Windows Phone games often arrive after other platforms. Here's why

Last week we revealed that Gameloft, one of the largest mobile game publishers in the world would be bringing 15 new games to both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. Since then, a scrappy little site has reported that “future [Gameloft] Windows Phone titles will be released day and date with iOS and Android ones.” Release date parity is something that Windows Phone gamers have long clamored for.

Well, I hate to take the wind out of anyone’s sails, but Gameloft has informed us that the “day and date” story is definitely incorrect. Read Gameloft’s official quote and our detailed analysis after the break!

Lost in translation

Gameloft logo

The incorrect site’s actual source is a German site called PhoneSeven.de. The German site interviewed a European Gameloft PR representative named Gregory Wintgens about the 15 games announcement. The PhoneSeven article is very short and extremely written in German, but Google translate tells us the discussion centered around Gameloft’s hopes to release Windows Phone games closer to the iOS and Android versions of those games.

The Google translated text however does not specifically say that Gameloft’s Windows Phone games will start releasing on the same dates as the lead platforms:

“The real goal, however, lies a little further in the future. then the versions will get a similar release date.”

Similar is not the same as exactly the same day of release, wouldn't you say?

 Fact checking

Despicable Me Minion Rush for iOS

Maybe a translation error occurred somewhere along the line. Could Gameloft have actually announced a desire for day-and-date releases of games across Windows Phone, iOS, and Android? We reached out to Gameloft ourselves, and they provided this response:

"Gameloft has announced 15 additional games coming to the Windows platforms over the next 12 months. We are working to minimize the release delta with other platforms and offer Windows users our newest and best games, however these titles will not be day and date with iOS and Android releases"

That settles that.

Delayed releases were already in the cards

Total Conquest for Android

First, let’s look back at the upcoming titles Gameloft announced by name last week:

  • Asphalt 8 – Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8
  • Despicable Me: Minion Rush – Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8
  • Dungeon Hunter 4 – Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8
  • Total Conquest – Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8
  • Six Guns – Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8
  • Kingdoms & Lords – Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8
  • UNO & Friends – Windows 8

Notice that with the exception of Total Conquest (pictured above), all of these games have already been released on other mobile platforms. A simultaneous Windows Phone release would be impossible.

That doesn’t mean the remaining 8 unnamed games couldn’t possibly be released at the same time as their iOS counterparts. It’s just not in Gameloft’s best interest to push for that yet.

Why delayed releases will continue

Fairway Solitaire fo Windows Phone

Let’s briefly look at how porting works. Unless a game is designed with a multiplatform engine like Unity and that engine has mature support for Windows Phone, a developer can’t just release a Windows Phone version with minimal effort. Gameloft games (as far as we know) are created primarily with in-house engines and make occasional minor use of cross-platform middleware like Havok Physics.

Microsoft originally claimed that porting games from iOS to Windows Phone would be a fast and easy process, with Fairway Solitaire (pictured above) supposedly taking just two weeks to translate to Windows Phone. That game actually took months to bring to release though, and multiple developers have since told us that porting is no minor feat of work.

The best comparison one of them made is that it an iOS game can be ported to Windows Phone in about half the time it takes to make a brand new iOS game – and that’s if the game doesn’t use Xbox Live. If it does, double the porting time at minimum.

In other words, it can take one or more months of effort to port a game. The bigger the game, the more work required. To get release date parity, Gameloft would have to delay the iOS and Android versions to match the Windows Phone version’s release, losing potential sales from those platforms in the process.

If a platform is large enough to represent a significant portion of a game’s potential sales – for instance, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 have similar worldwide install bases – then holding on to one version until another version is ready makes sense. Windows Phone has a much smaller user base, and so games won’t typically be ported until the lead version has already been released.

Chin up - we're growing

Angry Birds Star Wars II teaser

There’s no one to blame for the current climate of releasing Windows Phone ports after iOS and Android versions. All major publishers: Gameloft, EA, Ubisoft, etc. do it because that’s the most profitable course of action for them.

When a relatively high profile game like Angry Birds Star Wars II is announced for a simultaneous release, there’s a good chance that Nokia or Microsoft greased a few palms to make it happen. And that game doesn’t exactly take much work to port; it’s a physics puzzler. Rovio surely uses an in-house multiplatform engine for its Angry Birds games anyway.

