Gaming on Windows Phone 8: One of the Big Surprises MS Has In Store?

Microsoft is being pretty tight-lipped about the new features they'll be unveiling in Windows Phone 8. The reason, i think, is twofold. They were burned a little after announcing the Mango update, with other platforms integrating some of the nicer features either before or shortly after it's release & I feel transitioning to the new kernel took a little longer then they planned. Now that we're about a month away from Microsoft revealing all the goodies Windows Phone 8 will bring, I think gaming is set to be one of the "killer updates" they will announce.

This post actually comes from a comment I made on the Let's talk about "console quality" gaming on Surface and Windows Phone 8 post a few days ago. I thought I'd do some poking around and see what was confirmed for Windows Phone 8 on the gaming front.

Here's everything I could dig up & my thoughts on what else we could see.

Formal Announcements

It's easy to forget (as the speakers were utterly forgettable), but back at the Windows Phone 8 Summit they spent a decent amount of time on gaming for the platform. The big features were Native Code & Direct X 11. With these two features, any game made for the PC or XBox could, in theory, be easily ported to the Windows Phone platform. The videos below highlight these. In the first video Kevin Gallo talks about native code & commitments Microsoft has from middleware vendors (skip to 13:15). The second is Andrew Bowell From Havok highlighting their development platform.

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Some of the companies providing native code development tools are Havok, Autodesk, AudioKinect & F-Mod. Microsoft also announced support from Gameloft who is bringing their N.O.V.A. & Asphalt series to the platform. They also produce titles like Wild Blood & Modern Combat which should logically make it over as well.

Support from Big Fish Games was also announced. They publish almost two hundred games for the iPhone & iPad. While it consists of mostly hidden object, time management (think Sally's Spa) & "Jewel Quest" type matching games, the catalog should add a large number of quality casual games to the platform.

Unity, another great game development tool, and also announced Windows Phone 8 support at their Unite 2012 conference. They claim to have a working port of the popular game ShadowGun from Madfinger Games already running on Windows Phone. Watch the keynote below. The Windows Phone 8 mention is around the 40:47 mark.

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Unity could be big for Windows Phone. Thousands of developers use their engine to make games for PC, XBox, PS3, iOS and other platforms. I had a quick conversation with a Unity Dev in the comments section of the post that led me to write this article. If this is the attitude of most, than things are looking good for Windows Phone.

Windows RT games and the trickledown theory

There are some pretty exciting going on in regard to Windows RT gaming as well. With Windows Phone 8 sharing a lot of core components with RT, there is no reason the following technologies can't come to phones.

Unreal Engine

Unreal has demoed the full PC version of their gaming engine running on Windows RT. In the video below, you can see just how smoothly it's running on RT devices. The detail, lighting & shadows look great too. Games like Infinity Blade, Batman:Arkham City & Mass Effect are all made with the Unreal engine. Checkout the demo.

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There are also some great demos of multi-player over LTE and graphically rich games running on the Snapdragon S4.

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Though the games in the second video are being played on Android tablets, I thought it was important to note that it was showcasing the same Snapdragon S4 (MSM8960) SoC that is in the Lumina & HTC 8 series windows phones, as well as games using the Unity engine and published by Gameloft, both confirmed for Windows Phone.

Based on what I've seen, just about anything that can be done on Windows RT devices can easily be scaled down to the WP8 space. With the Microsoft's push to unify experiences across PC, XBox, tablet & phone, this should bode well for gaming on WP8.

TL;DR Summary

10 second version: While at first glance it might seem we know little about what gaming on Windows Phone 8, the inclusion of Native Code, Direct X 11, broad support from middleware vendors & game publishers, a plethora of existing XBox games just waiting to be ported, XBL integration, & multi-core processors running the show, gaming on WP8 should be exponentially better.

What do you think Tribesmen? Will MS have some great games hiding behind the curtain when they reveal all next month?

My money's on yes.

update

I just remembered this ad that I pulled from Tom Warren's old site (as good as the Verge is, I still miss WinRumors Tom.).

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I remember thinking how cool it would be to participate in XBox games from the phone.

Anyone think we may see something like this when WP8 launches?