Xbox is an extremely important business for Microsoft. After years of being in the red, the Entertainment and Devices division of Microsoft, which includes activities relating to the Xbox, is starting to show glimmers of profit. As the Xbox 360 continues to age (it turns five this November), it’s important that Microsoft extend the brand to include new experiences to create new enthusiasm towards the platform and rejuvenate sales of the console, games, and accessories. Xbox Kinect is one such example, and so is Xbox LIVE on Windows Phone 7.
For years there has been speculation on whether Microsoft would extend the Xbox brand to a mobile device, similar to how Sega made the Game Gear to act as a mobile companion to their console products. With Apple and Google providing ample game development platforms on iOS and Android, there’s now formidable competition in the mobile gaming space, and that’s not including the tremendously popular Nintendo DS and upcoming 3DS, which are standalone products that have no significant ties to Nintendo’s Wii.
So instead of making a standalone gaming device that would play Xbox 360 (probably “lite”) titles and hook into the Xbox LIVE service (now 25 million members strong), Microsoft is making a huge gamble on Windows Phone 7 by associating the two brands. This could prove to be a fantastic boost to Windows Phone 7 by leveraging the tremendously well known Xbox brand, but if WP7 goes the way of the KIN and fails to gain traction, Microsoft will be unable to successfully launch an Xbox 360 mobile gaming product in the foreseeable future. Xbox on Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft’s attempt at mobile gaming.
So far, Microsoft seems to be on the right track. Games coded for Windows Phone 7 use the well-known XNA platform, a runtime environment already used by thousands of game developers. They’ve just announced 50 titles that will be available for Windows Phone 7 devices that can access the same multiplayer server that Xbox 360 owners have come to expect.
But it’s not enough that Xbox on Windows Phone 7 be good…the phone part (the hardware, the phone experience, the apps) has to be killer, which obviously remains to be seen.
Do you think Microsoft’s Xbox on mobile strategy is bound to be successful, or are you worried about their big bet on Windows Phone 7?