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Microsoft's casual gaming re-launch is a paltry play on the success of other games
Microsoft has, in recent years, made a habit of following the trends instead of setting them, when it comes to entertainment. The Zune, Microsoft's MP3 player, launched in 2006, well behind Apple's now ubiquitous iPods, which first launched in 2001. Now, once again, Microsoft is behind the curve, in coming out with a social-gaming effort.
Microsoft announced Monday that it's previwing an upgraded version of its MSN Games site, which will make available games from CrowdStar, the maker of games like Quiz Planet, Happy Aquarium, It Girl and Zoo Paradise. Quiz Planet, one of CrowdStar's most popular games, averages just about 17 million monthly average users on its Facebook page. At the same time, Microsoft also said it's created a new social feature called Microsoft Game Hub, which connects MSN Games with other Microsoft properties, like Windows Live Messenger and Bing Games.
While most of the social features will remain identical to the ways the games are played on other sites, with Facebook Connect making it easy to find friends, the Bing versions will also feature Windows Live as a sign-in option, and users will be able to search on Bing, in order to find games quickly and play them in the browser.
For example, if you want to play Bejewled, all you have to do is put it into the Bing engine and the game will come up, ready to play.
Will the new games matter?
Social features aside, the question is whether the new games matter.
Microsoft claims that these new game additions from CrowdStar, along with its upgraded version of the MSN Games site, will be bring "...a fresh approach" to its casual-games destination.
Indeed, the new additions might improve the MSN game properties, but will it really make a difference to casual gamers?
After all, many of the games on its site are available elsewhere, and gaining traction.
It is enough to make you wonder if Microsoft is bringing anything new to the table.
Take for example the puzzle game category. In this category, Yahoo Games can boast 749 games for users to play. Microsoft only has 38 games in its puzzle category currently, and many of them are identical to Yahoo titles. Now, to be fair, Yahoo has had more time to build their portfolio of games, since it has been developing games since 2002.
So, what we seem to have here is one more social games site, offering the games you can already play elsewhere.
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