delisted

Xbox games for Windows Phone have fallen on hard times. New releases are all but non-existent on Windows Phone, and Windows 8 releases have dwindled to a smattering of casual games that Microsoft likely commissioned long ago. This has caused a measure of discomfort to some gamers who joined the mobile Windows platforms for Xbox Live games. I felt pretty bad about it for a while (a year ago).

As if the lack of new mobile Xbox releases and PR from Microsoft wasn't bad enough, the existing lineup of Xbox Windows Phone and Windows 8 games is starting to disappear. Last month we brought the news of Zombies!!! disappearing from the Windows 8 store, only to reappear as a non-Xbox game. Many more games have been delisted within the last few weeks as well, including Carcassonne, The Harvest, and Rocket Riot. Read on for a full list and some insights into why mobile Xbox games are dropping like flies.

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It's not an easy being an Xbox game for Windows platforms. First you have to go through a difficult pitching process just to make it into the portfolio. If by some miracle Microsoft actually approves you for Xbox status, you then enter the equally unpleasant certification process. And once you finally make it to market, you'll probably just get pulled from the Store by Microsoft at some point. You're an endangered species, son.

That's what happened to Zombies!!! for Windows Phone back in September of last year. The game was delisted for having in-app purchases, and then returned in November without Xbox features. The Windows 8 version managed to keep its Xbox features for a time… But now that time has ended. Microsoft recently chose to stop publishing the Xbox Windows 8 version of Zombies. And so developer Babaroga has republished the game as a universal app (but without Xbox features). Zombies!!! has come back to life, you might say.

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Galaga Legions DX wasn’t the best Xbox game on Windows Phone. In fact, I named it as one of the five worst Xbox games of 2012. But still, it was that very rare thing: an exclusive Windows Phone game from a major publisher that never showed up on other mobile platforms (though it originated on Xbox 360). I even managed to get all of Legions DX’s Achievements and write a guide for them.

You’ll notice I speak of Galaga Legions DX entirely in the past tense; that’s because it was delisted from the Windows Phone Store within the last few days. That makes it the fourth Xbox Windows Phone game to disappear this year. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12, Tower Bloxx New York, and 3D Brick Breaker Revolution were all delisted in January. Only three new Xbox games have made it to Windows Phone in 2014, so we’re actually one down for the year.

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It’s never good news when a downloadable game gets delisted, regardless of platform. But a delisting is especially unfortunate for Windows Phone users, because delisted Windows Phone games can’t be redownloaded even by users who have purchased them. Nor can we back games up and restore them later. Just one of many issues we’ve lamented in the past that Microsoft still needs to fix.

Unfortunately, another couple of Xbox Windows Phone games disappeared from the Store at the start of the year: Tower Bloxx: New York and 3D Brick Breaker Revolution from publisher Digital Chocolate. Neither game was anything special – especially not 3D Brick Breaker. But again, you have to feel for people like yours truly who paid money for those titles and can now lose access to them forever.

In addition to those two vanished games, EA’s Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 has also dropped from the Store. Read on to learn about all three titles and what factors might have led to their disappearance.

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Last month, Microsoft pulled 11 Xbox games from the Windows Phone Store, 10 of which had used Microsoft Points as the payment method for their In-App Purchases. At the time, we speculated that only a few games would return at all, and mostly stripped of their Xbox features.

Today the first of those delisted games has returned: Chickens Can’t Fly. Unfortunately, it has indeed returned as an indie game. But hey, at least Windows Phone gamers can play it again – if they repurchase. We can’t place the blame for this on developer Amused Sloth, though. They’ve just posted a lengthy explanation for change on their blog. As you might expect, stripping the game of its Xbox features came from a higher power...

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Earlier this week, three Xbox Windows Phone 7 titles from Gameloft suddenly got delisted from the Store. It’s not totally unusual for games to be delisted; at the end of September a record-setting 11 games received the same treatment. But most of those games handled In-App Purchases (IAPs) via now-defunct Microsoft Points. None of the newly pulled Gameloft games had IAPs.

