Does BlackBerry take gaming more seriously than Microsoft?Evan Selleck - Contributing Editor
Way back in 2010, when Microsoft pulled the curtain off Windows Phone 7, I got excited. Really excited. The truth is, I was already pretty bored with Apple’s iOS, even back then; and Google’s Android just wasn’t where it needed to be quite yet. I was going back-and-forth between Android and webOS, usually leaning a lot more towards the latter. So when something new was announced, shown off, and the result was actually interesting, I couldn’t help but get excited. You can’t blame me for believing Microsoft’s hype.
I used Windows Phone 7 in a variety of handsets, and while none of them were exceptionally terrible, I wasn’t all that impressed with any of them, either. The HTC Surround was good, for instance, but not spectacular. Samsung’s original Focus was probably the handset that stuck with me the most, but it was Verizon’s Trophy that I used the most. Why? Because that was the carrier I was with, and that was the only Windows Phone option. Not the perfect situation, but it is what it is.
The thing is, I didn’t care all that much about the hardware back then. Windows Phone was just so different from everything else that I didn’t care. As long as the hardware didn’t make me want to throw it at a wall, it worked, and it worked well, all because of Windows Phone. The software spoke for both Microsoft’s new mobile focus, as well as the hardware that manufacturers had put together.
I said that you couldn’t blame me for falling for Microsoft’s “hype,” and I mean that, but I think I may have worked myself into a frenzy for no reason. I watched all of Microsoft’s events. I followed the news, wrote about it, and fell right into it. I got excited about all of the things that Microsoft was planning, dreaming, or scheming. They were so . . . Well, they seemed to downright positive that they could make it all work, and on this new mobile platform that looked so promising and new, that I didn’t think I’d still be waiting for so many things.
And that’s just it. I am still waiting. For so many things. But you know what the worst of it is? It’s the fact that I’m still waiting, while a brand new entry into the mobile game is already showing Microsoft up.
Right now, if you were to go over to the Web-based Windows Phone Marketplace and do a search for Halfbrick Studios’ Jetpack Joyride, you’d find a search result that turned up no results. If you were to do a search for Gameloft’s Real Soccer, you’d get another result with an empty listing. Gameloft’s N.O.V.A series is also missing.
I chose those games because those are titles that should have launched on Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform already, like Real Soccer (any game within the series). Jetpack Joyride and N.O.V.A 3 were announced for Windows Phone 8 back in December of last year, but both of those titles are still missing. Are they still coming? Yes, but there are no finalized dates to circle on our calendars.
BlackBerry also announced Jetpack Joyride quite some time ago, and it’s currently available for the BlackBerry PlayBook. It will be launching for BlackBerry 10 soon. And, you know what? So will games like N.O.V.A. 3, Shark Dash, Real Soccer 2013, Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour, and Let’s Golf! 3. These are all titles that are currently not available on Windows Phone 8. These are all titles that, for all intents and purposes, should be on Windows Phone.
Because Windows Phone is the platform that actually features one of the largest gaming communities on the planet. Xbox LIVE is integrated into the mobile OS, and yet it seems like it’s barely a feature anymore. Which is strange, considering the attention that Microsoft gave Xbox SmartGlass, both for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. SmartGlass is a cool feature, yes, but it’s at its strongest when you’re using it with games like 343 Industries’ Halo 4, or watching a movie through Xbox Movies on your console. Xbox LIVE plays a huge, integral role in Microsoft’s future, and it’s no surprise that it is supposed to have a huge role in the Redmond-based company’s mobile plans.
And yet, I’m still bored with Windows Phone’s gaming options. It simply doesn’t stand out.
(I should point out that Jetpack Joyride is currently avaialble on BlackBerry's PlayBook right now. At the same time, it's available for Windows 8. We're just waiting for it to land on the smartphones.)
I’ve admitted in the past that Apple’s gaming presence is huge, and no one can deny that. We’ve watched as the company has put mobile gaming front-and-center at its events for iOS, and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. But we can’t count Android out anymore. Google’s mobile platform is seeing more top-tier titles, which is helped by the high-end hardware that powers those titles. It’s no secret that Windows Phone has lagged behind those two mobile operating systems, but I should not be sitting here, seriously talking about Microsoft already lagging behind BlackBerry.
I am more excited about gaming on BlackBerry’s new mobile OS, simply because BlackBerry seems to actually be paying attention to it. Even if BlackBerry doesn’t have the gaming community that Microsoft does, or even Apple, they seem to be making an effort to give users a casual gaming experience that only Apple used to be able to provide. (But one that Android is quickly gaining on.)
The silver lining? There’s a chance that these missing titles are slipped into the Windows Phone Marketplace sooner, rather than later. Even better, they could land on Microsoft’s mobile operating system before they launch on BlackBerry’s. But, there is also the other side of the coin, and there’s a chance that they don’t. There’s an equal possibility that BlackBerry sees those titles first, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone continues to stand in the shadows.
But does it matter? Does it really matter if Windows Phone doesn’t have some popular games, as long as they have others? Like Angry Birds Space, for example? Does the platform need to have them all? Or just some, or barely any? Is mobile gaming even a part of your thought process when you look at a new phone to buy? Did you buy into Microsoft’s Windows Phone thinking that the gaming support would be second-to-none? Do you think BlackBerry has a leg up on direct competition if they put additional effort into bringing games to their platform?