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 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

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!