The main thing these latest delisted games had in common (besides their publisher and being Windows Phone 7 launch titles) is that all three went on sale on September 26, the same week as the mass IAP delisting. Head past the break for details and our speculation as to what happened.

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When Windows Phone 8 launched in November of last year, it soon become clear that certain Xbox Windows Phone 7 games were incompatible with the new OS. Microsoft’s immediate solution to the problem was to partially delist all of those games, removing their listings from the Windows Phone website. They did this without informing the developers of those games. After we published an article exposing the issue, the games eventually made it back to the web store with updated compatibility information.

We tell you all this because Microsoft has just made a similar but even more harmful maneuver. This week, no less than eleven Windows Phone 7 games were completely delisted from the Store. They can’t be redownloaded by people who purchased them. And several of the game’s developers were NOT informed by Microsoft of the issues leading to their removal or the removal itself. Read on for the full scoop!

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In the Windows Phone and Windows 8 emulation scene, a developer named M.k has largely been the star of the show. Starting in January of this year, he produced no less than three awesome emulators for mobile Microsoft platforms: Snes8x (Super Nintendo), VBA8 (GameBoy Advance), and VGBC8 (GameBoy Color). M.k updated his emulators regularly, and had promised to bring MOGA Pro Controller support to the Windows Phone 8 versions in a future update.

Yesterday our hopes for a controller-fied emulation future came to an abrupt halt when all three of M.k’s emulators disappeared from the Windows Phone Store. This prompted speculation that Microsoft had finally started cracking down on emulators, a somewhat controversial type of app.

Many gamers love playing classic games via emulation, but others lump the practice in with piracy. Microsoft has historically allowed emulators to be sold on the Store, which means there is no debate as far as we’re concerned. Could Microsoft have changed its policy towards emulation apps though?

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The implementation of Xbox games on Windows Phone is riddled with problems. While these range from “Darn it” minor to “Holy crap!” major, as a whole they threaten the viability of Xbox games on the platform. We believe Microsoft can still turn things around and make Xbox Windows Phone a mobile gaming force to be reckoned with, hence this series of editorials.

Part One of this series focused on the problematic Xbox Live certification process, and Part Two looked at both the importance of Xbox games to Windows Phone and the platform’s need for popular game engine support. In this installment we’ll tackle the simple need for proper volume control, the ability to redownload purchased games, and the weak advertising presence of Xbox Windows Phone games so far.

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This week we got a surprise double release on Xbox Live, with not only Contract Killer but also Lode Runner Classic launching simultaneously. Still, the overall number o Xbox Live games only increased by one. Why? MiniSquadron from Supermono and Fat Pebble Games was pulled from the Marketplace.

MiniSquadron looked like a very promising Xbox Live title – we were super excited about it prior to its release last year. Once the game finally came out, things looked a bit different. It suffered from numerous bugs, including a weapon that consistently crashed the game and a broken Achievement worth a whopping 50 GamerScore. The virtual d-pad and buttons were also tiny and awkwardly positioned. We still gave it a positive review overall, but with the assumption that original developer Supermono would do the right thing and commission an update from Fat Pebble, the porting team.

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Press Start Studio’s Xbox Live hack-and-slash game Twin Blades has had a rough time of things. Last year it was pulled from the Marketplace over concerns about its violent content, only to return four months later with the zombie blood replaced by harmless green goo.  But even then, the game proved to be incompatible with the Windows Phone Mango update, which wasn’t rectified for another three months.

Fast-forward to March of this year, and Twin Blades is once again gone from the Marketplace. Not only that, but the Xbox 360 indie and iOS versions, as well as Press Start’s other Windows Phone title, Butterfly, are also gone. As usual, they all disappeared without warning.

We contacted Microsoft about the delistings and received this response:

Due to unforeseen circumstances both Microsoft and the developer are unable to make these games available in the Mobile Marketplace going forward.  We have appreciated the opportunity to share these games with our customers.”

