Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 (and the upcoming Windows Phone 8 ) have always been incredibly interesting platforms to watch for those of us into smartphone gaming. Just like Web OS, I really don’t see Microsoft building up enough steam to become a serious competitor to either iOS or Android. However, also like Web OS, Windows Phone 7 and 8 are home to a whole host of cool features that I (likely somewhat foolishly) have my fingers crossed in hopes that they eventually dribble down into iOS somehow. Specifically, the way Windows Phone 7 integrates Facebook is really slick, and I promise if you spend some time with one of the devices you’ll find yourself saying, “Huh, that’s neat" several times. Adding Nokia hardware to the mix only makes things more interesting, although, again, we’ll have to wait and see how the market reacts.
Sadly, one potential nail in Windows Phone 7’s gaming coffin is the complete lack of Unity support. In a recent interview with Develop, Unity CEO David Helgason explained that Unity won’t be making its way to Windows Phone 7 due to the closed nature of the platform, although support for Windows Phone 8 is being looked at. Windows Phone apps and games need to be either be based on XNA or Silverlight, and getting Unity on the devices would require an exemption to this rule, which Microsoft has decided against.
Just like Web OS, Windows Phone has seemed to be a promising candidate in turning this two horse smartphone OS race into a three horse one, but I’m not sure that’s possible without Unity, as the engine has become a major player in mobile gaming. When you look at the best games of the Android marketplaces, they’re almost all utilizing Unity. Take those away, and, well, you’ve got the Windows Phone Market.
I could get up on my soap box here and go on about how competition breeds innovation and all that jazz, but I think we’re all well aware of that. In today’s market, third party apps are vital to the success of any mobile OS, and it’s sad to see Microsoft taking this approach with Unity. Windows Phone owning gamers are losing out, as are developers that have existing Unity projects that could be quickly and easily ported to the platform- Especially since quick and easy porting is among the greatest strengths of Unity.