As gamers, all we can do is buy the games that major publishers release on Windows Phone and Windows 8. Spend a little on In-App Purchases in free to play games. Someday, the profits these publishers take in from our game purchases will reach a level that indicates our platforms are ready for simultaneous releases. Until then, let’s help mobile Windows platforms grow!

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

138 Comments
  • "Scrappy little site" Yep.
  • WELL THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY
  • "Yeah, there were horses, and a man on fire, and I killed a guy with a trident."
  • Brick killed a guy! Did you see that? Lol
  • Shots Fired.
  • "Scrappy little site", OH SNAP!!
  • Who was the site that said it?
  • Click the link for a pickle surprise. 
  • Not long ago, I asked whether WPC and WMPU were friends. I guess they're not.
  • WMPU is pure clickbait trash. I haven't given them a hit in at least a year.
  • +1 for an awesome article again :)
  • Aww, thanks for saying so. :D
  • Really this a an article true to its terms it clearly highlights the delay in releases but i think Microsoft should wrk hard and make porting to windows phone easier so as to minimize the time (said by one who has no idea of porting or how it is done actually)
  • Microsoft send representatives to work with developers to assist in any way possilble to ensure a good app along with timely release. If the developers are focused  on their Android & Apple release of items, do you think they're going to reach out to MS of assistance??? No, because internally, their priorities have already been set.
  • Check out how it went for the devs of Skulls of the Shogun (a well documented story).
    Even when a company is willing to develop only for WP, M$ doesn't seem to be very helpfull. Still a long way to go I say.
  • Be that as it may, let's not type M$. That is really annoying. http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2002/07/22
  • Nice article Paul. But i want to ask does the memory limit imposed by Microsoft plays a part in porting the app (150mb for 512mb ram devices)? Suppose if the restriction was the same as in ios will the process be faster?
  • I don't think it is too big a part of the problem. Many of the games can run on iOS devices with only 256 MB of overall memory. The difference most likely is with the maturity of gaming engines (do those make it possible to run with that little RAM) and to a big part the difference in graphics and audio APIs (OpenGL vs. DirectX).
  • Just to add a short translation of the German source:
    Gameloft will first try a 60 day delay on apps. Which is a temporary goal until they can get same-day releases.
  • Thank you! I was wondering why we didn't bring in someone who knows German...
  • So in effect, the "scrappy little site" was not too far off in their article. They clearly said in the article "In the future the release date of games for Windows Phone will be the same as on iOS and Android".
  • And Gameloft clearly said (in English and no uncertain terms) that day-and-date isn't happening any time soon, so no, they were not correct.
  • I wonder how the owner of that article on that website will react to this lol
  • They will ignore it.
     
  • "extremely written in German"? Is it some archaic German dialect or something?
  • No, but it's at least 100% German, which is definitely more than kind of written in German (50-70%).
  • They should've used Bing Translator.
  • So true! You cant trust google translate for WP news! 
  • hahaha.. thats right :P
  • Your response brings about another statement of question: "at least 100% German?" Can it get more German than 100%?
  • would be uber german 
    quite a common state in this country :P
  • BING Translation, translates far better than Google! I use quite often for French and Italian and sometimes I make comparisons and grammatically BING is better!
  • when I was comparing both.. opposite meaning.. I didn't know which one to trust :P
    I was translating Portuguese.
  • The last paragraph in this article is extremely important. As revenue on this platform becomes more substantial, publishers and developers will take notice. If it makes sense for you, please SPEND.
  • You're right Paul.
     
    That said, while these 3rd party games from Gameloft, Rovio, EA, Ubisoft, etc. are incredibly important and desirable, they are not the differentiating factors Windows Phone currently needs over the competition.
     
    Exclusive titles such as Halo: Spartan Assault and in the case of Windows 8, Project Spark, are the necessary titles.
     
    Basically, Microsoft should spend a lot more time on producing lots of high quality first-party IP for Windows Phone. Be it variations of Halo or Forza, or even entirely new IP for the sake of mobile, WP/W8 needs that 'homeground momentum' way more than Gameloft and EA. What i absolutely loved about Halo: SA is how Microsoft teamed up with a small studio (Vengeance?) to produce the title... This is a smart move, identify less known start-ups and bring them into the MS fold early, and you never know, the next Gameloft may arise and consider WP/W8 home territory for its own IP.
     
    Of course, a full fidelity version of EA's Real Racing 3, Deadspace, etc. would be nice.
     
