Interesting article today in Business Week about Microsoft's vision of how casual games are going to get integrated together throughout their consumer products and services. I love this whole area, and its interesting to hear about their strategy:
Our approach with mobile games will be similar to our approach with Xbox Live Arcade games [casual games, designed for people who aren't hardcore gamers and available for download onto the Xbox console] and with MSN Games.
We plan to make our own casual mobile games, but we also plan to aggregate games [made by others]. It would be foolish of us to think that we can make all the best games in the world. Our primary focus is on the player. And so in order to provide the best experience possible, we're going to pull all the best games from around the world together. ...
What we want to do is to offer the mobile community access to games that they're familiar with -- that they've played on MSN Games or the Xbox -- on a mobile device. What will also be key to the Microsoft mobile-gaming experience is that you'll be able to be part of the Microsoft gaming community whether you're on your PC or your Xbox or your mobile phone.
What we're looking to do from a casual-games standpoint is let people have one game experience across any device where Microsoft software works, be it the Xbox, their PC, or their cell phone. They will have one gaming identity on all those devices. They'll be able to play across all those devices.
You can imagine playing chess on your mobile phone -- it has a certain look to it -- but your opponent is actually on the Xbox and is seeing much more advanced, three-dimensional graphics and sounds.
Having played Hexic for a while on the new 360, I have to say that it's as cool as is to be expected from the creator of the best casual game ever created, so these guys have some heavy hitters on their team who are going to be able to create cool new content. Though honestly, being able to play "hearts" on your Windows machine, XBox and mobile would probably be just as compelling for many people. Customizing your virtual car from your mobile phone will probably apeal to some as well, though definitely not as many, but I grok the concept.
However, I am completely down on the idea of Microsoft Points. Might as well call them "flooz" or "beenz", it's just a bad idea IMHO. I don't want to keep track of my points, I want to keep track of my real money. Everyone does - any other system is just a scam to make us confused about how much money we're really spending. This is such an American invention: like "minutes" on your mobile phone bill. The rest of the world is charged in real money for minues (like on pre-pay phones), but American companies just can't seem to resist screwing with their customers this way.
Anyways, this is the third post about Microsoft in a while, must be the XBox buzz seeping in... I'll have to post about that as well, then I'll be done for a while with MS.