Microsoft Studios

Microsoft has tapped Phil Spencer the new Head of Xbox. In his new role, Spencer will oversee all Xbox-related projects, including Microsoft Studios, along with Xbox Live, Music, and Video. A 25-year Microsoft veteran, Spencer has led Microsoft Game Studios since 2008. Spencer says he will use what he has learned, particularly over the last year with the launch of the Xbox One, to build a great team around the Xbox brand.

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Microsoft Studios has brought the classic puzzle game of Hexic to Windows Phone devices and Windows 8 devices. The game brings 100 challenging levels of geometric goodness in a new touch-friendly experience. Plus it's free!

The game features all new chain combos with swipe-and-match gameplay and mechanics originally designed by Alexey Pajitnov, creator of the legendary puzzle game Tetris. We've seen Hexic before as a Xbox Live title for Windows Phone 7 and the latest version looks to build upon the appeal of the previous.

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According to Bloomberg, Microsoft has plans to grow its upcoming television programming selection beyond the originally planned Halo series on the Xbox One. Phil Spencer, corporate vice president at Microsoft Studios, declined detailed comments to Bloomberg yesterday at the Tokyo Game Show, but showed Microsoft has full intentions to invade your living room.

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Ever since Windows Phone 7 launched with Xbox features and games, fans have been clamoring for a mobile Halo game. The Halo series of first-person shooters is Microsoft’s most popular gaming franchise, so a Windows Phone version would seem like a foregone conclusion. But two years passed without the slightest hint at a mobile Halo title, prompting us to question whether Microsoft has the will to bring its gaming franchises to Windows Phone.

Thankfully, a little PC and tablet OS called Windows 8 finally inspired Microsoft and franchise stewards 343 Industries to make the leap towards bringing Halo to mobile devices. Developing the game for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 simultaneously allowed the creators to keep costs down; reach the phone, tablet, and PC markets in one go; and give Microsoft’s fledgling phone and tablet operating systems a shot in the arm.

Halo: Spartan Assault is finally available on Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. Read on for our comprehensive review of both versions!

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Windows Phone has boasted Xbox Live integration from its very beginnings in 2010. The features this integration brought, such as games with Xbox Achievements, Xbox Live friends list and text messaging support, and the promise of integration with actual console games all gave Microsoft’s mobile OS a big in with hardcore Xbox 360 gamers.

One thing has long been missing though: an exclusive title that would inspire people to buy a Windows Phone just to play it. Windows Phone 8 didn’t launch with such a game last year, and in fact neither did Microsoft’s revolutionary PC and tablet OS, Windows 8. The lack of killer apps was enough to make us question Microsoft’s will to bring the company’s major franchises to its own mobile platforms.

That all changes today, because Microsoft has just officially announced Halo: Spartan Assault for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. That’s right: Halo, one of the most popular franchises in gaming is coming exclusively to Windows platforms next month. And both versions will be Xbox Live enabled, complete with shiny Achievements. At last, it looks like Microsoft is starting to take mobile Xbox gaming seriously.

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A common complaint among most of you is that Microsoft sometimes appears to be lacking dedication to its own platform. When a Microsoft owned property, like Skype, gets a feature on iOS before Windows Phone it’s hard to argue. Apps like Photosynth took months after Windows Phone 8 launched to come to the Store. So when Microsoft launches a new game Halo game you’d expect something to happen with the Halo Waypoint app right? That didn’t exactly happen last year, but the app was updated updated this week. Let’s see what’s new.

So Microsoft Studios updates the Halo Waypoint app. An app that hasn’t seen any love or attention since Halo 4 launched. The latest update (version 1.7) finally includes “stats” for Halo 4.

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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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In a recent editorial, I complained that Microsoft has largely stopped announcing or publicizing Windows Phone games in advance. Well, this week we have a prime example of that. Galactic Reign from Slant Six and Microsoft Studios has just showed on Windows 8 and RT with Xbox features and will appear for Windows Phone 7 and 8 devices (also with Xbox features) later today.

Microsoft teased the game back in October but made absolutely no mention of platforms, so nobody really knew it was coming, and especially not as a multiplatform release with connectivity features. But other than the lack of proper PR, a new game showing up on Windows Phone and Windows 8 with cross-platform asynchronous multiplayer is always good news, so we’ll stop complaining. For now.

Since the Windows 8 game launched ahead of the mobile version, we’ve already put several hours into it. Head past the break for our full impressions, plus details about buying the game on one platform and playing it from another!

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Last week, Windows Phone received no new Xbox game for the third week in a row. Our detailed editorial posited several theories to explain the prolonged release drought, and many readers chimed in with their own theories. This week marks the fourth consecutive dry week, and the sixth within the last two months. Microsoft has informed us there won’t be a new Xbox game or Deal of the Week once more.

Why another dry week, you ask? An Xbox game developer has come forward with information supporting one of our theories… And no, it isn’t the best news.

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We recently discovered that Crimson Dragon: Side Story has become Windows Phone 8 compatible, but it’s been a while since we had a chance to talk about the upcoming Xbox 360 Crimson Dragon game. Over the weekend a playable demo leaked onto the Japanese Xbox 360 Marketplace before being quickly pulled down. Thankfully we now have YouTube footage of Crimson Dragon to dissect, plus DLC news for the upcoming Kinect game.

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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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The Xbox on Windows Phone lineup, on the whole is far too casual for some gamers’ tastes. Xbox Live features have attracted a sizable minority of Xbox 360 fans to Microsoft’s mobile platform, where they find an abundance of puzzle games and a disarmingly small number of established gaming franchises. Microsoft does sometimes throw the hardcore crowd a bone though, as evidenced by the recent release of Crimson Dragon Side Story. Not only does Side Story tie into the upcoming Xbox console game Crimson Dragon’s fascinating universe, but it’s also one of the more robust and ambitious mobile Xbox games in sometime.

