One of Windows Phone 7′s most tantalizing hooks is Xbox Live, an offshoot of Microsoft’s online video game service, but so far the interaction between mobile and console games has been limited.
Slowly, that’s starting to change. At a CES press event, Microsoft was showing off Full House Poker, an upcoming Texas Hold ‘Em game for Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7. Although the games differ on each platform, and you’ll have to buy each one separately, your performance in one game affects the other.
Microsoft has done some tie-ins before — Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst, for instance, unlocks an achievement in Crackdown 2 for Xbox 360 — but Full House Poker is the most closely linked game I’ve seen yet.
Full House Poker uses two forms of currency. There’s money (fake, of course), which you use to actually play the game, and experience, which can be cashed in for avatar outfits, table felts, taunts and access to higher-stakes games. Windows Phone 7′s version of the game is limited to computerized opponents, but you can bring your earnings from the mobile game onto the Xbox 360, and vice versa.
Technically, Windows Phone 7 has the ability to do full cross-compatibility with the Xbox 360, so in some ways Full House Poker is a missed opportunity. How cool would it be to start a poker tourney on your Xbox 360 and keep playing as you leave the house?
But for now, Microsoft is content to take things slow. “I’m not a big fan of doing things just because we can, or just because it’s a cool tech demo,” said Sean O’Connor, a lead producer for Xbox Live first-party games. He said he’s interested in doing more cross-compatibility, especially with Xbox Live avatars, but doesn’t feel immense pressure from Microsoft management to shoehorn Windows Phone 7 features into every Xbox 360 game.
“One of the really cool things about Microsoft is you can say ‘No, this doesn’t work for the game, and here’s why,’” O’Connor said.
For now, Microsoft can safely slow-play the mobile-console connectivity angle. Sony’s rumored Playstation Phone is still a murky prospect and Nintendo hasn’t said anything about ties back to the Wii from the upcoming Nintendo 3DS handheld. Apple is only starting to invade living rooms with Apple TV, which as of now doesn’t support games or other third-party apps.
But the more Microsoft does to tie Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7 games together, the more gamers will feel like they’re missing out with an iPhone or Android.