Mobile gaming is one of the most lucrative and popular activities on the iPhone, but hasn’t made as much of a mark with Android. Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is hoping that its in-house gaming expertise from the Xbox division can make a difference as Windows Phone 7 continues to develop, but frustrated gamers are wondering why the company hasn’t taken things a step further.
Microsoft Friday showed off some of the new tweaks it plans to make to its Games Hub when the next version of Windows Phone 7 is released this fall. In a blog post, the company revealed that has redesigned the look-and-feel of its home page for gaming and baked some of the extra features that were previously available through a free application into the main offering, such as three-dimensional avatars and hooks into the Xbox Live system.
Obviously gaming on a phone is a much different experience than playing games on a console, but there are still several features that make sense on both platforms: such as the ability to connect with friends to play over the Web and trash-talk lesser opponents. With the Mango update, however, Microsoft only plans to let Windows Phone 7 users send messages back and forth to their Xbox Live contacts, rather than play fellow Windows Phone 7 users over the Web.
Commenters on that blog post wondered why Microsoft wasn’t doing more to bring that experience to Windows Phone 7 users. There are turn-by-turn multiplayer games available for Windows Phone 7, but truly multiplayer gamers aren’t yet supported while iPhone users have dozens of options. And while plenty of games are available for Android, developers don’t consider that a strength of the platform, providing Microsoft with an opportunity to position itself as an iPhone-gaming alternative.
There’s a sense that developers are intrigued by Windows Phone 7 as Microsoft and Nokia (NYSE: NOK) get closer to launching new devices combined with the mess that is Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM) these days. However, improve support for compelling games would be an easy way to attract developers to the platform, which would also help achieve the ultimate goal of selling more Windows Phone 7 devices. Microsoft needs some sort of breakthrough to surpass iOS and Android if Windows Phone 7 is to take off, and it continues to miss opportunities to even match wits with iOS.