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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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Last month we were excited to learn that Ubisoft’s Rayman Jungle Run would be coming to Windows Phone at some point in the future. The combination of endless runner with actual levels and the lovable Rayman is just what our favorite smartphone platform needs. What we didn’t know is that Jungle Run would also be coming to PC and tablet via Windows 8 and RT. Happy surprise - it’s out now and Xbox Live-enabled!  Plus it gives us a great idea of what to expect when the phone game comes along.

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The recent launch of Asphalt 7: Heat on Windows Phone 8 was just the shot of vitality that Microsoft’s newest mobile OS needed. Considering the rocky start that Xbox Live releases have had this year, we might have expected a puzzle game or no release at all. Well, we needn’t fear such a bleak scenario this week either. Hot off of Asphalt 7’s heels, Gameloft will follow up today with not one, but TWO new Xbox games for Windows Phone 8. And one of them is even free! Are your minds blown yet, mobile gamers?

Yes, two of the 12 Gameloft games announced last year have popped up today: The Amazing Spider-Man and Real Soccer 2013/Real Football 2013. We haven’t put them through their paces just yet, but we do have plenty of details, screens, and pricing! Note that both titles require 1GB of RAM, so they won’t work on the Lumia 620, HTC 8S, and other low-memory devices.

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As the first non-Angry Birds Xbox game running exclusively on Windows Phone 8, Asphalt 7: Heat understandably had a lot of interest from gamers and some rather lofty expectations to live up to. Now that the downloading issues that plagued last week’s launch have been resolved, we’ve been able to step into the driver’s seat and take it for a spin. Is Asphalt 7 the best arcade-style racing game since Outrun or another trip down a one-way road in the wrong direction like its Windows Phone 7 predecessor, Asphalt 5?

I’m pleased to tell you that Asphalt 7 is not only the best racing game in the Windows Phone library, it’s one of the best games period. Head past the break to find out just how it impressed its way into my icy heart.

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OMG: Our Manic Game didn’t exactly set the gaming world on fire, but it did hold the distinction of being the only shoot-em-up available when Windows Phone 7 launched back in 2010. Its best feature is its neon-colored vector art, a style later seen in games like geoDefense and BulletAsylum. OMG has two major strikes against it though. One is a control bug that prevents the player’s ship from staying at the bottom of the screen. Worst of all, it’s not compatible with Windows Phone 8.

Unfortunately, it looks like neither of those problems will ever be fixed. Arkedo Studio, the French studio behind Our Manic Game, has ceased game development. Read on to learn what the future has in store for both the developer and their Xbox Windows Phone game.

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One look at the comments section of our article announcing the release of Asphalt 7: Heat on Windows Phone 8 will tell you that the game is pretty popular. Hey Microsoft, we told you people wanted decent mobile Xbox games!

Ahem. With that gloating out of the way, we have more tasty Asphalt 7 tidbits to share with you now. Head past the break for a hands-on video, multiplayer walkthrough, and update news!

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AlphaJax is quite the popular Xbox game for Windows Phone. Much of that stems from its relatively smooth asynchronous online play, though the game being free certainly helps. Before AlphaJax graduated to Xbox Live status, it was originally a popular indie game. The transition to Xbox Live introduced a few bugs, which we’ve all been hoping would be fixed with a patch.

Good news, bad news time! The first update for AlphaJax has finally arrived. Now for the bad news: the developer recommends that you skip this update. Full details after the break.

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While Microsoft and its partners haven’t exactly announced a ton of Xbox games for Windows Phone 8 so far, the same can’t be said for Gameloft. Back in October, the mobile game publishing giant announced a whopping 12 games specifically for Windows Phone 8. These titles rely on the new mobile handsets’ extra horsepower and most would be impossible to port accurately on our beloved Windows Phone 7.

It’s been a long wait, but the first Gameloft Windows Phone 8 game is finally here: Asphalt 7, the arcade-style racing game. That’s right, a non-Angry Birds Windows Phone 8 game! Who’d have dared to imagine such a thing? In case that didn’t knock you right out of your office chair, it even has…. Real-time online multiplayer! I don’t mean asynchronous: this is the for-real deal. Ho-lee crap, I just had to fetch my socks from across the room. And did I mention Asphalt 7 is priced to sell?

