Gaming guru Microsoft has finally revealed its Window Phone 7 platform in full to the world.
Microsoft’s huge commitment to mobile gaming has certainly made this veteran gamer very excited - and it’s not just about adding a few more points onto my fledgling gamerscore. Promise.
But if you’re still pondering whether to ditch your iPhone and shove your Android in the drawer, here are some good reasons to sign up with Microsoft’s new OS.
1. Microsoft knows gaming
The current heads of the mobile round table are definitely not gamers. Google, Apple, Nokia? They probably think BioShock is a medical condition.
But now Microsoft’s stepped up to the plate. Here’s a company that knows its gaming. The Xbox 360 is a monumentally successful tub of sparkly circuit boards, with a 23 million member-strong online service to boot.
Not to mention all the excellent first-party franchises, the utterly addictive game-changing achievement service, and an endless catalogue of tiny downloadable classics.
Apply just a hint of that to the mobile space and you’ve got a potentially super exciting new OS.
We’ve never seen a gaming powerhouse enter the mobile space: there’s never been a PlayStation handset or a Nintendo phone. Now there’s a Microsoft blower - straight out of the company’s bold 360 era.
2. Top franchises
The advantage of being a top tier publisher is the number of well known and much loved series you carry with you.
Much in the same way that Sony and Nintendo’s handhelds have featured pintsize editions of Gran Turismo and Super Mario, Windows Phone 7 is bringing Microsoft’s best franchises to the mobile space.
Innovative social tower defence game Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst and shooter encyclopedia Halo: Waypoint are just the tip of the iceberg.
The publisher has the power to bring out games based on the worlds and characters of Gears of War, Forza, Project Gotham Racing, and many more. Think N.O.V.A. is cool? Imagine having a proper Halo FPS on the go.
3. Achievement unlocked
Admit it, you’re an achievement whore. Whether it's shiny PlayStation trophies, Game Center unlocks, OpenFeint awards, World of Warcraft medallions or Xbox Live achievements, most gamers can’t move without being awarded worthless but awesome points for meaningless tasks.
Windows Phone 7 doesn’t try to make a whole new system of shiny unlocks: it just lobs them in with your Xbox 360 accomplishments. Soon you’ll be placing your achievement for beating a tricky mobile platformer right next to your headshot award in Halo and your gold medal array in Forza.
4. Separate the wheat from the chaff
Finding new apps on iPhone or Android sucks. The labyrinthiform app stores are murky, confusing messes of genuinely brilliant gems amid a turgid ocean of utter garbage.
You need aggregators, reviews, halls of fame, recommendations, and Top 10 lists just to find something worthy.
Microsoft’s going to do the legwork for you. Games are naturally split, like on the Xbox 360, between a carefully curated selection of professionally produced and published games and the bedroom coded indie classics.
Which is not to say that the indie section will be filled with unplayable dregs of gaming crud, but at least you’ll have a reliable aisle to consistently pick up a worthy title.
5. Microsoft has set the rules to avoid fragmentation
Android sucks for gaming. Every device has different screens, different processors, different buttons, and who knows what sensors and doohickeys under the hood.
It makes creating, testing, and selling games tough, because the developer never knows what wacky device its customer has.
The big M has a strict set of rules, and it's sticking to them. Any manufacturer that wants to build a Windows Phone 7 device must hit a list of deliverables before Microsoft gives it the seal of approval.
You’ve got to have a certain number of buttons, a certain amount of growl in the processor department, and meet a list of sensors and gadgets.
That means that, while Windows Phone 7 devices won’t be as different and obscure and weird as Android handsets, you know where you stand when you go to download a new game.
6. All play and no work makes Jack a homeless boy
Microsoft knows more than just gaming, and its expertise as a maker of spreadsheet, Word document, and other stuffy business software has not gone unnoticed. The phone comes loaded with a suite of Office apps, including Word, Power Point, and Excel.
The iPhone and Android aren’t too hot in this regard, and with BlackBerry falling out of favour with savvy users who want more from their phone, WP7 could be the perfect home. Need to get work done on the go? Look no further.
7. Media mogul
The device’s Zune integration is not to be sniffed at. Thanks to the strengths of the Zune Marketplace and music subscription package Zune Pass, you’ve got all the wonders of iTunes and Spotify pre-loaded on the device and integrated straight into the OS.
You can also rent movies, watch a bit on your ride home, and then catch the thrilling conclusion on the big screen with your Xbox 360.
And listen to this, Apple: you can stream your PC’s music right to your device, so if you’re in a wi-fi spot you’ve got your entire library of tunes at your fingertips.
8. Xbox Indie Games on your mobile
With Windows Phone 7 running XNA, it takes just a few lines of code to get an Xbox Live Indie game out to an audience of mobile gamers.
Think the Indie Game section is filled with junky rip-offs, garbage bedroom disasters, and massage games? Well, you’re half right, but there’s plenty of brilliant games in there too.
From retro interactive fiction like Text Zedventure to mental shmup Leave Home, and from sweet pixel-art platformer Arkedo Series 3 PIXEL to RPG parody Breath of Death, there’s a lot to love.
9. Try before you buy
The trial mentality is built into every app you download, so you never need to grab a dud again. It’s part of the core Microsoft Silverlight tools, giving app developers a super easy way to decide how much of the game to give away for free, and how much to lock away for paying customers.
This means you won’t clog up your phone with lite editions, lose progress when you buy the full game, and, with trials being pushed onto publishers, you’ll very rarely be asked to plonk down the cash without first having a taste.
10. I turn my camera on
Okay, this one’s a throwaway, but it’s still cool. Remember that steadfast and strict list of rules that govern Windows Phone 7 makers? One quirky addition is that all devices must have a dedicated camera button, for getting into paparazzi mode quickly, and having that satisfying 'click' when you make your shot.
So while your Android and iPhone buddies are messing around with lockscreens and app layouts, you’ve already shot a snap of Lady Gaga’s hoo-ha, sold it to TMZ and become a millionaire. Sayonara, suckers!