Microsoft Zune HD: But Will it Play Games?

Microsoft's splashy, slightly angular, just-divulged Zune HD will play movies, surf the web, and snag digital radio feeds, but all I want to know is: will it play games? Redmond, Washington isn't talking...yet.

No one's touting the Zune HD as a gaming platform at this point. But it could be a gaming device, and I'd bet my life that it'll be at least some kind. In my view, Microsoft needed to announce the new mobile part's existence beyond the breathless clamor of the Electronic Entertainment Expo next week to avoid branding it a games-primarily device. Which it isn't.

It's a media playback gizmo, which — like Sony's PlayStation Portable (with the right hookup) — can output video to an actual TV. In fact where the PSP outputs sub-DVD-quality video, the Zune HD appears to support up to 720p (actual high-def).

But forget about the PSP for a second: Microsoft's says the new Zune HD's specifically designed to go rounds with Apple's iPod Touch — also a gaming device, but not (yet) battling after the same audience that constitutes the 50 or so million PSP's in the wild, or over 100 million Nintendo DS's. It's for you, per its market positioning, whether you care about a handheld version of Halo or not.

Second's up, and I want to spotlight the fact that Microsoft's promising to demo the Zune HD at E3 next week — in particular, how it'll integrate with their Xbox Live Marketplace TV/video service. Movie playback on both the Xbox 360 and Zune HD? Already confirmed. And then there's the Zune's tasty new OLED touchscreen to consider. Sounds like a shoe-in for a little recreational thumb-tapping.

Would the Zune HD be a viable gaming platform? As far as content delivery's concerned, why not? It's already being touted — by way of Xbox Live Marketplace — as playing with the Xbox 360 mothership. If it can dine on Xbox-360-dished HD videos, it's a shoe-in for game delivery.

Regarding hardware, that's harder to say (actually it's impossible, since Microsoft didn't divulge detailed tech specs) but no one really thought of the iPod as a games device, and look at it now, running games like Prey and bazillions of so-called "casual" titles.

The big news next week? Zune HD and games. Wait and see.

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