We’ve been talking a fair bit about how Sony may be planning to fight back against iPhone gaming by updating the PSP. Now it seems that Microsoft may be opening another front on Apple’s flank with the Zune HD.
Ben Silverman at Yahoo! Games writes that the newly announced Zune HD shares much of the iPod Touch’s functionality–and it’s soon to be integrated with Xbox Live, putting the brand squarely in front of 17 million gamers.
In a recent interview with Develop, Chris Stephenson, GM of consumer marketing for the TV, Video and Music Business at Microsoft, seemed to confirm that Zune gaming is on the horizon. “Gaming is a big opportunity for us,” he said. “We’re not announcing the specifics around our gaming plans for Zune HD right now, but it is definitely an area that we have done some work in.”
Stephenson also hinted at where Zune games might come from. “Clearly we have great partnerships around XNA business over at Xbox and we lean on those internal partnerships a lot to make sure we are leveraging the community that Microsoft already has a relationship with,” he remarked.
XNA is Microsoft’s community gaming initiative, which allows developers to create and submit their own games using a special Microsoft framework. Sounds a lot like the App Store, doesn’t it? But questions remain on the level of access developers will have to the Zune Marketplace. If it’s anything like Xbox Live Arcade, Microsoft will play a large gatekeeping role, as opposed to Apple’s laissez-faire policy.
Microsoft has promised to reveal new details on how Zune HD will integrate with Xbox Live at E3 next week, so we hope to bring you more information at that time.