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Nov 13, 2008

Online, Multi-Player Gaming Comes To The iPhone (AAPL), XBOX Responds

Microsoft launches new version of Games for Windows Live

Microsoft is launching a new version of Games for Windows Live, the online gaming service for gamers who prefer to play on personal computers.

It’s the first major update since the service was introduced 18 months ago. This version has features such as a new user-interface that is accessible from inside a game, a marketplace for both free and purchased game extras.

Eventually, the marketplace will be a way for gamers to buy new games via digital downloading, said Chris Early, general manager of Games for Windows Live at Microsoft. That means that Microsoft anticipates competing with Valve’s Steam game-downloading service. The marketplace feature will kick off in December with game extras such as demos, but new game sales will come later.

The Live version on the PC is a counterpart to Microsoft’s Xbox Live online gaming service on the Xbox 360 console. It shows that Microsoft still has a vested interest in keeping the PC as a major gaming platform in spite of its heavy investment in the Xbox 360, said Early. Players can get access to their own gamertag, or single identity, and data such as game achievements. They can also use the system for voice and text chat and finding other players to play in online multiplayer games.

In contrast to multiplayer play on Xbox Live (which requires a $50 a year subscription), the Games for Windows Live service is entirely free, including multiplayer play. Microsoft also said that there are a few more PC games coming under the Games For Windows brand, including Fallout 3, Grand Theft Auto IV and James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace.

Online, Multi-Player Gaming Comes To The iPhone (AAPL)

Apple's (AAPL) iPhone's gaming platform is already a huge hit. And it's starting to get more fun: Companies are starting to roll out games that take advantage of the phone's Internet features for live, multi-player gaming. The latest:

  • SF-based game publisher Zynga is launching "Live Poker," which lets you play free Texas Hold'em (no gambling) against 1.4 million daily players on their Web game, or against your real friends from Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, or Hi5. The game uses Facebook's newish "Facebook Connect" feature so you can sign in with your Facebook login and password without leaving "Live Poker." It's free for the iPhone and iPod touch; a $9.99 version offers a "larger chip package" and access to tournaments.

  • Palo Alto-based iPhone software publisher Tapulous has issued an update to its popularGuitar Hero-for-the-iPhone game "Tap Tap Revenge," which includes online gameplay. The game advertises it as a work-in-progress feature, but it worked well in our test. (Our tapping skills, however, aren't nearly as good as this pigeon's.) "Tap Tap Revenge" has been downloaded more than 2.5 million times, so there's a good chance you'll always have people to play against. (And hey, look... ads!)

A good start, and something that could give the iPhone another advantage over consumer-focused rivals like the Google (GOOG) G1 and BlackBerry Storm (RIMM). But we're still waiting for something that looks as fun as this wacky video, which leaked several weeks before the iPhone 3G was announced.


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