Microsoft Links Windows Phone 7 to Xbox Live

Microsoft is bringing its video-game know-how to upcoming Windows Phone 7 devices, in a move to capitalize on the success of its Xbox 360 console and compete with the popularity of Apple’s iPhones and Android-based smartphones.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company confirmed Monday that Microsoft Game Studios is creating a dedicated mobile gaming unit to develop video games for Windows Phones. The unit will also help publish outside developers and recruit independent game makers as well.

Company officials announced a list of games to be available for Windows Phone 7 when the first devices go on sale this fall, including Halo Waypoint, Star Wars, Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst and Guitar Hero 5.

In total, about 50 games will be available for Windows Phone 7 by this holiday season, and new Xbox Live titles are expected to be added to mobile operating system every week.

“We believe that no matter where life takes you, the best in gaming and entertainment should follow,” said Marc Whitten, Microsoft’s vice president of Xbox Live. “Windows Phone 7 takes a different approach to handheld gaming, utilizing Xbox Live, Microsoft Game Studios, leading game publishers, and innovative indie developers, to create powerful, shared experiences for everyone.”

Microsoft will also leverage its popular Xbox Live service by connecting it to the Windows Phone 7 game hub, allowing the 25 million Xbox and PC gamers already on Xbox Live to use Windows phones to find new games, keep track of scores and send messages to fellow players.

On the creative end, game makers will be able to create games for both platforms at the same time.

The software giant also hopes that Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7 devices will capitalize on the upcoming launch of the Kinect, a motion-sensing game controller for the Xbox 360, similar to the Nintendo Wii. The Kinect is expected to lure casual gamers to the Xbox 360.

Microsoft is playing catch up to the explosive popularity of the iPhone and smartphones running Google’s Android software. Apple, in particular, has marketed its iPhone as ideal product for mobile gaming. But Microsoft hopes to leverage of its Xbox success to sway gaming enthusiasts towards Windows its phones.

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