Basically, the titles have been permanently removed. They didn’t say why, but in situations like this that don’t involve licensed games, a mass delisting usually means that the developer has gone out of business. Press Start Studio, a small French developer, did not return requests for comment. Further signs that their doors may have closed: they haven’t updated their website since October, and they actually failed to respond to an interview that we had arranged a short while before that. Too bad, it would have been good!

It’s always sad to see the passing of a game from existence. Twin Blades had a vocal little fan base who loved its stylish art and action. In our review I lamented its extreme repetitiveness and poor level design though. As for Butterfly, another game I reviewed – well, that one was just terrible. You’re not missing much from its absence but some easy Achievements.

If we learn anything more about Press Start Studio’s fate, we’ll be sure to let you know.

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Xbox Live: PES 2011 drops off the Marketplace

It’s been a while since an Xbox Live game has been pulled from the Marketplace. Last year, Fast & Furious: Adrenaline, Star Wars Cantina, and Star Wars: Battle for Hoth all got pulled at once. Besides that, the beleaguered Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst was taken down for good, and Twin Blades got temporarily pulled. Now we can add another game to the delisted list: Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 (aka PES 2011) from Konami.

As with the previous pulled games, no warning was given before PES 2011 got yanked. Some have speculated its removal is due to PES 2012’s impending release. It is true that once PES 2012 comes out, nobody will want to buy the previous version. But is there any harm in allowing 2011 to collect virtual dust alongside its successor? After all, once a game has been pulled, people who already purchased that game can no longer redownload it. Removing a game every time its sequel comes around isn’t very fair to customers.

We’ve contacted Konami and Microsoft for comment and will update if they’re able to shed some light on the subject.

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Tower Bloxx: New York - Xbox Windows Phone Review

After the huge disappointment of 3D Brick Breaker Revolution from Digital Chocolate, I wasn’t exactly eager to play any more of their games. That title sported an awful 3D graphics engine, poor controls, and overly difficult gameplay and Achievements. Surprisingly, Digital Chocolate’s other Xbox Live title, Tower Bloxx: New York is far less offensive. It’s still nothing special, but fans of casual games may enjoy it.

Climb the stairs past the break for our full review.

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When three Xbox Live games were pulled from the Marketplace in a single day, gamers were justifiably upset. The delisted games include Fast & Furious: Adrenaline (review), Star Wars: Battle for Hoth (review), and Star Wars Cantina. All three games are based on licensed properties, and those licenses seemed to expire simultaneously. Sure, the publishers should have notified us that the licenses were ending in advance so as to reap last-minute sales, but that would actually make sense…

Good news for Star Wars fans then, as working Zune links for both Cantina and Battle for Hoth have been discovered. Neither game shows up when browsing the Marketplace, but with these links they can still be purchased. Should you buy them though? Battle for Hoth may be the worst Xbox Live tower defense game in my opinion, due to its absurd difficulty and general jankiness. Cantina, on the other hand, is a decent time-management game. It’s nowhere near as good as Sally’s Salon Luxury Edition (review) due to its short length and poor controls, but still worth a play if you’ve already finished Sally’s Salon and crave more customers to serve. Plus, unlike Hoth it’s got easy Achievements.

You can find Star Wars: Battle for Hoth here (Zune link) and Star Wars Cantina here, hidden away in the Marketplace. There’s no telling how much longer the links will work, so commence to downloading if they catch your fancy.

Source: wp7linx

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Like Tetris, Brick Breaker is one of those games that I consider one of the classic arcade games. I’ve played a number of variations of Brick Breaker over the years, so I was pretty excited when 3D Brick Breaker Revolution made it into the Marketplace.

If you are a Brick Breaker addict, see the full review of 3D Brick Breaker Revolution after the break.

Pros: 
Classic Brick Breaker game-play with some twists, earn Xbox Live achievements, trial version available
Cons: 
Doesn't feel like a classic game, the graphics look cheesy
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