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Microsoft XNA And Sony's Playstation Move

GDC 2010, Day 1: The Missing Middle

Microsoft's XNA Studio And Windows Phone 7

Microsoft always conducts a suite of developer sessions at GDC, and this year is no exception. One of the more interesting sessions focused on game development for the upcoming Windows Phone 7.

Windows Phone 7 hardware specs will be more stringent and more tightly codified than the old Windows Mobile. For example, minimum screen resolutions and 3D hardware acceleration are required. Microsoft rebuilt DirectX from the ground up for the needs of mobile computing; while developers will be familiar with API elements, what’s under the hood is more attuned to the needs of low power, low resolution game development.

Using XNA Studio will give developers a single platform to develop for Xbox 360, Windows 7, and Windows Phone 7. Microsoft demoed the same game running on all three platforms. It’s all managed code, too--C# and .NET are the key underpinnings. Managed code makes multi-platform support easier, since the app is compiled at run-time.

Like the Xbox 360, phones built on Windows Phone 7 will offer hardware scalers, allowing games to be developed at lower resolutions, but scale automatically to higher-res displays as needed. Full support for autorotation and multiple aspect ratios is also part of the toolkit.

Of course, Microsoft has a huge boulder to push uphill. As good as Windows Phone 7 appears to be, Apple’s massive lead with the iPhone and the low-cost business model of Android still attracts more developers. Microsoft’s future in phones is still pretty cloudy, but at least it's making the right kinds of noises.

Sony Announces Playstation Move

Despite the reduced developer mindshare, consoles have not gone away. Sony held a press conference announcing its new motion controller, which seems to behave like a more precise version of Nintendo’s Wiimote. There’s even a secondary controller, a la the Nintendo “nunchuck.”

What’s also required, however, is the Sony Playstation Eye, a webcam-like device. Sony demoed sports games and a next-gen Socom shooter title that will work with the Move.

Playstation Move seems very much like a “me too” device--perhaps improved over Nintento’s device--but not really offering substantial additional functionality. How that will play against the Nintendo juggernaut on one side and Microsoft’s intriguing Natal project is anyone’s guess.

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