Zombies. Ideally, WP7 needs franchises on the scale of Halo, Gears of War and Forza Motorsport to succeed.

Key Titles:

The Harvest

Our pick of the selection on WP7 is a slick sci-fi RPG with strong 3D graphics and excellent touchscreen controls. It’s not perfect, but it’s big, ambitious and a serious statement of intent.


Released in tandem with the Xbox 360 version, this stylish puzzle-platformer does a fantastic job of blurring the boundaries between console and mobile games. The touchscreen controls have flaws, but the gameplay and graphics work briilliantly.

Fable Coin Golf

Lionhead’s Fable III tie-in does its best to transfer the game’s visual style and humour to WP7, and allows players to win gold they can spend in the console RPG. More importantly, this fun take on mini-golf is a great game in its own right.

Note: Thanks to LG and HTC for providing Windows 7 phones for this article.


June 20, 2011, 3:46 pm

The smartphone is like the John Wayne Gacy of the tech world. It's killed the mp3 player. It's killed the PMP. It's killed the point-and-shoot camera. It's on its way to butcher the portable games console, and some day it even hopes to see off your credit card and cash with NFC. Crazy psycho.


June 20, 2011, 4:02 pm

I don't see the touchscreen gaming revolution being too much of a threat to the likes of Nintendo and Sony. Why else would Sony release two handheld consoles?

It's a bit like the netbook phase in laptops. It's a nice distraction and cheap for the consumer but in the end, everyone knows that it's not a full flavored laptop.

simon jackson

June 21, 2011, 1:53 pm

According to everything i've read, this: "Nvidia's dual-core Tegra2 processor might not be quite as powerful as Apple's dual-core A5" is an unqualified statement. The only direct comparison benchmarks i'm aware of are those conducted by ArsTechnica which were roundly criticised by those in the know for the fact that the benchmark software used was java code running inside a VM, and thus much lower performance than the NDK (native developer kit) that android developers have access to. Both SOCs utilise ARM cortex A9 processors (2 of them), although the tegra 2 configuration does not implement ARMs NEON instruction set, so one might expect lower performance in some areas. Graphics performance however is something that's very hard to compare. I think most people though believe the NVidia gpu to be relatively similar to the powervr chip in the A5.

Personally i think the biggest barrier to playing "real" games on phones and tablets is the touchscreen. Sometimes it can get confused and stick on in one direction because you're multitouching all over the place for aim/fire/etc. Plus some twin stick shooters are irritatingly hard to control accurately (i'm looking at you, guerrilla bob). What we really need is standardised joy pad peripherals, like the icontrolpad.

Luan Bach

June 21, 2011, 2:50 pm

Wel, I'm quite prepare to give my son an £80 DSi to play on road trips, at relations and friends house but won't give him a £300+ phone for such purposes.


June 21, 2011, 4:07 pm

Unless phones will one day, without being jailbroken, be able to run old portable games like Zelda or Final Fantasy, then portable games consoles will continue to be relevant. 50% of the games I play are for previous generation consoles, and every time a company releases a new console that isn't backwards compatible its like they're tearing out a piece of my heart.


June 22, 2011, 10:59 am

I think that this article brings out an interesting, but rather naive and speculative point. Smartphones and the like will probably never take over or endanger the portable systems that you describe for one simple reason. Optimization. Mobile phones and tablets are quite simply mediocre methods for playing games, even if they look pretty and boast large polygon counts. They do not provide the precision and reliability that dedicated gaming consoles and portables provide for competitive and immersive gameplay. Anyone who has played a Wii game with poorly implemented motion controls will know exactly what I'm referring to. A decent gaming control from Apple would require function to be put over form and hell would freeze over before that would happen. Support would be a killer for iOS gaming because the best developers in the industry are not going to force themselves to bear the limitations of the Apple devices to an audience that is not likely to appreciate their efforts.

Their are many more logical reasons why iOS gaming is a joke compared to gaming portables, but the ultimate clincher is the GAMES. I play games on my phone as a last ditch effort to kill some time. I play Zelda on my DS or God of War on my PSP to immerse myself in a fictional world that I can get lost in.

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