Microsoft licenses Age of Empires for iOS, Android versions

Japanese developer KLab said it will launch a global version in English, with a version for Windows Phone to come

A version of Microsoft's Age of Empires game franchise will be developed for iPhones and Android devices, the first time an official Microsoft title will be released for the mobile platforms.

The initial title will be developed in English by Japanese developer KLab and released globally, with a Windows Phone version and additional languages to follow. The companies said the new game will have a mobile social component, a strength of KLab.

Android and iOS compete with Microsoft's own Windows Phone mobile operating system, which has only a 3 percent share of subscribers in the U.S., according to data firm ComScore. Klab will license various titles from Microsoft's PC and console library and port them to mobile versions, Japan's Nikkei newspaper reported Monday, speculating that the deal would pressure Sony and Nintendo to follow suit with their own titles.

The Nikkei said the Age of Empires mobile version will be released by March 2014 as a "freemium" game, with free game play but charges for additional in-game items and services.

Sony is offering specialized versions of game titles from its own line-up and third-party developers as party of its "PlayStation Mobile" platform. The company runs its own app store that only works with approved handsets, and has tried to lured programmers with a low-cost development kit.

Nintendo has said it wants its games to work with mobile phones, but has stopped short of offering titles like its valuable Super Mario games outside of its own stable of consoles.

Microsoft's Age of Empires series includes seven games and three spin-off titles, and has sold 22 million titles globally. Various versions have been in development for 15 years, KLab said.

The software giant offers PC, online, and Xbox versions of the game, and a version was ported for the Nintendo DS handheld. Last week, Microsoft said it had chosen Canadian developer SkyBox Labs to roll out changes to the latest release from the franchise, Age of Empires II: HD.

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