Microsoft has today released some screenshots of a couple of 3D games that are currently in development for the Windows Phone 7 Series. Is it just me or is that an awfully big mouthful for such a small device?
Anyway, the images look interesting, but this is not an impressive enough couple of titles to excite people into buying another flavour of handset, in my opinion. Perhaps we’ll see more this week.
First up is “The Harvest” which is a Diablo re-imagining featuring destructible environments. That is under development by Luma Arcade.
Next is “Battle Punks” which is under development by Gravity Bear. This is, and I quote, “a sword-fighting Facebook game”. Your guess is as good as mine!
Microsoft also, unsurprisingly, confirmed that Direct3D is the only graphics API supported on the Windows Phone 7 Series. This seems a super dumb move to me. All current OpenGL apps / Games will have to be ported. Whilst that will be fine by large publishers, and those developers that already work with Direct3D, it will alienate the already very large developer base who are working on Android, Apple and just getting started on Palm’s mobile devices. If you remember I reported recently that Palm have just opened up access to their OpenGL ES API in a new addition to their SDK launched at GDC. Consequently Microsoft are going alone again on their own 3D graphics API “Direct3D”. While everyone else uses OpenGL ES. This will not aid Microsoft in quickly generating a vibrant App Store of their own with contributions from developers out there with successful existing mobile games.
When the Zune Store was announced many successful iPhone developers were approached and courted by Microsoft and turned the software giant away. I can see them having the same reaction to the Windows Phone.
Android already suffers from app market fragmentation because of the multitude of devices with different specifications out there. Apple is heading that way with the two flavours of silicon it already has in it’s iPhone, iPod and iPad. But they all at least use the same graphics API. I know that small indies are not going to want to support yet another API and another set of hardware, especially when frustratingly they know the silicon underneath is the same.
So it seems we will again have two distinct camps in gaming land. This time in mobile gaming land! With XNA developers, inexperienced in mobile game production, having to hit the ground running if we are going to have any real indies producing for this new phone.
Microsoft has been on a mission for quite some time to establish itself as dominant in the games market, at any cost. One of it’s more underhand weapons in this effort is it’s own proprietary graphics API. One would have thought they had learned their lesson, along with Sony, with the advent of the Wii that the gaming landscape is unpredictable nowadays. It’s not a beast which is easily corralled anymore. Right now both Sony and Microsoft are kind of directionless because of the massive shift in the games market over the last two years. Although interestingly it’s now Sony that are picking up speed in the console market. And this is purely speculation on my part, but if Sony are really going to bring their own “iPhone & iPad killers” to market, as is rumoured, I would expect whatever API they choose for 3D graphics to at last have some kind of high level abstraction that is more akin to OpenGL ES than anything else. If not a full OpenGL ES API from day one.
Perhaps Microsoft intend to go the opposite direction to Apple, Google and Palm on this, and instead of encouraging the indie market simply buy up studios, leverage existing IP in house, or even create new studios in a mobile gaming war similar to their XBox campaign. Good luck with that.
The bottom line is all this does is limit choice for consumers, and make developer’s lives harder, while these big companies fight out battles to have different APIs control the same chips!