Microsoft wary of dedicated mobile gaming platforms, COO says


Nintendo has the 3DS. Sony has the PlayStation Portable and, soon enough, the PS Vita. Microsoft, on the other hand, continues to have no horse in the portable gaming race despite having what is arguably the most popular video game console on the market. This is apparently by design, MS Chief Operating Officer Dennis Durkin revealed in an interview with IndustryGamers.

“I’m not sure I would want to be launching a dedicated portable device right now into that market,” he said. “I think the DS– if you look at the 3DS, certainly versus people’s expectations it’s not been as successful as people would have thought. So that’s a very crowded market and a very, very red ocean right now with a lot of change happening.”

“You only have a certain number of bets you can make as a company and you have to decide what you want to put your wood behind and I’m just not sure that that’s a place that I would put mine.”

Durkin doesn’t say it outright, but the “very, very red ocean” he refers to is a product of the explosion we’ve seen in the past few years on the mobile gaming front. It’s difficult to step up with a $250 portable device that plays games selling for $40 or so when most people can get some of the most popular games on the planet for $0.99 on their smartphones. Nintendo’s 3DS offers something very different with its glasses-free 3D display, but missteps made with the launch — specifically, the lack of compelling first-party game releases, Nintendo’s bread and butter — won’t be rectified until some of the holiday releases start showing up.

The PS Vita is another matter entirely. The price is reasonable, which is to say it is competitive with the 3DS, but the experience it offers is geared much more toward the dedicated console gamer. The tech approaches PlayStation 3 levels of processing power and the rear-facing touchpad brings the promise of some unique gaming experiences. Still though… $250 for the system plus the cost of games, versus a $200 smartphone that doubles as a potent little gaming platform.

You shouldn’t need Durkin’s words to understand how tough the market is right now. Notably, he makes a point of saying he wouldn’t want to launch a “dedicated” gaming portable right now. Microsoft continues to improve its presence in the mobile space with the Windows Phone 7 operating system and the upcoming cross-platform-friendly Windows 8. Interestingly though, both of those are left out of Durkin’s rundown of the “bets” Microsoft is making.

“I’m pretty excited about the bets that we’re making around unique content, around our Xbox Live service, and around Kinect, and then layering in new entertainment experiences for people which take advantage of all of the above. And that’s where we think well have the most differentiation versus the competition. We’ve really been investing against those themes for the last two or three years.”

There’s certain room in that statement for mobile technology to be included in the “new entertainment experiences” Durkin refers to. Regardless though, it looks like you can put aside those hopes for a properly portable Xbox 360 console.

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