It's been about a week since my commentary was posted, I thougt it was time for me to respond to some of the replies. Here are my comments in no particular order.
First, it's great to see the general support of gaming on Pocket PC's and Smartphones. They really are great games machines.
Let me just say I have nothing against dedicated gaming machines such as the Game Boy. In fact, I just got a Game Boy Advance. I'm a huge fan of Advance Wars. You guys are right, most of the GBA games are awesome compared to Pocket PC and Smartphone game (at least in terms of game play, not always in terms of graphics.) The reason isn't the hardware or the inability of the designers or coders, it's simply that you can't sell enough games on the PPC and Smartphone to justify the development cost that would be needed to match the games on GBA. These games are not cheap to produce. We're putting a lot into Lands of Shadowgate our multiplayer game on Pocket PC and Smartphone!
My point was that I don't think that this will be very everyone. Nintendo has sold a huge number of Game Boy's (100m+) and will probably continue to do so. However, compared to the phone business this is small. Last year 500m phones were sold worldwide. Most people would be perfectly happy with a phone that played games.
Personally I'd own both and play games on which ever I had a available at the time or whichever had the games I wanted to play.
Regarding XNA. I don't think that Microsoft's announcements about XNA mean that they won't be doing a handheld gaming machine. In fact, their point with XNA has been that it will help with cross-platform development from Xbox to PC to Windows CE/Mobile. There's no real reason they couldn't add XBoy to that list. (That name has been used by a number of authors to refer to a fictional Microsoft handheld gaming machine. I have no more insight on this than anyone else.)
I agree with the various people who said that the controls and feel of a gaming machine are critical. The Game Boy Advanced SP feels great. It has all the right buttons in the familiar and comfortable spaces. If anything Pocket PC designers seem to have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot. Why would you make a navigation control that doesn't recognize diagonals or multiple button presses. I think only the Casion Pocket PC's have ever done a good job with this and they're not in the business any more. (BTW, it's not like the Palm devices do any better. Take a look at the buttons on a Clie or Palm Zire sometime!)
However, this isn't hard to solve. If Microsoft just made these elements part of the spec for the Pocket PC and Smartphone all the devices would be somewhat gamer friendly, certainly better than they are today.
I'd like to also say I agree with the people who feel that Microsoft could bring out a high-end handheld gaming device to compete with the Sony PSP. I don't disagree, they could. It's going to be interesting to see what price the PSP ships for next year. It could be expensive, e.g. $200-$300 after all it's quite the piece of hardware according to rumors (we'll all know more this week as I'm sure they reveal details at E3) At that price it will be a while before they see sales in the 25m+ range. Yes, gamers will pay almost anything for a decent game machine but these devices only sell more than 25m when they get below $150-$200.
To repeat the point, a really good game enabled phone could sell 100m+ in a year. This would give us a good size market and the ability to do great original games! We can't as long as the market remains so small.
This leads to the readers point about exclusive titles. You're right I should have touched upon this. Microsoft hasn't to date done much in the way of gaming on the Pocket PC or Smartphone itself (Cubicle Chaos, please!) If it did and the rumors seem to point that way for next year, this would help a great deal. It would bring credibility to the idea of these devices for gaming. Having said that I think that evern Microsoft would start with conversions of their existing games before going to original games.
Regarding the price of phones and getting a phone for free. Of course there is no such thing as a free lunch and you're really paying for the phone. However, a lot of people are happy with the idea of paying an extra amount on there phone bill each month for a year or two than having to dish out $200-$300 at once.
I agree with the people who like the Zodiac! The guys at Tapwave did a great job of turning a Palm device into a game machine. This is now what Microsoft should look to do. The only problem with the Zodiac is the price, it's way too high. They need to lower the price, eat the losses and make it up by charging a small royalty for games. The market would be much bigger and even though we'd be paying something to Tapwave we'd win in the end by selling more to a larger market. Microsoft will almost certainly learn from this. They usually do.
The Gizmondo looks promising but here's the problem. I'm a game publisher, we've got 10 games for the Pocket PC, four for the Smartphone and more coming. You'd think they'd want to talk to me, right? I've tried several times to contat them by phone and by email and NEVER received a SINGLE response. I don't get it. They may ship a cool device but I don't know what games will be available unless it plays all our games with no changes and they're just playing it close to their chest. Again, my concern is with price, it will probably be too high for most people. We'll know more about this one too next week, it looks like they have a booth at E3 too (For those of you who don't know, E3, or the Electronic Entertainment Expo. is THE annual trade show for the gaming industry) I'll be there, I'll post something if it looks like it's for real.
Let's keep this discussion going here and elsewhere. If you want great games on your Pocket PC and Smartphone, support great games. We can do some really innovative stuff (sign up for the Lands of Shadowgate beta and see for yourself www.landsofshadowgate.com
) but only with the support of the Microsoft, the manufacturers and game players!