Xbox Live and the Windows Phone Flop

It was like a dream come true. Microsoft promised that its Windows mobile operating system would bring the power of Xbox to a smartphone. And there, in one hand-held device, would be everything the active gamer and the tech-savvy social media maven needs: a telephone, an email application, web-based Internet access, and, of course, a great platform to enjoy 3D games.

That promise was made two years ago. As of this writing, those Microsoft Windows phones still haven’t arrived.

That’s not to say Windows phones are a bust when it comes to gaming. The platform does provide a number of high quality and entertaining games,. One of them, Gameloft, is produced by household-name gaming companies Ubisoft and Electronic Arts.

Still, many Windows games are late to market. Any time a new hit title is released, users can expect to see it on iOS first, possibly followed by Android soon thereafter. Windows phones are usually the last to offer great games.

To make matters worse, the Windows phone has simply not lived up to the hype promised by Microsoft. Although some of the great Xbox LIVE gaming experiences can be enjoyed on a Windows smartphone, that’s not true of all titles. For example, Temple Run 2 and Crytek’s Fibble are not available on the Windows platform.

So, what is Microsoft to do? Just throwing more games into the store won’t necessarily help. Although these additional games would be available to current Windows phone users, that wouldn’t necessarily be enough of a selling point to motivate people to switch from their iOS or Android phones over to a Microsoft platform.

What Microsoft needs to do is fulfill the two-year-old promise of making a smartphone capable of supporting the full suite of Xbox offerings. Why not a mobile version of Halo, for example? What about Gears of War? Where are the uniquely Xbox-themed games to be found on the Windows phone?

While Microsoft has done a great job in delivering some elements of high-quality gaming to its smartphone, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to port the games from the more popular smartphone operating systems to a Windows platform. Add these titles to the wide selection of great games already available to Windows users, and the company will have the perfect foundation for a winning strategy.

Critics of this strategy might point to the fact that mobile gamers are a “different breed” from console gamers. In some cases, that might be true, but it is not universally so. Perhaps more than any other group, gamers don’t necessarily fit neatly into a stereotype. While some would prefer the much fuller, richer experience an intelligent, high-profile game like Halo on a larger screen or a gaming rig, others might appreciate the opportunity to play it on a smartphone while waiting for a bus.

However Microsoft intends to proceed, the important takeaway here is to understand that not all smartphones are created equal. People who shop for phones need to look not only at the hardware and aesthetics of the device itself, but also at the underlying operating system.

For smartphone users who want be on the cutting edge, with the latest bells and whistles in mobile technology, perhaps an iOS device would be preferable — at least as of this writing. For people who think that Google will be the ultimate victor in the war of the mobile devices, perhaps an Android device would best.

But for people who are avid gamers and believe that Microsoft will one day fully integrate Windows phones with Xbox, maybe a Windows phone will remain their best choice.

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