Head past the break for details! We'll have a video soon too.

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Casual and hardcore (or ‘core’) games often appeal to one group of players while excluding the other. Aiming at just one slice of the gaming audience is well and good, but the holy grail of game development is bridging the gap by appealing to both audiences. Only one game developer has consistently managed to reach that lofty goal: PopCap. Now owned by EA, PopCap has finally returned to Windows Phone (7 and 8) with a port of its accessible yet challenging puzzle masterpiece Zuma’s Revenge.

As a Nokia exclusive, non-Nokia owners will have to wait six months to play Zuma’s Revenge. Read on to find out why it’s worth the wait.

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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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KooZac Review: Add it up in this unique puzzle game.

Xbox Windows Phone has absolutely no shortage of puzzle games and physics puzzlers. These types of games are easy to create and easy to port, plus they work well in short play sessions on the go. I don’t blame avid mobile gamers for tiring of puzzlers as a whole, as our platform certainly needs a wider variety of games. Still, puzzle games inarguably have their place on smartphones, so we can’t expect them to stop coming along.

Of course KooZac is a puzzle game, but it’s noteworthy for several reasons. First, it comes Square Enix, the prolific Japanese developer responsible or Final Fantasy and many other mobile RPGs. Square-Enix’s continued support can only be good for Windows Phone. Two: KooZac might look like a standard falling block puzzle game, but it actually plays unlike its brethren thanks to the inclusion of my most bitter enemy: math. Also, Facebook integration!

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A while back, Babel Rising was pulled from Windows Phone 8 due to the tiny problem of crashing on start up. It briefly returned to Windows Phone 8 despite still being incompatible. Well, today seems like déjà vu because another partially delisted game is back in semi-working order: the Nokia exclusive tower iBomber Defense from Chillingo and Cobra Mobile.

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While some of us face the possibility that there might not be a new Xbox Windows Phone game release this week, Nokia owners should have no such complaints. Not only did Nokia and PopCap/EA just publish the vastly improved sequel Bejeweled Live+, two more Nokia Xbox exclusives just popped up! From the license lovers at Electronic Arts comes the board game adaptation Yahtzee, while PopCap has blessed Windows Phone at last with their fast-paced puzzler Zuma’s Revenge.

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Broken Xbox Achievements aren’t especially common in Windows Phone games these days … Mostly because new Xbox Windows Phone games have become so lamentably rare, not because the certification process has improved. One such game that has suffered from a less-than-working Achievement is Picnic Wars, a Nokia exclusive game from Chillingo that launched a short while ago on January 10th.

In record time, Chillingo and Nokia have published an update to fix up Picnic Wars’ Achievement issue. Learn more after the break.

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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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Microsoft has never released a portable console like the Playstation Vita or 3DS, instead opting to publish Xbox-branded games for Windows Phone and Windows 8… A wise choice given the modern trend towards smartphone and tablet gaming over handheld game systems. With the Xbox 360’s excellent lineup of downloadable games, Windows Phone users rightfully expected the chance to play many of their XBLA favorites on their mobile phones.

Unfortunately, the number of robust, XBLA-quality titles released for Xbox Windows Phone to date is incredibly small. I count only Final Fantasy, Puzzle Quest 2, Castlevania Puzzle, ilomilo, Plants vs. Zombies, Sonic 4: Episode I, and Sonic CD as games with full console-level production values and quantity of content. Crimson Dragon Side Story, Hydro Thunder GO, and Civilization Revolution would be on there too if not for their Playstation One-era graphics. Maybe 11 games out of Xbox Windows Phone’s over 150 titles feel like full XBLA games and not just smartphone/casual titles.

Well, add another game to the top-tier pile because Skulls of the Shogun from 17-BIT and Microsoft Studios fits right alongside the XBLA and Windows 8 versions that released alongside it.

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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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