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Microsoft themselves didn’t have as much of a presence at Casual Connect Seattle this year as we would’ve liked, but they did stage a fascinating presentation on the effects that switching to Xbox Live has had on popular free word game Wordament. We all know Xbox Live has helped Wordament become more popular, but the specific benefits and results of the switch are extremely encouraging and could have wide-ranging effects on future Windows Phone games.

Windows Phone Central has the full presentation video to share, plus a detailed summary and anaylsis. Check it out after the break.

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Microsoft's SmartGlass took center stage at E3 2012 and was rather impressive. SmartGlass aims to bridge entertainment and productivity from the Xbox console to computers, tablets and smartphones. A connection that will go beyond simply pausing a video on your Xbox console and picking it up on your Windows Phone. While we aren't sure how far reaching SmartGlass will be with developers, according to Phil Spencer, Corporate VP of Microsoft Studios, we should expect SmartGlass support to be a constant feature in all of Microsoft Studios games going forward.

"It just makes so much sense for a developer who wants to supply, maybe not time-critical information, like 'that enemy is getting ready to shoot you,' but information that augments what's happening on screen."

"...you're even going to see situations like with Ascend, where there's actually gameplay that happens on the phone, even when you're away from your television and that interacts back with the online game that's happening."

We may see supplemental information appear on your Windows Phone while playing a game on the Xbox console or the game completely transfer to your Windows Phone when you walk away from the console. SmartGlass has the potential to seamlessly connect the three screens. Or is it four screens with tablets on the horizon?

Source: joystiq

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Wordament Goes Dutch on Windows Phone

Microsoft could probably leave Wordament exactly as-is and it would still keep many of us busy for, like, ever. But what if you don’t speak English, the language that yours truly wields like swords? Hey, the developers have got your covered. The Xbox Live version launched with English and Spanish, allowing muchas personas to enjoy the game.

Now Wordament’s Dutch language support has gone live as well. Not to be confused with the movie Dutch, the Dutch language is spoken in Holland and the Netherlands, of which Holland is a region. Microsoft plans to add several more European languages to the game in the future: French, Italian, German, and Swedish – sorry Portugal!

Wordament is free and supported by ads. Get it here on the Marketplace. We'll have a full review soon.

Update: Even Portugese could be in the cards.

Source: Wordament.com; via TrueAchievements

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Lately we’ve been fortunate enough to receive release dates for new Xbox Live games a week or two in advance – including this week’s release, Monster Island. Naturally Windows Phone gamers are already anxious to know about next week’s new game, and we can now put those anxieties to rest. Microsoft Studios has officially announced that the Xbox Live version of Wordament launches on April 25. The game prematurely appeared on the Marketplace’s list of Xbox Live games last week, but was not Live-enabled.

Wordament is already available as an indie game. The gameplay involves trying to find as many words as possible from a field of 16 letters, all within a time limit. The hook? You’re competing against hundreds of others in real-time over the internet. Visually it’s quite plain, but the multiplayer/leaderboard aspect is compelling.

Head past the break for the full story and an update from the game's developer.

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Last year, this writer paid a visit to Twisted Pixel Studios in Austin, TX to discuss their Kinect title The Gunstringer. Twisted Pixel is best known for their creative and irreverent Xbox Live Arcade titles, including The Maw, Splosion Man, Comic Jumper, and Ms. Splosion Man. Shortly after the visit, Microsoft acquired Twisted Pixel. I dared to hope that the move to first-party status would bring Twisted Pixel titles to Windows Phone, and what do you know…

Ms. Splosion Man, the larger-than-life sequel to Splosion Man, has now been announced for Windows Phone! In MSM (as I’ll now shorten it), players control the titular antihero. Like her male predecessor, she’s the result of scientific experimentation gone awry. MSM is a platformer, but unlike other games, the lead character doesn’t just jump, she ‘splodes to reach new heights. She’ll also ‘splode the hapless scientists and any other contraptions they’ve built that get in her way. It’s bright, cheerful, and extremely silly fun.  The XBLA game also provides quite a challenge, but I’m sure Windows Phone gamers are up to it.

Ms. Splosion Man gets around, as she’ll also be appearing on Windows Phone in her own themed table in the upcoming Windows Phone port of Pinball FX 2. The same table is already available in the XBLA original.

Twisted Pixel’s support of Windows Phone is terrific news, though not without a few caveats. They’re still calling the platform Windows Phone 7 in the trailer, which will look a bit dated as soon as Windows Phone 8 rolls around. More to the point, Ms. Splosion Man is also coming to PC, iPhone, and iPad. We’ve seen this happen with Kinectimals, Halo Waypoint, and several other Microsoft apps. Microsoft publishing titles for competing platforms sends mixed signals to consumers and nullifies a potential advantage of the Windows Phone platform. Exclusives help drive sales, after all. Why not just bring Halo 4 to Playstation 3 while they're at it? Oh well - we won’t spoil a new Windows Phone title reveal with further complaining.

Thanks to Dark Synopsis for the tip!

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BulletAsylum: Xbox Windows Phone Review

Does anybody remember the 1980 arcade game Missile Command? It was quite a hit back at the dawn of the vidja game phenomenon, though we haven’t seen too many modern sequels beyond the updated XBLA and iPhone versions. Indie developer UberGeekGames (one word) certainly seems familiar with Missile Command, and the tiny team has created a modern tribute in the form of BulletAsylum (also one word). Microsoft considers this a ‘Must Have Game,’ but sadly you won’t find much depth beneath its flashy exterior.

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