Editorials

Popular mobile games often take a long time to arrive on Windows Phone - if they ever make the trip at all. Last year I wrote an editorial explaining the delay in porting games to Windows Phone and the market situations that make such delays inevitable. To make a long story short, bringing games from iOS and Android to Windows Phone at the same time as the lead version often doesn’t make financial sense for the publisher… Not that we have to like it.

In fact, one of our dedicated readers doesn’t care to wait-and-see whether popular games like Candy Crush Saga will make it to Windows Phone at all. Tjecco been running a forum thread dedicated to contacting mobile developers about support for Microsoft’s mobile OS for a while now. With the help of other fine readers, he continues to reach out to developers and update the thread with their responses. Find out which developers have recently confirmed Windows Phone support (and what you can do to help) after the break!

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A few days ago, we reported that Microsoft is looking to create an open-source framework for bringing Xbox Live features to games for all mobile platforms. An additional report from The Verge has since added additional fuel to the fire, giving us a slightly clearer picture of what that means for Xbox Live on Windows Phone and other mobile devices.

Xbox Windows Phone has long been in dire need of a change. Read on to find out what went wrong, and how likely it is that the upcoming open-source framework will set mobile Xbox Live games back on track.

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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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It looks like this is the third week in a row with no new Xbox Windows Phone game. That officially makes this the second drought of the year. Now, last week I complained about the lack of release and some people felt I was being too harsh. So this week we’ll look at the bright side of a new game not coming out.

The most obvious advantage of not having a new Xbox release is that it allows us to catch up on our reviews! We published our Tiny Plane review today, and last week our Monopoly Millionaire review ran. If Microsoft bothered to keep publishing a new game each week like gamers want and expect, we probably couldn’t have finished those reviews. What can I say? It takes me a while to play a game and then give it a lengthy and detailed review.

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Earlier this year, Windows Phone experienced an extended Xbox game release drought that actually began at the end of 2012. As the weeks stretched on, we became increasingly worried about the future of Xbox games on Windows Phone. The severity of the drought prompted me to write our seven-part “How Microsoft can save Xbox games for Windows Phone” series, which all Windows Phone gamers still need to read.

In February, Skulls of the Shogun basically broke the drought, though the following week there was no new release. But since then, we’ve seen a steady release of Xbox games for Windows Phone 7 and 8 from major publishers like Gameloft, Rovio, and Ubisoft. It looked like the days of drought were behind us.

Then last week we got no new Xbox release. It stung, but maybe this week would be different. Well, as far as we can tell, there is no new Xbox game this week either. Could this be the start of a new drought?

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“Wake up Sam”, that’s what my internal Cortana said on the morning of May 14.

Paul and I were in Santa Monica, CA to get an early preview of an upcoming, unannounced, non-console “Halo” action title. That’s all we knew, but the fact that Microsoft and 343 Industries invited Windows Phone Central gave us an idea of what platform we would be playing this on.

Was it finally happening? Halo on Windows Phone? As you know by now, the answer was a loud yes. And bonus, Windows 8 was getting in on the action. If you read us regularly, you might have figured out by now I’m a big Halo fan. So what do I think about Halo: Spartan Assault so far?

Spoiler alert: Forget E3 and Build, I want it to be July already.

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Microsoft is scheduled to reveal the next Xbox console (codenamed Durango) in two weeks’ time on May 21st. The announcement of the reveal event marks the first time the console maker has publicly acknowledged the existence of the upcoming system. Still, the gaming industry has known about the next Xbox for quite some time now thanks to the usual steady trickle of leaks and rumors.

One of those rumors that we haven’t addressed here at Windows Phone Central is that the new console would require an internet connection in order to function. We’ll expand on that rumor in just a bit. The new rumor (which I take for truth) is that the next Xbox will not require an always-on internet connection after all. Thank goodness!

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Although the year got off to a rocky start with an extended Xbox game release drought, the Xbox Windows Phone gaming situation has actually been looking up since February. Gameloft’s highly anticipated Windows Phone 8 titles finally started rolling out, and some weeks saw two Xbox games released instead of just one.

Don’t think we’re out of the thicket just yet. The Xbox Live certification process continues to cause games like Cut the Rope: Experiments to come out much later than on other platforms, and meaningful title updates come just as late or not at all – both Windows Phone Cut the Rope games are missing levels that iOS and Android already get to enjoy. Microsoft’s solution to this problem seems to be encouraging big games like Temple Run to release as indie titles in order to circumvent the Xbox Live certification process. Because why bother fixing a broken system?

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Last week, Gameloft kicked off their much anticipated wave of Xbox releases for Windows Phone 8 with Asphalt 7, a game I call the best racer on the platform in our review. They’ve followed up this week with the very strong The Amazing Spider-Man and the not-so-strong and highly skippable Real Soccer 2013. With at least 9 more games coming, including first-person shooters, action games, and even an MMORPG, it’s safe to say that Gameloft will keep Windows Phone gamers pretty busy this year.

Similarly, Electronics Arts and its subsidiaries Chillingo and PopCap have produced a ton of fine mobile Xbox games as Nokia exclusives within the past few months. All of the Nokia EA games are expected to become available to general Windows Phone audiences six months after release, so they really do benefit the platform as a whole.

However large and prolific they might be, publishers Gameloft and Electronic Arts can’t keep the Xbox Windows Phone lineup afloat all by themselves. The world of smartphone gaming is vast indeed. iOS and Android thrive thanks to many game developers and publishers, both great and small. Today we continue our ‘How Microsoft can save Xbox Games for Windows Phone’ editorial series with a look at the game makers that our platform needs in order to thrive.

