Xbox Live gaming (powered by XNA) was coming to Windows Phone 7 devices, but we'd yet to see any of that thumb-spraining goodness in action besides a brief demo and a few developer videos. Well, Microsoft has finally come clean with details about its launch strategy for the platform, and from where we sit, it's definitely looking pretty promising. First off, the company has announced a full list of launch titles for WP7 handsets, including some familiar names and franchises like Castlevania, Halo: Waypoint, Star Wars, Crackdown, and Guitar Hero, alongside a handful of newer properties like the ultra-cute ilomilo, produced in-house by Microsoft Game Studios. In total, the company will launch with over 60 game titles, with new offerings appearing every week in the Xbox Live Marketplace, just like its big brother console version. We've got all the details, a full list of the launch titles, and our hands-on preview after the break -- so read on to get the scoop!
We'll preface this by saying that both the hardware and software we demoed was still unfinished (the latter being the Samsung Taylor dev phone and the LG QWERTY model we broke news of on the Engadget Show). Regardless, the gameplay for the arcade titles seemed excellent, with frame rates holding fast even during graphically intensive 3D sequences (such as the chaotic, scattered-pixel play of Rocket Riot). The Harvest, while a bit familiar to our eyes, still showed the graphic promise of the platform. Gameplay was definitely well suited to a touchscreen device, though Microsoft's Kevin Unangst told us that developers could target controls for both touch and QWERTY-equipped phones (provided that a touch version was always present). The screen response seemed accurate and sensitive, reacting quickly to our input. Particularly in the Crackdown title -- a tower defense game "set in the Crackdown universe" -- pinch zooming, rotation, and finger tracking was excellent.
Besides just standard gaming, it looks like Microsoft will try and leverage some other components of the platform. In the aforementioned Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst, the game utilizes Bing maps to create levels (not unlike the PSN title The Last Guy), and logic in the software is able to recognize things like roads for enemies to make their way down. A unique concept for sure, and the kind of thinking we hope we'll see more of on this platform. Though we didn't get to see a lot of titles (we particularly would have liked to see something like Castlevania), the polish and speed of the games we played was definitely competitive with iPhone or Palm Pre gaming.