Microsoft Games to Fail on Three Platforms at Once.

Microsoft believes they have an ace up their sleeve in their competition with Apple for mobile dominance: multi-platform games. The following video demonstrates a hypothetical scenario in which one person plays a single game successively on his PC, Windows 7 phone, and XBOX 360.

This strategy will fail and fail hard.

PC and phone games are fundamentally different. Multi-touch and point-and-click games require different dynamics, thought processes, and reflexes. Accelerometers and joysticks are not equally efficient means of moving your character around the screen. QVGA does not equal SXGA.

Phone and XBOX 360 games are not the same. Hand-held, tactile devices with tinny ear buds pale in comparison to the immersive experience of 52″ screens with 10′ interfaces, wireless controllers, and booming surround sound.

If game manufacturers expect to bolt on platform specific controls and reap the benefit of multiple purchases1, they will find dissatisfied customers awaiting them—assuming they find any customers at all.

The fundamental lesson of the iPhone is that software needs to be built with the platform in mind from the ground up. Games that work on multiple platforms must be one of two types. Either they are like the popular game World of Goo, in which the mechanics of the game were carefully crafted to apply consistently across platforms2, or the game has multiple components, each of which can only be completed by playing on the platform that makes sense. For example, a game might be a first-person shooter for the PC & XBOX 360 while allowing character creation, intelligence gathering, or some form of turn-based activity on the phone.3 Any game that violates this principle (like the Indiana Jones game demoed above) will not provide a compelling experience on at least one of the platforms.4

Can you play Texas Hold’em on your phone, PC, and XBOX 360? Maybe, but that’s not what Microsoft is betting will stem the Windows Mobile Phone Series 7 bloodletting.

  1. You know this is what they’re thinking, right? “Wait, now I can sell the same game three times?” []
  2. Not available on the iPhone, perhaps because the game does not make sense on such a small screen. See also Canabalt for a game that can work well in any environment, in this case because of its simplicity. []
  3. Augmented reality tie in? []
  4. Probably all the platforms will suffer because of the limited attention to each and necessity of cross-platform compatibility. []

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