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Xbox for Windows Phone is a key selling point for gamers, but the implementation leaves much to be desired. This editorial series has covered a lot of ground so far, including the need for streamlining the Xbox Live certification process, Microsoft’s failure to appreciate the importance of Xbox to Windows Phone, the need for multiplatform game engine support, and the need for better PR and a download code system.

This week we tackle software and online features that Xbox Windows Phone badly needs.

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Here at Windows Phone Central, we are focused on Windows Phone and other Microsoft platforms. We also like to keep our eyes on the competition, such as the upcoming HTC One Android smartphone. To that extent, the Xbox 360 and its successor will have a new competing videogame console later this year in the form of the Playstation 4. Last night, Sony officially announced the console, which is due for a holiday 2013 release.

Read on for our impressions of the Playstation 4 and how it will affect Microsoft's next Xbox console!

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As our game-playing readers have probably noticed by now, Xbox for Windows Phone isn’t truly out of drought territory just yet. There is no new Xbox release this week. We asked Microsoft whether the two free Gameloft games on Tuesday were intended to make up for the lack of release. Unfortunately, those games being offered for free resulted from a Store glitch that has since been corrected.

Microsoft couldn’t tell us whether there will be a new Xbox Windows Phone game next week, either. It’s clear that the problems facing the platform won’t go away any time soon. Let’s just hope our editorial series can inspire the powers that be to move things in a better direction… In the meantime, we've got another rumor explaining the lack of games and a hefty list of titles that Microsoft could and should be producing for Windows Phone!

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Remember that huge five week long game drought we just went through? We didn’t get official word from Microsoft until the fourth straight week without a release, after the drought had almost passed (and not for lack of trying on our part). As every week went by, your humble author and most avid Windows Phone gamers became increasingly distressed. The whole situation brought to light the ever-worsening handling of Xbox games for Windows Phone by the platform holder.

It also led to the creation of this very series of editorials about how Xbox games for Windows Phone can be turned around. Microsoft has a wonderful gaming synergy on its hands with Xbox Live and Windows Phone, if only they will make proper use of it. We’ve already explored several ways to do so: overhaul the certification system that’s completely inappropriate for mobile games, get internal forces within Microsoft on the same page about the value of Xbox Live, and then promote Windows Phone directly alongside Xbox consoles.

Today we follow up on that last point by looking at the lack of public relations management that affects mobile Xbox games and makes it difficult for both Windows Phone and Windows 8 developers and publishers to promote their own games.

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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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The recent extended release drought of Xbox games for Windows Phone has prompted both game developers and players alike to question Microsoft’s commitment to Xbox Live support for its own mobile OS. For their part, Microsoft kinda-sorta reaffirmed their dedication to mobile Xbox games, and the long in-development Skulls of the Shogun finally debuts this week. Perhaps the drought has ended and Xbox Windows Phone games will blossom anew once more.

Still, all those weeks without new games didn’t happen by random chance. There are myriad underlying problems at fault, from outdated policies to poor portfolio management to a combination of apathy and ambivalence from some divisions within the platform holder itself. To anyone with an ounce of understanding of the mobile games industry, it looks bad - and it is bad. But Microsoft can still save Xbox games for Windows Phone.

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Over the last couple of months, Windows Phone Central has been highly skeptical and/or critical of Microsoft’s dedication towards Xbox games for Windows Phone. As the weeks without a new Xbox release (excluding Nokia exclusives) have grown, so has our certainty in an underlying problem. This culminated with a game developer stepping forward to explain Microsoft’s reticence towards approving new Xbox projects, not to mention the conspicuous snubbing of Windows Phone in the announcement of the multiplatform WSOP: Full House Pro.

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Alright, so Nokia has a good grasp on what the word exclusive means. But Microsoft takes a more liberal stance towards supporting other platforms. We’ve seen the big MS publish previously Xbox Windows Phone exclusive games to iOS before, such as Kinectimals and Tentacles. It always hurt, but we sucked it up and complained only in small doses.

Yesterday, another exclusive turned coat and migrated to iOS: Microsoft’s own Wordament. I had previously speculated that Wordament could function as a killer app, attracting gamers to Windows Phone with its highly addictive gameplay and smart design. That will no longer happen, but here’s the really bad news: Wordament on iOS is an Xbox Live title complete with real Achievements!

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What was your first reaction when you first laid eyes on Windows Phone 7 Series? I have to admit my first reaction was not unlike the response I give my wife when she asks what I think of her new dress, haircut, or when she experiments with a new recipe; cautiously positive. At first look, the Start Page lacked a certain zip or pizazz that I have grown accustomed to with Windows Phones. 

Often is the case that as you learn more you learn about something, your first impression changes. While the graphics of Windows Phone 7 Series felt like a step backwards, the more I learned about Hubs and the consistency Microsoft would strive to maintain the more Windows Phone 7 Series grew on me.

Still, while it may sound superficial, I wish Windows Phone 7 Series had a little more "pop" to it.  It reminded me of the generic Today Screen of Windows Mobile of yesterday, that while functional lacked pizazz.  What might help Windows Phone 7 Series's first impression is a Start Screen that is as graphically pleasing as it is functional.

I've gotten spoiled with graphical impact HTC's Manila/Touchflo screens offer and MaxManila really adds a flair (along with more functionality) to the Windows Phone experience.  Windows Phones have a developed a tradition for customization to allow owners have their phones reflect their individuality.  Hopefully that will carry over with WP7S's features.

Microsoft in their Mobile World Congress presentation stated they want to focus on the end user experience.  Isn't the ability to customize the appearance of your phone part of that experience?  Or will functionality win over aesthetics and the lack of customization become a non-issue? 

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