UberGeekGames' Ian Nicolades on why Windows Phone 7 is destined to take top spot

Driving developer favour

UberGeekGames' Ian Nicolades on why Windows Phone 7 is destined to take top spot
One of the pleasant surprises of the Windows Phone 7 launch has been the access Microsoft has provided for small indie developers.

No doubt, well aware of how thousands of startups have created a vibrant iOS gaming scene, it's proactively entered the market, encouraging existing Xbox Live Arcade developers to create their debut mobile games, while also paying to get high profile games ported from other mobile platforms.

And it's this approach - combined with the big ammunition of licences such as Fable and Crackdown - that UberGeekGames founder Ian Nicolades – who has just released the Pong-style A Game of Tennis on Windows Marketplace - believes will eventually win the day for Microsoft.

We probed Ian on how he sees Windows Phone 7 turning the tide against Apple and Android in the years to come.

PocketGamer: How do you think WP7 has been received?

Ian Nicolades: It's hard to say whether it's a representative slice of the market or not, but everyone I've shown my Windows Phone off to has absolutely loved it and put it at the top of their list for their next phone.

The developers I know feel the same, and every electronics store I walk into has sales people pushing WP7. I'd say it's been received pretty well, and if you've used one it's easy to see why - there's just nothing else like it on the market.

How did you get involved in developing for the platform?

We had been developing for the Xbox 360 with XNA for some time, so when WP7 was unveiled with its cross-platform capabilities thanks to XNA, it was a no brainer to support it.

We essentially get another platform to release on, with just a tiny, tiny bit of overhead to support it as the code is 99 percent identical. It's pretty incredible when you think about it.


How are you finding the marketplace?

I've only submitted one simple app - A Game of Tennis - but it was extremely straightforward and clear. As we don't have first hand experience with the other app stores, I can't comment on how they compare, except that so far there are far fewer horror stories about being stuck in perpetual review limbo, unclear failure reasons, etc.

What sort of download numbers are you seeing so far?

Since our main projects aren't yet released, it's hard to say. I don't publicly share sales data, but I will say that A Game of Tennis is selling more than I had expected for such a new platform.


What is the platform like to work with?

It's programmer heaven. C# and XNA is simply the best set of developer tools I've used, and I've dabbled in pretty much everything - BASIC, C/C++, Objective-C, and game engines such as Torque. Being able to flip a switch and immediately recompile for PC, Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7 is simply amazing.

The only real weaknesses we've encountered are due to it being a managed language. Occasionally it would make things easier to have direct memory access – for example, to ease content loading times due to garbage collection - but the pros overwhelmingly outweigh the cons.

Do you think Windows Phone 7's emphasis on games is an advantage?

Absolutely. The horsepower behind the phones outclasses everything else on the market, and the games that are coming out are starting to prove it.

Being a heavy gamer myself, being able to earn Achievements on my phone is a huge plus. Once we start seeing titles that tightly integrate with Live with multiplayer, the already sizeable gap between the competition will only widen.

Do you think the number of smartphones available is a help or a hindrance?

I don't think it's overcrowded, but I do think that one platform will likely emerge as the leader for both developers and consumers. Right now it's iPhone, just because of its popularity compared to its competition. As Android chips away at it, and shows consumers that there are viable alternatives to iPhone, I think it will only help WP7.

Going forward, if I look at the platform that gives us the maximum return on our development time, right now it's clearly WP7. We can write a single game - much faster than we could in other languages, I might add - and immediately release it on three separate markets compared to one.

I think that more and more developers will see this, and that in turn will lead to more and higher quality software for WP7 compared to other platforms, which will eventually lead to a general shift towards WP7.

What improvements do you think Microsoft could make?Honestly, it's done a fantastic job on version 1.0. I've been using mine as my main phone ever since I could get one in the US, and it blows my iPhone out of the water in every single way.

The only improvements I'd ask for are a few bits of polish bits - like the option to change the shutter volume on the camera app, or the ability to use custom ringtones. On the developer side, custom shaders are really the only thing I've missed, though I wouldn't say no to unsafe code access for using pointers for extremely performance-critical code.

Do you have more plans for the platform?

Absolutely. Like I said, it's so easy to port between platforms that there's no reason not to support it, and we're extremely excited for WP7's future.
Thanks to Ian for his time.

You can check out what UberGeekGames gets up to via its website

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.