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The PocketGamer.biz Mobile Gaming Mavens on Microsoft's almighty gamble

Winning with Windows 8?

The PocketGamer.biz Mobile Gaming Mavens on Microsoft's almighty gamble

The PocketGamer.biz Mobile Mavens is our panel of experts drawn from all sectors of the mobile gaming industry.

Having got all in a flurry about Apple's iPad mini reveal, the following week saw Microsoft launch Surface, with Windows 8 rolling out across PCs at the same time.

Surface is no ordinary tablet, however. Coming equipped with the same app store that sits on Windows 8 PCs, Microsoft is looking to navigate around the major hurdle every iPad rival faces at launch: a small roster of apps.

So, we asked the Mavens:

Do consumers want to play the same games across their tablets and their PCs at home or work, and how will the knowledge a game could be played on either format change the way a developer approaches it?

In short, is bringing its PC business into play a genius move by Microsoft, or is it attempting to marry two markets that simply don't go together?

 

Alex Bubb Head of Partner Management and Marketing Microsoft Mobile

An innovative and passionate senior marketing leader with a track record over 16 years driving propositions and brand development client-side for leading companies including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Electronic Arts, T-Mobile, Sony, and Canon.

Okay. This should be fun.

It's not all about leveraging the install base of Microsoft PCs. It's about building new opportunities and innovations from a genuinely fresh consumer experience - the OS, whether on mobile, tablet or PC, speaks to a new generation.

It is a genuinely more personal, fun and alive than any other OS before it. Now also with great developer tools and support from leading middleware partners.

Of course, the fact that millions of users will now also experience this via their PC, Surface, or Killer Nokia hardware won't do it any harm.

2013 looks extremely bright for the Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 games ecosystem - both Xbox and non-Xbox partners. Looking forward to it.

Oscar Clark Chief Strategy Officer Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

I think from a strategy point of view its hard to question Alex's response. I do believe there are new opportunities and innovations coming because of Windows 8.

But we can't ignore the history.

Windows 8 comes from a very different Microsoft than even five years ago. Apple and Google have taken the markets that Microsoft (and Nokia) once dominated into new directions and Windows 8 is only just catching up.

However, there seems to me to be a new self-knowledge and willingness to listen to consumers at the heart of the platform which I find appealing. Especially if Microsoft can leverage its Xbox experience in terms of content and design.

The jury is still out... but so far I think both Surface and the OS show great promise.

David Helgason Founder/CEO Unity Technologies

Of course it's Microsoft's job to make the platforms runaway successes to guarantee that developers really want to build games for them.

However, we here at Unity have committed to them to, so at least there's a guarantee of a solid supply of games.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

Is it significant that all the responses so far have mainly been from people either directly involved with Microsoft, or companies who have partnered with it?

The silence from our normally fiercely independent game devs is deafening.

We know that the games people play differ by device platform due mainly to the usage patterns of those devices, but as mobile devices become more powerful, convergence in gamer behaviour becomes more realistic.

Take, for example, PopCap; it has taken a PC experience, re-worked it to mobile, then to Facebook and console. It's possible to have a great experience with these games regardless of the platform you choose to play them on.

However, these experiences are not unified - my game state, progress, achievements etc are not synced or connected in any way. That's where gaming will go next; that's the possibility presented by Microsoft's unification of its desktop and mobile OS.

Plus, there's some nice innovation going on with SmartGlass, and I've heard some interesting arguments in the past couple of weeks that it's the Xbox, not the PC, that is the real future hub of a Microsoft experience in the home.

And through the investment in Xbox and the acquisitions of Rare, Bungie and Lionhead, Microsoft has built an impressive first party publishing business that has lots of scope to experiment and expand across any Microsoft-enabled device.

That's the optimist's view. The pessimist in me thinks of the massive cock-ups continually made by companies which, from the outside, seem to have all the ingredients for building an amazingly unified approach, but because of internal silos, egos and short-sightedness, fail to do what seems obvious.

Look at Sony - it took it the best part of 10 years to understand the opportunity of the PlayStation brand on mobile, and then it still appears to want to commit commercial suicide by launching the Vita.

I'd like to see Microsoft adding to the innovation and creativity we have in the games industry, and I still look back to my days at Macrospace and Glu at the birth of this industry and remember the incredible help and support we had from Nokia, so I know what is possible.

