Will Nokia and Microsoft create a new player?

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So here is another culprit with the iPhone 4S, another one bites the dust. As someone who doesn’t really hold any allegiances to either Apple or Android and has owned both, I can’t conclusively say I prefer one or the other. They essentially both do the same things I need, and it is just a phone. I would say for everyday use the iPhone is probably more user friendly, especially with email and having arguments with Siri. But the HTC Desire was better to play around with and surf the web. Games on the other hand, they don’t really interest me on mobile phones yet, but they might in the future.

The funny thing about simply getting a new phone and changing to iOS is people made a bigger deal of it than me, like it was significant that I was shifting teams, or “turning to the darkside”. This sort of perception for rivalry between the two platforms is reminiscent of the times when it was just Nintendo and Sony in the console game, and then Microsoft came along and leveled the playing field. This is something where history may repeat itself, as the Windows Phone might take off once all the new Nokia handsets have Microsoft’s operating system.

Nokia are showcasing their first Windows Mobile Phones tomorrow at the Nokia World Event, there’s alot of questions surrounding what will be shown and Steve Bullmer has mentioned “a bunch of new devices running Windows Phone” will be unveiled. One question that interests me the most is what will Microsoft do with gaming on these new devices?

Microsoft have experience coming late to the party with the Xbox, and Nokia had it’s fair share of lessons learnt from failed platforms (N-Gage!), this puts the partnership in an interesting position at a time when the lines between portables and smartphones are blurring. Microsoft has said in the past that Windows Mobile is a gaming platform for them, but with Nokia they both have a new opportunity to shine.

It’s pretty significant for Microsoft to be in bed with Nokia, afterall Nokia used to be king of the mobile world, then Apple crashed in all guns a-blazing. But if there’s one thing Microsoft knows over Apple; it’s gaming and they already have reputable franchises to back it up. The crazy expansion of gaming on the iPhone sort of just took off by itself, Apple never invested any money into game studios for the iPhone, it seems they have an attitude of indifference. They simply provided a platform and the tools for the community, only after awhile did they care enough to hire some real guns.

If Microsoft and it’s industry “know how” could provide premium quality games and work with Nokia to get a reasonable battery life, a major issue with portable gaming (hello 3DS and Vita), it could be a real winning combo. Not to mention the possibilities Xbox Live and the Xbox brand in general can bring to the table. No one has successfully blended the mix of portable gaming and mobile phone all in one yet (Nokia already tried remember), yes you could argue that the iPhone does, but has it really? I’m sorry but the majority of games are sub-standard, the only reason people waste 99 cents on a game is to fill small gaps of time in their daily lives, like waiting for a situation not to be socially awkward or whatever else. How many people in the iPhone’s massive audience actually want to sit down and play a new release? Sure, there are some exceptions, but its no more than the amount of exceptions in the Wii’s library.

I suppose saying they’re terrible doesn’t matter, as the casual market will make money regardless, but there aren’t too many developers who look at the platform seriously yet. The price point of 99 cents is indicative of the marketing technique based around that number, they’re trying to make you feel like you’re getting more for less, but we know this enticing concept isn’t true. Obviously not every quality game is 99 cents, even if it’s $8.99, you get the point.

I don’t think gaming on the iPhone has the attention of many gamers for this reason, particularly the hardcore, and perhaps it never will because that’s not the intention. Apple emerged in an industry it didn’t really care about and accidently made it work with a micro transaction system. I don’t think they expected gaming to take off, which is evident in their attempts to adapt, such as the strangely designed game center. Its a… casino? It’s like they got two gaming industries confused.

Perhaps to make real change they need to rethink price points and perception around the platform, cheap games are nice, but you get what you pay for. This is Apple afterall; they know how to change consumer behavior if they want to. Microsoft and Nokia may be late to the table, but Apple has yet to capitalize on the significance of the iPhone/iPad in portable gaming, they’re still walking a blurry line. In this light, there might be a chance for Microsoft and Nokia to have an impact with purpose.

Geek Gamer Hybrid, writer, graphics guy, soccer player, music lover and other adjectives.

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