Why Windows Phone 7 Needs a Dedicated Gaming Device

Last week, Microsoft (s msft) said it has no plans to launch a dedicated platform for mobile gaming, with one executive adding the Windows Phone 7 is “[the company’s] mobile platform for games.” But to gain a real edge in gaming, Microsoft needs to offer a device that appeals to both casual and console-type gamers, and to do that, it will have to offer more game-friendly hardware alongside its new OS.

Microsoft already has almost all the factors in place to tap an exploding mobile gaming business. The company has done a good job in attracting the attention of app developers, and there’s no denying that the 23 million-plus Xbox Live users could be an enormous competitive advantage in the superphone era. And Microsoft has the brand name and deep pockets to make sure consumers know about Windows Phone 7.

But as far as gaming goes, the Windows Phone doesn’t offer the sophisticated controls and features that make hardware devices like the Nintendo DSi and Sony’s PSP so compelling to hardcore gamers. Touchscreens are great for casual titles like Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, but they’re tough to use for, say, a first-person shooter or a high-action football game. A true gaming phone needs at least a half-dozen raised keys that are easy to use. The device must be easier to grip and control with two hands than a smartphone, and it should sport a screen of at least 4.3 inches. Finally, a gaming phone should rock one of the dual-core processors that are just beginning to come to market and can deliver a faster, more immersive gaming experience.

I’ve questioned Microsoft’s decision to focus on gamers at the expense of the business users that had been the company’s bread and butter in mobile. But Microsoft is clearly gambling that Windows Phone can compete with Andriod (s goog) and iOS (s appl) by appealing to gamers. For that gamble to pay off, it will need to support the platform with some devices that are better for playing games. For more reasons Microsoft should consider a dedicated gaming device, read my column at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image source: Flickr user jontintinjordan.

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