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WP7 games are good, but nothing special yet

by Howard Wolinsky

Gaming apps are a major force driving smartphone growth and popularity. They make up the largest category of apps for iPhone and are growing for Android phones.

But what about games for Windows Phone 7?

Looking good, but could be better, according to Jason Cross in PC World.

He says that Microsoft (MSFT), which will launch WP7 in North America on November 8, has emphasized gaming apps in its new ecosystem, integrating Xbox Live and taking advantage of its relationships with the top guns in the gaming industry to include hit titles.

WP7 will offer about 1,000 apps initially, with about a quarter of them being games.

But Cross describes this as a limited presence in the face of the Apple (AAPL) iPhone juggernaut. He says this “is probably the worst part about gaming on Windows Phone 7 right now. If Apple is the new king of mobile gaming with the iPhone, Microsoft clearly has a lot of catching up to do.”

Small selection to start

WP7 doesn’t have some of the popular phone games, such as Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and Plants vs. Zombies. But Cross notes reasonable substitutes can be found for WP7 and the new WP7 has good versions of Flight Control, The Sims 3 and Tetris.

Mike Vang at TopTechReviews says game apps may be the best thing Microsoft can do for smartphones because of its vast experience in gaming.

He says: “The overall (WP7) model of gaming is far superior to that of the other platforms. Trial versions of popular titles on Windows Phone 7 work as a full version.” Prices for some WP7 games in the Windows Phone Marketplace are higher than their identical iPhone versions, Cross notes.

But will more game developers opt to join the WP7 party and port over their games?

Cross says, “If Apple and Google remain overwhelmingly dominant, Microsoft will find it hard to persuade developers to support the new platform.”