Microsoft releases free WP7 games, annoys its community in the process

Microsoft releases free WP7 games, annoys its community in the process

Giving things away for free is not always a low-risk strategy, Microsoft continues to learn.

The company released two new, free, Xbox LIVE titles today for Windows Phone: Sudoku and Minesweeper. Given that the games are free, Microsoft is going to eat their development cost, so the Windows Phone community is grateful, right?

Wrong. As it turns out, probably due to a lawyer somewhere having indigestion, the titles are only available in the US market. Oops. Given that Microsoft is working hard to make Windows Phone a global operating system, evinced most recently by the massive language and keyboard expansions included in Mango, this sort of limited release is problematic; it seems to penalize certain users for simply living in a different country.

Even better, or worse depending on how macabre you are feeling today, in the original blog post announcing the games, Microsoft failed to note that the games were US only, causing a great number of people to look for them in their local markets to no avail. The blog post was later amended to include a ‘US only’ note.

The blogger in question, Michael Stroh, responded as such in the comments:

Sorry guys. These games are indeed U.S. only titles. [T]hanks for flagging. I updated the post to reflect. And, yes, they have ads. That’s why they’re free.

I’m not the guy who decides these things. But the answer seems to be yes: U.S. only and no plans to introduce elsewhere. If the Xbox team ever has a change of heart or plans, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Zing. The comments in response to his remarks were  bit frustrated:

Don’t get me wrong, I love WP7, and Mango is really great. But by doing stuff like this you are really hurting your loyal customers…

US only… really Microsoft? This and the artist artwork in both the Zune software and on the phone with Mango… bloody ridiculous, really..

I hope the fact these aren’t available worldwide is temporary. I see no reason why it shouldn’t be worldwide? This is going to lead to a lot of users being disappointed.

We highlight this issue because Microsoft has a slight history of similar actions, and we worry about the pattern. Microsoft has, for example, released new software on iOS before Windows Phone, igniting a howl from the WP community. There is something that the company would do well to keep in mind: Its current users are already taking a stand as outsiders by using a non-mainstream handset, to further exclude them is hardly wise.

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