     
  • I agree. It is always a good idea to give people a clear reason to be interested.
  • I admit: I buy games that I don't even play, just to support the platform. It's usually just a buck or two anyway, figure it's worth the investment....
  • I do too. I plan on playing it eventually, it I want to ensure developers see the revenue long before I finally have time to play it.
  • I thought I was the only one who does that! My way of looking at this is that I am paying it today so that the platform becomes mature to the point that any app developer cannot ignore to release his work out on Windows Phone soon!
  • Love you guys!
  • That's pretty sad...
  • What a poor sad sack you are when you can't even begin to understand the concept of "platform support".
  • I do this. But I do this for other things in life as well.  Charities, fund-raisers, politicians, local restuarants, console and PC games.  I often have an excuse for not becoming too involved or hard-core about anything so at least doing something to support a business/cause/interest is the least I figure I can do.
  • This makes me feel like a 3rd class citizen. We should just be glad to get the scraps we get? Glad I got an iPhone as my main device now! Still have fun on my 920, but it's starting to be fazed out completely, little by little.
  • That's like buying an Atari when the SNES just came out. Sure, there's more games on Atari, but it's OLD. Like IOS.
    No offense, hope you enjoy, that's just how I feel :)
  • That's a pretty bad analogy. SNES was two generations of technology beyond Atari. 
     
    Whereas, the PowerVR SGX 543 GPU in the iPhone 5 absolutely DESTROYS any existing Adreno GPU inside a Windows Phone device, and that includes the Lumia 1020, which came out almost a year after the iPhone 5. Additionally, iOS supports OpenGL, which is way more popular for mobile gaming. 
     
    Suffice it to say - Halo excepted - Windows Phone will always be a relative laggard/loser when it comes to the latest mobile games. 
     
    The real problem is that Microsoft isn't pumping enough first-party gaming onto the platform. They have the most popular console and have more than a few game development studios they're friendly with. They also have the most popular online gaming service. This has translated into article after article by WPCentral RIGHTFULLY asking why Microsoft isn't pumping out titles. They're not even pumping them out for Windows 8 and it's got over 50 million active devices running it!
  • Fine, fine comment Reeves. :)
  • It's a very good analogy, when you consider I named IOS, not iPhone. You can have a beefy PC running Windows XP, and it still looks like old news. That's what IOS looks like; old news. People have been looking at that same screen for years, and it's not exciting anymore.
    The most common mistake from both companies and consumers alike is thinking that specs are all that matter. Design is equally as important, if not more so.
    Every company thinks it is invincible when it's on top. Then one day it's not. It's as inevitable as the sun rising, at some point IOS/Android will fall. My interest is in seeing who will take their place.
  • Believe it or not most people don't want their tools to be "exciting" but useful, and familiarity is a BIG factor. Just look at the Windows 8 debacle even though it is better than Win7 in every single aspect.
  • Windows 8 isn't better in every aspect. As a teacher was mentioning during my class Monday, .pdf support on Windows 8 can be a pain. It wants to open in the PDF Reader app, which means being thrown to the Metro experience. When you are someone who lives on the x86 desktop almost exclusively, this is rather annoying. You don't get your .pdf files opened in a separate tab in IE like you're used to, and it can be rather inconvenient.
  • That's not the greatest example. Prior to Windows 8, you had no built in PDF support, so you wouldn't be able to open any PDF without installing a pdf reader. In Windows 8, you can install any desktop PDF reader with integrated browser support and it will work just as it did with previous Windows, as long as that reader is set to the default.
  • YES! This has bugged me so much when people complain about the PDF "issue" in Win8 (and people do that a LOT). The alternative was never "open it in Classic UI" it was always "don't open it" - because there was no native PDF support!
  • sorry..this is a bad excuse. assume that upgrading to Win8 from Win7 is like upgrading from feature phone to smartphone. so now u r like saying smartphones can be a pain to someone because they were living on feature phones exclusively. not logical at all. this is anti-progressive. its like we have to stop learning and progressing because we r used to something. Win8 is indeed better in every aspect than win7 but its a revolution and not any revolution. its a revolution in the right direction towards mobility and every revolution comes with totally new system and environment but Win8 is not disconnected from the past (desktop mode) so its not difficult to learn how it works and who refuses to, then that's his fault.
  • I'm with Keith on this one. Windows 8 is of course better in many ways, but that doesn't mean every change is for the better. If things become less intuitive (such as having to search for things that were once easy to find but are now hidden), that's just a bad thing.
  • It's called setting the default applications for file types. You can do this in the control panel. Don't want to open the metro PDF reader, then don't install it and install the traditional adobe pdf reader. 
  • Or, right click -> properties -> change the application
  • I still think it's early days for Win8. After similar growing pains, everyone grew to love Windows after they were already used to (and loved) DOS.
    And especially people who don't care about tech - they ONLY want something that looks cool.
    Time will tell, but regardless, at some point the current kings will give way to new ones. It's the circle of life!
  • When will people stop using google translate when publishing news? Google translate is extremely bad, Bing is not better either.
  • Why do XBox titles require more work?
  • The actual coding most likely doesn't. But getting everything approved by Microsoft's XBox team has been described as a pretty painful process that requires lots of changes to be made.
  • That's why I'm impressed with Rovio. They might have pushed the release date of Star Wars 2 further (because of MS testing), so that all devices would get it at the same. Instead of rushing to get it out as soon as possible.
  • Well those people that no longer have any jobs (Microsoft WP xbpx people) will surely change their tune or the process or get fired because they pissed everyone off that might actually require their job to exist.
  • Microsoft is notoriously bad with their certification process. Getting Xbox games certified and approved takes forever, and it makes it very difficult and time-consuming for third-party developers to jump through the hoops, especially the indie ones (which is why we see all of the Xbox-branded games coming from major developers, for the most part).
  • Paul has the best game releated article!!! :P Always
     
