Pinworthy: Marketplace tops 10,000 and 5 great new apps

10,000. Has a sweet ring, doesn’t it?

Reports began to trickle out over the weekend that Marketplace apparently has hit the five-figure mark. I know the news here on the blog hasn’t all been rosy lately, but the torrid pace of app creation for Windows Phone continues to amaze me—and should give everyone with a phone good reason to smile. As ZDNet and others have reported, hitting 10,000 this quickly appears to be an app store record for smartphones.

Sure, not all of the apps are winners (hence the reason for this column). But that’s OK. The beauty of Marketplace, in my mind, is its mostly hands-off Darwinian bent. We’re in the Windows Phone equivalent of the Cambrian explosion—a period of intense coding and creative trial and error. Not all apps will survive this epoch. Nor should they. But in this environment superior apps—and their creators—will always win big. Mediocre apps will be forced to innovate and improve.

And the digital Dodos will fade into oblivion. 

What explains Marketplace’s early success? One likely reason, as PC World noted yesterday, is Windows Phone’s novel design, which gives app makers a lot of interesting, creative options. Apps just look better than they do on other phones. A piece in USA Today (with accompanying video) points to another big contributor to growth: the vast army of developers that Microsoft has rallied around the world—some 25,000 to date. And there’s the decision Microsoft made last year to unleash its own internal programming talent by relaxing its historically strict moonlighting policy (the New York Times provides the full scoop).

My point? Good times ahead, my friends.

Of course, as the size of Marketplace balloons, finding awesome apps becomes that much more challenging (but who’s complaining!). This column hopefully serves as one helpful tool. But several Windows Phone news and fan sites now also provide regular app and game reviews. My list of bookmarks include: WPCentral, WMPoweruser.com, 1800PocketPC, Best WP7 Games. (Did I miss any good ones? List them in the comments!)

Finally, a quick programming note. Starting next week, look for Pinworthy on Mondays (or thereabouts). Want a jumpstart on my app tips? Don’t miss the Windows Phone Radio podcast, which each week features a preview of my column and other app talk with co-hosts Brian and Matt. New episodes post Fridays (or thereabouts).

Now, onto the apps!

Steam Castle

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Elbert Perez, who has quickly established himself as the dean of Windows Phone indie game developers, mixes steampunk with Missle Command in his latest offering. The Battlestar Galactica-like storyline (as if it really matters) is that you’re humanity’s last hope. Hunkered down in a steam-powered castle, you must fend off a final assault from the marauding Mechanitrons. Your enemy attacks with mechanical air balloons and air drills. Your Victorian era-flavored counter weapons include the Steam Shot Cannon, Scatter Shots, and (my favorite) the Vortex. All good fun. If you like this title, check out Perez’s other Marketplace hits Quadra, Impossible Shoota, and Nom Nom Worm, to name just a few.

Download Steam Castle

Released: Feb. 28. Price: free

TuneIn Radio

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One of my favorite things about my Window Phone is its built-in FM radio. But even in a megalopolis like New York or London, the number of local radio stations you can pick up pales in comparison to what the Internet offers.

Enter TuneIn Radio, which lets you listen to streaming broadcasts from thousands of music, sports, and news stations around the world, including national networks such as the BBC and NPR. Find stations by call letter—or browse by location, language, or genre. The app also features handy extras like a built-in sleep alarm. An indispensible travel and entertainment app.

Download TuneIn Radio

Go to the TuneIn Radio website

Released: Feb. 23. Price: free.

Asteroid Armageddon

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As a kid feeding quarters into the original Asteroids arcade game, I often wondered about the view from inside that little triangular 2-D ship. Now I know. Asteroid Armageddon is a first-person, 3-D take on the original hit. The game puts you in control of a weapon-studded ship. Your mission: blast away at incoming boulders to survive. A great way to kill some time.

Download Asteroid Armageddon

Released: Feb. 24. Price: free

Comica

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Need a laugh while standing in line? Comica brings your favorite comic strips to your phone. The app draws from a rich trove of syndicated strips and other silly sources, including the Daily Dilbert, Comedy Central, Non Sequitur, Wizard of Id, and more. You can read offline—or share your favorites via Twitter, email, or text. Comica is also a great example of what I had mentioned earlier: how Windows Phone app makers can create beautiful-looking apps not possible on other smartphones.

Download Comica

Released: Mar. 3. Price: $1.29 + free trial

Hollywood’s Hottest

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That sly Charlie Sheen. Who can get enough? Not me. Now I keep tabs on my favorite primetime bad boy and other celebs with the new (at least when I first started this post) free version of  the Hollywood’s Hottest app. The app is a portal to movie and TV news, reviews, and of course celebrity gossip. It’s not just for arm-chair paparazzi, either. You’ll also find the scoop on DVD sales and other business trends that every budding studio chief should know. 

Download Hollywood’s Hottest

Released: Feb. 18. Price: free