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Windows Phone 7 was my idea! – The Donald Harris

The Donald Harris

Windows Phone 7 was my idea!

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?

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  1. Chip October 17, 2010

    I loved WinMo in the past. I had a Blackjack II with 6 on it and absolutely loved, especially Exchange on it 🙂 I get tired of seeing the whole thing of comparing 7 to the failure of the Kin or how there isn’t a market for another OS. I seen a quote from a Google exec saying that we didn’t another platform… kinda funny since the same was said about Android.

    I would love to get in on Windows Mobile. I’m anxious to see what you guys crank out for the Windows Mobile 7 TorqueX (or whatever it will be called). I love the fact that Microsoft is trying to put a standard on hardware. That fragmentation is one of the things I feel that is hurting Android.

    I love my EVO but will definitely look at Windows Mobile 7 on my next upgrade. Soon as I get the time, I’m going to take a look at developing on it. 🙂

    Great post Donald!!

  2. Donald Harris October 18, 2010 — Post Author

    Thanks Chip, the fragmentation is huge in my mind on the Android. and the market place is already filled with low quality time wasters that get deleted the same day. You know what will be funny is to see how Android changes when Win Phone 7 launches!

  3. Dusty Monk October 25, 2010

    Currently, Windstorm Studios is not a mobile application developer. We’re working pretty darn hard on our first title, which is a straight up Win 7 single player desktop game. The single biggest reason for that is passion — PC Games is where our love is, and we’re dedicated to building games we love to play — even if they’re not the “hottest thing” right now.

    And while some may call you a fool for not developing for the hottest markets right now for indie developers (iPhone & FB), you’d have to be an even bigger fool for completely ignoring these markets. So we’ve been eyeing the iPhone development process for some time as the next place to extend into. But switching over from a complete Windows development setup to one for the iPhone can represent a significant amount of investment for a small developer. You have to pretty much drop everything you know about Dev Studio, buy a Mac, learn Objective C and the iPhone SDK, and then start building your app (yes there are some shortcuts around this, and 3rd party engines like iTorque help with this, but it’s still not an ideal situation if you don’t really understand the underlying platform).

    And this I think is where Win Phone 7 presents an excellent opportunity. Suddenly, you capitalize on your already extensive *existing* investment in win 7 development hardware, Dev Studio, and knowledge of .NET (and Silverlight). This, to me, is an advantage over initiating development on iPhone that just can’t be underestimated.

    But being able to leveredge existing technology isn’t worth much if you’re not building for a platform you don’t think has any chance of success, but every indication from early reviews is that MS has the makings of a hit on its hands with Win Phone 7, unlike it’s predecessors (Win Mobile and the best-forgotten Kin). Techblogs that are traditionally pretty caustic towards Microsoft’s forays into the gadget market are fairly glowing with praise for the Win Phone 7.

    Combining the early praise from reviewers, the chance to use your existing developer knowledge base for development, and the opportunity to build games & applications that have tie-overs between three hugely popular platforms, and you have a best case scenario for breaking into a new market, from a development standpoint.

    Concerns? Sure, we definitely have some, and only a bit of time will tell how well founded they are. Our biggest concern currently is the development submission processs. It’s unclear, but it seems that MS is setting up a two tier system, similar to how it has done for XBox Live. There are the registered XBL developers, who’s titles are actual Xbox Live titles – and then there’s the XBL “Indie” channel, which is by far and large a considered a dumping ground of second tier, low-end, small budget submissions — a few bright stars not withstanding.

    If there is a separate process and licensing system for independants that submit through the AppHub, versus 1st tier publishers that acquire an separate license for publishment to the App Marketplace, then not only will this serve to restrict an App Marketplace that needs to grow rapidly if it has any hope of success at all against the likes of Apple’s App Store and Androids, but it will discourage independant developers from even submitting, if they know their app is being placed in a dumping ground of indie apps, instead of having a chance at the forefront of the Marketplace with the 1st tier publishers.

    Concerns notwithstanding though, I think Win 7 development presents some pretty exciting opportunities, and if you’re kicking yourself for not getting in early on the iPhone app wagon, this seems like the next best opportunity to have come along in some time!

    Dusty Monk
    Windstorm Studios

  4. Donald Harris October 28, 2010 — Post Author

    Great response Dusty thank you. So let me start out with this point.

    I like the fact that you have to build a game you are passionate about. And this has everything to do with which platform you build on. That is a very good point. I have work on projects that I was not very passionate about and even though it was finished it was a labor and not a labor of love.

    As for the way MS organizes apps I kind of hope they do go the route of Xbox where you have the Indie channel and pro channel. However I think that during the review they should pick where that app goes. I would suggest not having it labeled Indie Games and Mobile Arcade (whatever their choice is for AAA games) but maybe a Premium and General section. Where games that are polished and finished get a little more attention. The cream always rises to the top no matter what.

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