But developers need to trust and believe in what they create - and, as I have said, the silence in this thread from devs seems a bit ominous to me. Launching an Angry Birds app does not make a platform into a gaming success story.

Alex Bubb Head of Partner Management and Marketing Microsoft Mobile

An innovative and passionate senior marketing leader with a track record over 16 years driving propositions and brand development client-side for leading companies including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Electronic Arts, T-Mobile, Sony, and Canon.

While I wouldn't want to call John's Angry Birds app comment "cheap", I would suggest the app is illustrative of an important "discoverability" and "engagement" issue here that Windows Phone 8 has addressed.

A Rovio customer now can seamlessly pin a live tile to his home screen and receive notifications on his lock screen to stay up to date with his favourite game, franchise or developer – as well as buy new games.

It's personal, user centric. adds value and is a good example of how developers can re-think their app marketing strategies to build a loyal following.

I'd argue that's a great step in the right direction.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

Alex, that is indeed a lovely feature for the 10-20 publishers with enough brand awareness and marketing pull to sustain this kind of news and content feed. However, I'd argue that this approach actually narrows discoverability as it creates an exclusive feed 'mindset' in the consumer.

We all know that a major discoverability issue is the fact that every app listing based on downloads or popularity reinforces those games which are already popular. Every advert I see on television for a mobile phone or tablet shows Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, or a similarly well-known app.

As was the discussion in this group a couple of weeks ago, no app store appears to be doing discoverability or recommendation perfectly. That's the bigger opportunity here - to help consumers find content that's new and relevant to them.

Will all due respect, I can create a Google alert or RSS feed from any game publisher or game franchise I like already, and developers of the apps I love can contact me via push messages, Facebook, Twitter, or their own digital loyalty/marketing schemes. I don't see having that function on my desktop in addition as groundbreaking.

Alex Bubb Head of Partner Management and Marketing Microsoft Mobile

An innovative and passionate senior marketing leader with a track record over 16 years driving propositions and brand development client-side for leading companies including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Electronic Arts, T-Mobile, Sony, and Canon.

Fortunately the new games store classifications have also been implemented with discoverability in mind – "New and Rising" and "Picks For You" should help breakthrough titles.

While, again, not revolutionary ideas, "Picks For You" in particular really works well, making the smart recommendations on what you or your close friends have downloaded or 'liked' on social networks - it also tells you transparently why they are being recommended to you.

I really do think it's fair to say that there are many smart steps forward on Windows Phone 8.

Scott Foe Chief Product Officer Ignited Artists

"My favourite dinosaur is the stegosaurus, 'cause it has those cool Finns on its back."

Sorry. Couldn't hold it in any longer.

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

Few people talking about Microsoft's vision of uniting tablet and PC gamers with Windows 8.

I'd be interested to know whether people think they're compatible audiences.

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative

The traditional view is that PC gamers are your hardcore gamers - maybe even more hardcore than a console gamer. I think these gamers are actually well represented in the tablet market.

They obviously can't get their World Of Warcraft fix on a tablet yet, but I do believe many of them own tablets and smart phones and use them for gaming.

In addition to that, I think that hardcore definition of a PC gamer doesn't account for all PC gamers.

Browser based gaming is PC gaming. Facebook gaming is PC gaming. So I think there is actually a pretty huge existing casual gaming market on the PC.

Most casual users flock to browser based social games because of the ease of access. You don't have to buy and install your game from a disk, you don't have to track down the steam app, install it, then look for a game, install it, then get around to playing it. With the browser it's all right there.

These are huge barriers that prevent the larger casual market from trying more digital download games and I think the Windows 8 app store will address these issues.

In some ways, I think discovering new content in a Windows 8 app store will be a lot easier than finding a good new Facebook game. The Windows Store will be constantly in your face and it will be pretty easy to download a new game and try it out.

As far as actually uniting tablet and PC gamers, Microsoft needs some kind of iCloud function that can sync your app states between all your devices and your pc. Hopefully they take the idea of iCloud and advance is a couple notches. iCloud is great but games support it in different ways or not at all.

I think iCloud should actually work in the background and be automatic. If I am playing an RPG on my desktop, I should be able to move over to my tablet and resume where I left off.

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

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