All of the smartphone platforms have games of some sort, but only Windows Phone has Xbox Live. For today's 30 Days With Windows Phone 7, I'm going to play around--literally--with the games hub and Xbox Live capabilities.
I have a number of games on my iPhone--two whole folders. I have Tetris, three different flavors of Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, the Atari Greatest Hits collection, Madden NFL, Tiger Woods Golf, Need for Speed: Shift, and more. I also have more traditional, or cerebral, games like chess and Sudoku.
Windows Phone 7 takes gaming to a different level, though, by integrating Xbox Live. Once I associated my Windows Live ID--the same Windows Live ID associated with my Xbox Live account--with my Windows Phone 7 device, my Xbox Live profile became a part of my smartphone gaming experience.
The Games hub live tile is labeled Xbox Live, and my avatar comes popping up every few seconds just to remind me he's there. When I tap on the tile, it opens the Games hub. The default display is the collection of games I have available on the phone. At the bottom there is a link to tap to go to the games marketplace to find more.
When I to the left to switch tabs, it switches to Xbox Live, and there's my avatar again--just hanging out. I can view and edit my Xbox Live profile--change my motto, location, or bio information. I can review my list of achievements, and--with a free app called Xbox Live Extras installed--I can even alter my avatar.
A little further on the other side of my avatar are tiles to see which of my Xbox Live friends are currently available online, as well as what game each of my friends last played, and for Xbox Live messages. I can send or receive Xbox Live messages to other Windows Phones, Xbox Live consoles, or even PCs with Xbox Live.
There is also a tab for Requests that displays any outstanding turn or game requests I might have. I am not currently engages in any multiplayer games, so I just see a message letting me know there are no game or turn requests, directing me to choose a multiplayer game and invite someone to play.
To be fair, other platforms incorporate social aspects into gaming as well. I have games on my iPhone like Zynga's Hanging with Friends that lets me play against other people, and ties in with Facebook and Twitter to let me know who else from my social network is available to play. The combined audience of Facebook and Twitter is near one billion, so it shouldn't be hard to find others to play against.
It is also worth noting that app development tends to be a catch 22. Developers want to develop for the platform that has the most users, and users tend to go with the platform that has more apps, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Windows Phone 7 has significantly less market share than iOS or Android, so developers are less likely to create apps for the platform.
But, Xbox Live is a different story. Xbox Live has about 35 million subscribers now, and Microsoft has revealed that Xbox Live will also be incorporated into Windows 8. Within a year or two, the Xbox Live audience could increase exponentially to hundreds of millions of systems--actual Xbox consoles, Windows Phone 7 smartphones, and Windows 8 systems.
Windows Phone has XNA. XNA is Microsoft's game development system which spans the various platforms Microsoft games can run on. It gives developers a common and familiar set of tools to develop with. With "Mango" developers can now incorporate Silverlight and XNA together in the same app for an even richer experience.
Angry Birds is still Angry Birds. I don't really see any difference between launching birds at pigs hiding in structures regardless of platform. But, I played Need for Speed on both phones (Need for Speed: Shift on the iPhone 4, and Need for Speed: Undercover on Windows Phone 7), and the animation seemed smoother on Windows Phone 7 with more vibrant detail.
I wouldn't say that I am an avid gamer by any means, and I don't consider the smartphone to be the greatest gaming platform. But, my smartphone is always on me--which makes it the ideal platform for anything entertaining to pass the time when the need arises.
Most smartphone buyers are not making decisions based on gaming. But--all else being equal--a person who already has an Xbox console or Xbox Live account may be more likely to choose Windows Phone 7 because of the integration and the potential to play real-time multiplayer games with friends from virtually anywhere on the smartphone.