Here’s something that feels quite strange: we’ve been talking to Microsoft about porting some of our games to Windows 8.
Yes, that Microsoft.
I have to admit that, until yesterday, I thought this would involve putting our touchscreen mobile games onto the latest Windows-based phones and tablets. Apparently assuming that Windows Phone 8 has anything to do with Windows 8 is a big mistake.
That’s despite Microsoft grabbing our attention through their aggressive targeting of developers through mobile-oriented events like Apps World and Mobile Monday. Despite their claims in the most recent talk we saw of being able to “write once, deploy everywhere”. Despite the thunder of Nokia’s recent announcement of the shiny new Lumia range, which boasts:
Powered by Windows 8, each tile gives you instant access to your favourite apps, contacts, Facebook, emails and tweets on your homescreen.
Decide for yourself whether referring to the totally separate Windows Phone 8 operating system as simply Windows 8 is laziness, or seeded misinformation designed to confuse you into thinking that your phone is going to work just the same way as your PC. It certainly fooled me.
I consider myself in good company in making this mistake though. The Guardian said this week:
Within a year Microsoft expects 400m smartphone, PC and tablet devices could be running Windows 8, its reinvention of the world’s best selling PC operating system for the touchscreen age.
Except that smartphones will not run Windows 8.
I have now learned that while Windows 8 is coming on October 26th, Windows Phone 8 doesn’t have a release date yet.
More significantly, it will not run Windows 8 apps.
So, apparently a mobile developer being courted by Microsoft is expected to make desktop and tablet applications. ”Write once, deploy anywhere except phones”. This is the part that nearly broke the deal for me, but I think I’m finally over it now. I just had to write all that down and get it out of my system first.
Windows 8 actually looks amazing for touchscreen devices. This was obvious after we had installed it onto a laptop with mouse and keyboard. The screen is clearly meant to be poked and swiped at. There’s a consistent design throughout the OS and its apps that’s perfect for doing things with just your thumbs. It’s a tablet-focused operating system that also runs on PCs.
So it’s something of a shame that Microsoft have chosen to crowbar their brand new – and really quite innovative – touchscreen OS into their old-fashioned desktop OS (and vice-versa: indeed, you can pull up a traditional desktop view on your tablet, cascade a dozen windows and then try to use the soft keyboard to Alt+Tab between them) and yet not invite smartphones to the party.
Indeed, it’s a shame this is still called Windows, with all the stigma that brings. You may have heard “Metro” being used to refer to the new Windows UI and “Metro-style apps” for the applications it runs. Apparently they’re not calling it that any more. Instead, it’s still Windows (with a big ‘W’), and “Windows-style apps”. Even though they don’t run in windows (with a little ‘w’) any more. It could be the greatest misnomer in computing.
So, the big question here is would we like to bring our games to Windows 8? Apparently it’s not too late to be considered as a launch title and Microsoft are offering all sorts of help to get there, in the form of development camps and real people to talk to.
At the Mobile Monday event this week, we were too busy with our demonstration of Head Hunter Challenge to get to speak to the Microsoft rep. So we emailed him on Tuesday, got connected to someone a bit more local to us and set up a meeting for Friday. It’s not quite as fast as we usually work, but for the size of the organisation involved, pretty damn quick!
There’s a large number of unknowns. How many apps will be in the store at launch? How do we monetize them? Will games that have been designed for touch really work that well with a mouse?
We were told, at first, probably 100-200 launch apps. Then maybe 1,000. Neither number is particularly impressive, and this not only explains why Microsoft are so keen to connect with developers and encourage them that Windows 8 is awesome, but also makes the prospect of being a launch title very enticing indeed.
Assuming we can trust those numbers, of course. Sitting prominently among a fairly short list of games that are available to people exploring their brand new (or newly upgraded) PC is a fantastic opportunity. The lure of little competition might just be part of the truth-bending that’s needed to get small developers on board and, therefore, bump up the numbers. I’m taking it with a pinch of salt, after all that stuff about Windows 8 on phones, and misleading points about not having to give Microsoft a cut of your revenue.
As yes. You can keep 100% of the revenue from in-app purchases, we were told on Monday. It’s right there on page 11 of these slides. What this actually means is that you’re not tied to using Microsoft’s payment platform (which does incur a 30% fee). You can use any method you like to collect payment, and so – I guess – if you’re willing to tell people to come and meet you in Starbucks and bring a dollar bill, that would be 100% of the revenue.
Anyway, the upside potential is so great compared to the time investment required to give it a go that we’re going to go for it. And I’m not going to be happy with just one launch title either! If things go to plan, look for Head Hunter, Word Search Party and Jigsaw Party on Windows 8 at the very minimum. Possibly even more, once we get the hang of things!