    And, include in this Chillingo... I bet that they not even start to port Cut The Rope Time Travel nor Pudding Monsters (I want this!!!)... :(
  • Hey guys. I'm the author of the actual article on Phoneseven.de, Mika Baumeister. Just to let you know what Gameloft said to me: We will try to make the games available 60 days after release on iOS and Android. Later on we will TRY to publish them day on day.
    Seems like Lucas from WMPU forgot this "little" detail. If you are interested, Gregory sent a mail to the german press according to this translation "error", which states that it was translated wrongly. As official statement, it says something like this:
    We are working on publishing games on different platforms day-on-day for providing even Windows Phone Users games As fast as possible.
    I hope this is a little clearance. 
    If you have any questions, just Reply on this comment. Sorry for the trouble, guys!
    Greetz,
    Mika
  • Paul Acevedo for the WIN.
  • BTW, with "gleich" btw "gleiches Releasedatum" in german I meant "day-on-day" or "same" in english. You can't differentiate between similar and same in the german meaning of "gleich". Sorry on that. So, it'll get "same" date. That is what Gregory told me. 
    Once again, Greetz
    Mika
  • That does explain the confusion! Thanks Mika.
  • What's the name of the app in the third photo?
  • The third image is Despicable Me: Minion Rush.
  • Thanks Paul.
  • it is just Temple Run for the Despicable Me fans. Bad games anyway.
  • Depends on who you ask. Minion Rush is extremely popular and many WP users are looking forward to it.
  • It's gone gangbusters on iOS. Really fun little game!
  • In other stories i tweeted BADLAND developers askin about WP8 support and they replied"we have plans on WP8." sounds fun??
  • Thanks man. I'll see what I can dig up.
  • But, wait a minute.  The obvious question that never seems to get asked is WHY iOS AND ANDROID ARE ABLE TO BE RELEASED TOGETHER?  Are the OSs so similar underneath that very little coding changes are required?  Otherwise, the very excuse developers are using for delays in making WP versions should hold true for either iOS or Android (depending on which platform is their preferred one).  THAT'S the question I want answered.
  • Or Android and iOS represent the largest number of users.. so if you're a developer you focus on them first. 
  • He did answer the question, somewhat. When he said that Xbox 360 and PS3 have similar-enough user bases (in terms of profitability) that it makes sense to release them together, that applies to Android and iOS as well. Android might have a larger user base, but iOS has a rather large following in larger markets like the U.S. This could mean that those markets have more app-purchasing profitability, and the fact that iOS includes the tablet-dominating iPad as well likely factors in, too. So he didn't directly say "Android and iOS are comparable in profitability," it is implied.
  • It really depends on the tools they use. Some might be cross-platform between Android and iOS, but not WP. Rendering will need some special attention because WP does not support OpenGL, unless they devs are willing to take the small performance hit and abstract OpenGL and D3D behind a common layer. One would think that Audio frameworks especially would be similar between the 2 *nix platforms, but not WP.
  • Wow, twice in one day WPCentral have bashed WMPowerUser website :P
  • With good cause. I do read their site as sometimes they have good articles. But their ability to get their facts straight is poor at best. I have read numerous articles there where they can't even do math correctly.
  • Not only that, but the writing ability of some of the editors there is truly terrible. Not a slight against the writers themselves, but rather the person who chooses these people to write for the site.
  • It's all in good fun though.
  • Yeah, I don't understand the violent reactions people have been posting over a humorous comment.  They got something wrong, you poked a little fun.  Have these people never been exposed to the internet before?  Because that's pretty much the mildest reaction they should expect.
  • I'm glad at least one person has a sense of humor about it. :)
  • More than one person. I chuckled a bit.
  • Damn ios and androids head start... :'(
  • Google translate?
