The phone will have a dedicated games “hub”, showcasing some of the best new mobile gaming titles available, and will feature free demos and multiplayer gaming, as well as pulling in a user’s console-based Xbox Live profile, complete with avatar and achievements.
Major publishers and developers, including Gameloft, PopCap and Konami, have thrown their weight behind Microsoft’s mobile gaming platform.
Matt Booty, general manager of mobile gaming at Microsoft Game Studio, said the launch of Windows Phone 7 was also the launch of a “major mobile gaming platform” for Microsoft.“Just like we’ve done with the Xbox 360, our charter is to push the envelope and deliver definitive games that maximize the platform,” he said.
Microsoft’s new mobile operating system will be available on a number of handsets later this year, including touch-screen devices from the likes of HTC and LG.
Microsoft has been keen to emphasise the tight integration between the Windows Phone 7 platform and other Microsoft services, such as its Xbox Live gaming portal, and privately believes it could help to wrest the portable gaming initiative from Apple, which has enjoyed huge success with on-the-go gaming on its iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
It would also help it to compete directly with the mobile offerings of rivals Sony and Nintendo; Sony’s latest PlayStation Portable has sold solidly, if modestly, while Nintendo’s DS range of hand-held gaming devices have proved enduringly popular.
“We believe that no matter where life takes you, the best in gaming and entertainment should follow,” said Marc Whittten, corporate vice president of Xbox Live, at the Gamescom video games expo in Cologne.
“Windows Phone 7 takes a different approach to hand-held gaming, utilising Xbox Live and leading game publishers and independent developers to create powerful, shared experiences for everyone.”
However, industry experts were sceptical as to whether the tie-up between Xbox Live and Windows Phone 7 really constituted a new era in mobile gaming.
"Most of these titles are also available on the iPhone," said Jonathan Leggett, news editor of mobile phone comparison site Top10.com.
"That means Microsoft's chances of competing with Apple's handset will depend heavily on its ability to port Xbox Live games to the Windows Marketplace, preferably through an Xbox Live app store created specifically for the platform."