While attending GDC Online this year I had the chance to speak with several different people from many different positions in the game industry about Windows Phone 7. Some people got it and understood why it was such a big deal and then some didn’t. There was one conversation I had with an executive from a mobile phone game studio that definitely did not get it. No I wont say the companies name nor the employee’s simply out of respect.
The conversation started like many others that day. “Hey, here’s who am I. Hey, who are you?” That sort of thing. But then it turned as soon as I said, “What are your plans for Windows Phone 7?” He gave me a look of disgust and said that Microsoft didn’t know how to build a working mobile phone solution. He began telling me about all the problems with the Microsoft Kin and Windows Mobile. He started spewing facts on the Kin’s failure and on how the Windows Mobile market place was not centrally located and had low quality. He even mentioned how there was so many varying version of the hardware to develop for. I let him go on and on about his bash spree with out interrupting him once. Once he was done, I told him that those were all valid arguments. Yes, the company made mistakes in the past. However, Microsoft is a rather smart company and they will figure out this market. In fact, I think that all the things he listed is exactly what Microsoft targeted to fix. Here are the facts I listed to him:
Windows Mobile Market Place – The new Market Place has a more robust presentation and some forms of quality verification this time around. The final thoughts on the app store is that it will have a similar feel to the Xbox Live experience where you have professional portal (Xbox Live Arcade) and then an Indie outlet (Xbox Live Community Games). This will give the users a better understanding of what type of app they are getting into. If you want to download fart apps all day, stay within the Community section. However, if you want a real portable gaming experience, head over to the Arcade section of the phone and download a AAA experience for your phone.
Windows Phone Hardware Variants – Microsoft is putting a standard place that all phone manufactures must follow. As talked about here, MS is putting an end to freestyle hardware design. There will be a clear definition as to what is acceptable hardware for a Windows Phone 7. This will level set what developers have to build for. If the app ends up on a better more advance platform then the user will get a snappier more crisp experience. The studio does not have to worry about developing a 3D mobile game for a 600MHZ processor.
What’s a Windows Phone 7? – Kin had some marketing behind it. But the Windows Phone 7 marketing push will be MANY times greater. Microsoft has announced that it will be spending the same amount that it spent on Windows XP launch and the original Xbox launch. That’s around 500 Million dollars. With that being said, as a game studio you have a choice. Do you want to develop for an open source platform with very little marketing? Or develop for a new platform with hardly any competition on it and half a BILLION dollars in marketing spend?
A whole new world! – The Android app store has around 50,000 apps and the iPhone App store has about 250k. Competition is good, yes. But being the first to market to beat out your competition is even better. Studios with big hits should DROP EVERYTHING and focus on porting that hit to Windows Phone 7. Many of your customers will be trying out the device and would like to see their favorites there. They already love your product and will buy it again. The time to strike is now. Get your IP out there and get customers! For new studios this is an easy target, get your new IP out in a place where it can shine. Really, I should not have to go into much more detail here on this.
So after listing my facts on how Windows Phone 7 will be the “go to” place for developers, he just sat there for a moment. He then replied, “Well, I don’t like Microsoft!” with a smile. Come to find out he had a personal grudge against the company. Be that as it may, he still needs to look at the facts and for this moment take the hard feelings out of the business equation.
So I ask you, what are your plans for Windows Phone 7?