  • Major games losing sales from delaying? I disagree. Take Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies, or Temple Run as examples. They are unique games with no real competition. Save for FPS and time management games, I really think these major game releases will generate the same amount of sales by releasing things staggered or together. Smaller publishers making spin offs are in a different boat and do agree with this idea. Since we are taking about a major publisher though, that's my focus. Let's all remember one thing- every company and developer started out small with a unique idea or twist. Your first big time release or two are to gain clout. Let's be honest- most of the popular games these days are simply updates of old games. You are getting a tiny bit more with either a continuation or new storyline. Ask a non-sports fan if it is worth buying the latest sports fame when the only real difference is a roster and they'll say no. Is it worth buying Angry Birds XYZ, which likely has the same staples with slight changes to a mechanic, scenery, and maybe one new bird? If you are a fan of a genre/game, you wait until the game is released. If you aren't a fan, you are likely buying the game with the second or third wave of buyers who are buying it after playing it on their friends device.
  • I actually meant that if a game releases in September instead of August, then the publisher loses one month of sales - not lifetime sales. But lifetime sales can potentially take a hit, depending on the circumstances.
  • Is there a USA market link for the Despicable Me: Minion Rush?
  • It's not out yet.
  • Has anyone else noticed that windows phone isn't listed on Gameloft's website?
  • if i werent lazy, i would read hole article :)
  • While wmpoweruser always says "our friends at wpcentral" you guys( almost all wpcentral writers) always bash them both in comments and articles, Not to forget they are definitely faster than you guys on breaking news.
  • We'd be faster if we just wrote a couple of sentences and then copy and pasted store descriptions and news items wholesale. Instead, we like to write actual articles that will be interesting to read. We even check facts, like with this article. That all takes time.
  • You ignored the important part of my comment just because you know you guys are wrong in constant bashing of wmpoweruser when they always treat you guys with respect and mention you guys as friends in their articles.
  • That part didn't deserve a response because we do not bash them constantly (nor was I bashing them in this article) and your opinion of how they treat us is naive. End of discussion.
  • I must say I agree with Etios. I have noted WPCentral's attitude towards WMPowerUser before with puzzlement. Sure, WMPowerUser may be quick and amateurish at times, but shouldn't WPCentral just concentrate on their own thing instead of having to justify things by mocking or diminishing others? WP is still a small community, why not let every flower bloom without disparagement. WPCentral should let their quality shine, people will like that a lot more than mocking justifications.
    I also note with worry how much WPCentral's choice - and quite vocal and perhaps a bit attacking defense - of pushing the quality of the journalism might actually mean becoming a corporate mouthpiece in some instances. More than once WPCentral has published a corporate clarification as a rebuttal/evidence, when we all know sometimes the what the PR mouthpieces say might be inaccurate either intentionally or unintentionally. Sometimes the original story might be right, but some person said more than they should have, and a PR clarification later will try to clean it under the carpet.
    There are many kinds of dangers in a holier than thou attitude, if such is allowed to creep into reporting. Harboring animosities against rival sites doesn't sound like a good idea anywhere, eventually it will hurt the reporting, because it can become a mission unto itself - and it already makes me cringe when I read such things and it makes me like this site a little less. I don't want to like this site a little less.
    So, here's to more friends! Keep your class, guys.
  • Corporate mouthpiece? Come on now. Which site allows developers to pay them to run articles verbatim again? Not this one. And to equate getting official quotes from a company with being a corporate shill is just ridiculous. Going to the source for information and quotes is an essential part of journalism. Any news site that knows what they're doing does that. It takes some effort and slows you down, but its often pays off with new information and it also shows that the journalist is trying and cares about accuracy.