Microsoft released a new batch of free, ad-supported games for the Zune HD today, taking advantage of the media player’s powerful graphics processor.
3D gaming — that is, games whose action takes place in three dimensions, not stereoscopic imagery — was enabled on the Zune HD with a firmware update released last week. Users can now download the six new games from the Zune HD Marketplace. All of them show a brief ad while the game starts, sometimes with video, and other times with still images.
The standout games are Audiosurf Tilt, which has players navigate along a race track set to their own music library, and Project Gotham Racing: Ferrari Edition, a 3D racing game that uses the accelerometer to steer. The other games are Checkers, Lucky Lanes Bowling, Vans Sk8: Pool Service and a simple piano simulator.
Microsoft says that it plans to offer additional Zune HD apps, including Facebook and Twitter, in the future, but so far the media player hasn’t tried to mimic the iPod Touch and its App Store, which offers thousands of programs from third-party developers. Microsoft’s apps, by contrast, are developed in-house.
This allows Microsoft to keep tight control on the ad content and revenue. In Engadget’s video of the new Zune HD games, we see ads for Zune Pass, which lets users download a vast selection of MP3s to their device for $15 per month. A few simple games from Microsoft are worthwhile if the company can net a bunch of Zune Pass subscriptions as a result.
The downside is that Apple gets to use its breadth of apps as a selling point, while Microsoft cannot. It’s good that Microsoft is making good on the Zune HD’s gaming capabilities, but the slow drip of new offerings, even for free, is a turnoff.