LAS VEGAS – No matter where you went on the Microsoft stand at CES very near you there was always a console, a mobile phone and a big screen television. The company now wants games developers to take the ‘three screens’ baton and run with it.
At first glance there didn’t appear to be anything brand new at Microsoft’s stand. But appearances can be deceiving. There was the Xbox 360’s Kinect, which has sold some 8m devices in its first 60 days. There as the Windows Phone 7 which has sold 1.5m devices less than 60 days, and there was a feisty statement of intent for internet gaming with Age of Empires Online.
Combine these three platforms together in terms of the device in your pocket, the PC at home or work and the TV in your living room and you realise the software giant has positioned itself at the nexus of digital living.
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Pointing to Steve Ballmer’s revelation of Kinect Avatar on Wednesday, which captures the users’ facial expressions and gestures and allows groups of friends to conference via their Xbox 360, Microsoft’s Peter Orullian explained that the software giant is hard at work developing what is termed the ‘connected tissue’ between platforms like consoles and phones.
“Today if you are playing an Xbox 360 game that also exists in PC format you can see all your achievements and gamer scores in your profile and there’s no difference between PC and console. You can send a friend a message from your PC and it would appear on their TV screen if they are playing a console version of the same game.
“Well we are doing the same thing with your mobile phone. You can look at the screen or a friend’s Profile and see if they are currently gaming.”
Moving forward Orullian said that there’s no reason why a user can’t use their Microsoft to buy games or add-ons across their mobile, their TV or their PC.
“At the moment you can use points to buy games on your console or PC. This is not available for Windows Phone 7 but you can see the path we are on.
“Age of Empires Online is an internet game but you only need one profile and you can take it anywhere and play it on your TV, your PC or your phone.”
Physical gaming across the three screens
With Kinect’s focus on the physical, I put it to Orullian that there should be no reason if you are playing a sports or fitness game that the motion sensors in a mobile device shouldn’t continue to play a role in the game if for example the user is going for a jog.
“Over the next few years the use of mobile phones to affect gameplay when you’re out and about is going to grow and grow. We’re in a good position with that ‘connected tissue’ that you can aggregate to your profile.
“We’ve done the plumbing and now it’s up to the developers to come up with new gaming concepts that combine the physical with all the other capabilities that a mobile device brings to the fore.
“Some very savvy developers are going to interweave the Kinect with what your mobile phone can do and you’re right there are great opportunities for motion games.
“We really are on the cusp of a lot of innovation,” Orullian said.