On the face of it, this seems ridiculous. The Google Play store used by most Android phones has vastly more titles, both free-to-play and AAA “core gaming” releases, than any mobile platform save iOS. Plus, it has more widespread controller support, to the point where you can buy accessories for it at GameStop.
So what does the Windows Phone OS have going for it when it comes to gaming, and why should you consider getting a Windows phone … even if you already have an Android device?
I’m not just talking Solitaire and Minesweeper, either, although Windows Phone certainly has those. I mean Microsoft Studios exclusives like Crimson Dragon: Side Story, sci-fi Diablo-like The Harvest, quirky/cute puzzler Ilomilo, and twinstick shooter Halo: Spartan Assault. Windows Phone may not have every AAA mobile release, but you won’t find these games on Android, period.
Xbox Live integration
Yes, you can see and customize your Xbox Live avatar, and earn reward items for it for playing Windows Phone games. You can also unlock achievements, and play multiplayer. A typical Windows Phone Xbox game has around 200 gamerscore to collect, and while some games rely on in-app purchases to unlock all of them, most of the ones that I’ve played don’t.
Xbox Smartglass and Project My Screen
In a nutshell, your Windows Phone can act like a remote for your Xbox 360 or Xbox One consoles. And with the new Project My Screen feature in Windows Phone 8.1, you can connect your phone to your Windows PC by a USB cable, and mirror your screen on your monitor.
Ability to store games and saved games on SD card
A big problem that I’ve personally had with Android gaming is that your save files do not persist. A handful of games have online saves, but most don’t, including most of the aforementioned AAA titles. And while you can store an app’s data on a microSD card, it’s a lot more of a kludge than on Windows Phone, and many of the latest Android devices don’t have a memory card slot at all.
Most Windows phones do, however, and with the Windows Phone 8.1 update you can easily store entire games and their save files on your memory card. (If your phone doesn’t have Windows Phone 8.1 yet, check out the Preview for Developers app.)
Extremely low cost of entry
You can buy an Android phone for $50 at the grocery store. But what you get for your money will run an outdated version of the OS and have basically no room for games … not that it’d have the processing power to run them anyhow.
In the Windows Phone world, however, $59 will get you an off-contract Nokia Lumia 520, with a 4-inch screen, a dual-core processor, and 8 GB of built-in storage plus a microSD slot. Its 512 MB of RAM places certain titles, like NOVA 3 and Mass Effect: Infiltrator, out of reach. But I’ve personally played Asphalt 7 and Halo: Spartan Assault on mine, and except for the loading times the performance compares favorably to my 2012 Nexus 7.
If you’re already an Xbox gamer, it’s worth checking out Windows Phone for the exclusives alone. And who knows? You might find that you like it better than your Android device, even for gaming.