Windows Phone 7 – Xbox LIVE On The Go!

by on August 18, 2011

As a long term iPhone user, and someone who loves gaming, it’s hard to think that another mobile phone device could come along and change the way I think about gaming on the go, but the Windows Phone 7 (or in this case the Samsung Omnia 7) has done exactly that.

If you’d like a more technical review of the Samsung Omnia 7, you can read Calvin Robinson’s review at our sister site, Sporkings.com by clicking here.

Ignoring the fact that the Omnia 7 is a fairly average looking phone (albeit with a stunning display) the biggest draw to any Windows Phone 7 (WP7) device has to be the Xbox LIVE integration, and what it means to the user, as a gamer. We’ve all seen the adverts, but when using the device itself, it is a shock to discover that the advertisement renderings that would normally be assumed to be over-the-top, are in fact very true.

Before you grab a free update, the Xbox LIVE integration is decent, if not spectacular. But after you download the aforementioned update (it’s free, why wouldn’t you?) it becomes a whole new ball game. Avatars, achievements, friends list – it is all there just as if you were on your Xbox 360 or accessing Xbox.com via a PC.

The best thing about it though, especially if you are a gamerscore fan, is that the games you can purchase have the achievement system built in. This is why you may have noticed your friends having achievements for Angry Birds in their list – they aren’t playing some super early elite build of an unreleased game, they are just playing it on their Windows Phone 7!

The benefit of having a slick, speedy Samsung Omnia 7 is that Xbox LIVE works at an excellent pace, no slowdown, and is in actual fact quicker than using the “real” Xbox LIVE on an Xbox 360! Getting friend requests via your WP7 never stops feeling amazing, and checking what your friends are playing is so simple and efficient, it’s hard not to be utterly impressed by the service.

Any gaming device lives or dies by its software though, and sadly the only free title to date (in Europe, in the USA there are regular free games on a rotation basis) is a simple match-type game called Flowerz. Luckily though, the benefit of being an iPhone user comes into play, and it is immediately obvious which games will require a purchase; Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, that kind of thing.

Sadly, if you’re used to the iOS App Store, you’ll be very disappointed by the pricing:

  • Angry Birds – £2.29
  • Plants vs. Zombies – £3.99
  • Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 – £5.49
  • Pac-Man Championship Edition – £5.49
  • Doodle Jump – £2.29
  • Full House Poker (No Multiplayer though) – £2.29
  • iBlast Moki – £2.29
  • Pac-Man – £3.99
  • Fruit Ninja – £2.29
  • Guitar Hero – £5.49

Now, before you start jumping up and down let us remember one thing. These prices are in accordance with the Xbox LIVE service as we know it. If you measure the price of (for example) Pac-Man CE up against it’s Xbox LIVE Arcade (on Xbox 360) counterpart, it is priced correctly. Is it possible that we’ve just been spoiled with the iOS App Store price points? Apple most certainly think so, having recently raised their price points.

Whatever way you look at it though, gaming on WP7 is not as cheap as the devices it is competing with, and this is a shame – but something that can be ironed out with time. It’s also worth mentioning that when you buy a game you are getting the complete Xbox LIVE package, with achievements and LIVE integration. Whether or not that is enough is a decision only the individual end user can decide, but personally, I rather struggled with the transition from a 69p average cost, to nearer the £3 mark.

It’s not all rosy though, as with the Xbox LIVE integration we also see Zune on the device. It seems that, just as with the app pricing, the Zune suffers from being slightly newer than its competitors, and in the UK there is no “Podcast” section whatsoever on the Zune marketplace, which is very disappointing given that in North America there are some Podcasts being commissioned exclusively for Zune. You can grab podcasts, but not without entering the feed URL for the podcasts, whereas in the USA there is a dedicated Podcast section.

When it comes to non-gaming apps, the bases are well covered. Just like with iOS, it is a veritable minefield of choices, and I went through 3-4 Twitter apps before settling on the one that I felt comfortable with, but even then – the app didn’t fulfill my needs the way the official Twitter app for iOS does. At the risk of repeating myself, yet again this feels like something that needs to be addressed, and will be with time.

Overall, a Windows Phone 7 is a tremendous option for gamers after a mobile phone to meet their needs. At the moment though, a lot of the functionality, whilst excellent, feels as though it is at an early stage. People wishing to jump in at an early stage (compared to alternative devices at this stage) could do a lot worse than grabbing a Samsung Omnia 7, but the cold hard truth is that it is an incredibly competitive market out there, and in these times of financial strife, the thrifty gamer will have to think long and hard as to whether the Xbox LIVE integration is truly worth the additional cost.