Real-time multiplayer gameplay on mobile devices has long been a feature many gamers would like to have on the move (we have some form of multiplayer gameplay though - Haypi Kingdom being an example), but with constant connection dips (while on the move) and data limitations in place, plus many more factors, it's never been fully implemented.
Victor Bahl, director of the Mobile Computing Research Center at Microsoft Research, explains the problem:
"Multiplayer gaming on smartphones is a very challenging technical problem, Gamers move around, the wireless channel is hostile, the bandwidth you need is not always there, disconnections can happen, and smartphones are energy-constrained. If you just take a game and put it on a smartphone, it is not going to work."
Fear not, all is not lost. The talented team at Microsoft Research has been hard at work on 'Switchboard' - a potential answer to most (if not all) problems with multiplayer smartphone gaming in its current form.
"There are techniques for multiplayer games to handle ‘jitter’—occasional spikes in network delay. When those techniques react to jitter, you may see a player or object jump from one spot to another. Such ‘glitches in the matrix’ become problematic if they happen frequently. A major challenge in this work is to predict what a player’s latency will look like for the foreseeable duration of a game and minimize such glitches."
"Switchboard finds suitable game candidates by “pinging” their phones to estimate latency: the time needed to move a packet of data. Latency is important to gaming because a long lag time—in the hundreds of milliseconds—to move data can affect game play”, notes Gantenbein."
While it may not provide seamless play for WP7 users, this is a step in the right direction and shows Microsoft are attempting to address obvious limitations/problems. Let's see how this plays out, but for now hopes should remain relatively high for some degree of multiplayer action potentially being possible in the future with Xbox Live.