XBLA on Windows Phone 7: Smart Move?

XBLA on Windows Phone 7: Smart Move?

The smartphone market is bubbling furiously as dozens of providers elbow one another for a chance to slip out from under Apple’s shadow. At the recent Mobile World Congress, Sony announced its plans for its PlayStation-branded phone–officially called the Xperia Play–and Microsoft demonstrated what’s new for its Windows Phone 7. Windows Phone 7 (WP7) is especially worth mentioning: It allows users to connect to their Xbox Live profile while they’re on the go. Using their profile, they can play certain games over the Internet, show off their game library, toy with their Avatar, keep an an eye on which friends are playing what, build up their gamerscore through exclusive mobile games, and so on. Soon, a Windows Phone 7 user will even be able to link up with the Kinect and play friends head-to-head with games like Rally Ball, in which a player wielding the WP7 can toss a ball to another player who’s directing their avatar through Kinect.

While Rally Ball doesn’t sound like it’ll provide hours of entertainment offhand, the game is meant to function as a demo for Microsoft’s cross-platform connectivity plans. It also demonstrates that Microsoft is stepping away from the seething mass of smartphones to claim the market in its own unique way. Indeed, Gates’ company is going in a very interesting direction with the WP7: While other companies blunt their claws in the battle to tear gamers away from their consoles and handhelds, Microsoft looks to deepen players’ connection to their beloved Xbox 360 and the Kinect.

Apple, Sony, and other competitors are telling users, “Smartphones are the future! Leave behind the old ways, and get a fresh start!”

Microsoft is saying, “Here’s your avatar. Here’s your gamer profile. Isn’t this nice and comfortable?”

Apple, Sony, and other competitors are telling users, “Keep paying to upgrade! Keep up with the hottest technology! It’s worth it!”

Microsoft is saying, “We have faith in the longevity of the Xbox 360 and the Kinect. We want to integrate consoles with smartphones, not put a wall between them.”

Microsoft’s push to build its smartphone on familiar ground rather than strange new territory is a clever business decision. Technology is changing quickly enough to make the Flash’s head spin, and people are likewise changing to adopt said technology–but that doesn’t mean all of us love change. Sometimes we want to keep working with what we have. Xbox Live Arcade has been around for a long time. It’s familiar. It has its kinks, but it works. By including it on WP7, Microsoft is telling us, “We have some cool new ideas, but don’t worry, we’ll be doling them out via a system you already know and love.”

With the rest of the market surging forward at breakneck speed, it’s good to know Microsoft is taking the time to weave what’s familiar into its new projects. The company’s efforts are a needed reminder that some aspects of “older” technology are still very useful in the modern market, and that there’s no need to completely re-invent the market every time the sun comes up.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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