More than three years in the making, the new Skulls of the Shogun video game from Seattle-based indie game developer 17-BIT is a standout in the category of turn-based strategy games. The game has distinctive graphics, addictive gameplay, a wonderfully twisted storyline and a catchy musical score. I was up until the early morning hours playing today — not because I was planning to write about its release today, but because I couldn’t put it down.
But the larger reason this game deserves attention is the fact that it’s being released simultaneously for Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone, and Xbox Live — with the ability for gamers across all of those platforms to compete against one another asynchronously, regardless of which device they’re using. That’s a first.
Microsoft, which is publishing the game, wants it to serve as an example for other developers. It’s also hoping that the broad release across the platforms will give Skulls of the Shogun enough critical mass to avoid the fate of Draw Something and other turn-based games for that tend to fade away as a segment of users lose interest over time.
“It is literally the same game” across the different devices, says Jake Kazdal, 17-BIT’s CEO and founder.
The game was originally slated to be developed for the iPhone, but 17-BIT saw an opportunity to make an impact by targeting Microsoft’s platforms.
Kazdal acknowledged that it was “a considerable challenge,” particularly at the beginning as the development tools were still in their early stages. But now that the tools are more mature, and 17-BIT has blazed a trail, others are more likely to follow suit.
One catch: This is not a 99 cent app. The list price is $14.99 on Windows 8 and Surface (discounted to $9.99 for launch); and $6.99 for Windows Phone (discounted to $4.99 at launch). The Xbox Live version sells for 1200 Microsoft Points, or the equivalent of $15, in the Xbox Live Marketplace.