Xbox Live

You could be forgiven for not expecting a new Xbox release this week. After Skulls of the Shogun’s long-awaited debut last week, there really aren’t too many upcoming Xbox Windows Phone games that we actually know about. But Microsoft told us the release drought would probably end this month, and it looks like they were right. A shiny new game has popped up for all Windows Phone 7 and 8 users today: the oddly named KooZac.

Almost as exciting as receiving a new release at all these days, KooZac comes from one of our favorite mobile publishers – Square Enix, makers of Final Fantasy. We actually heard whispers of this game coming to Windows Phone at E3 last year, but the representative was so noncommittal about it that we didn’t bother to get our hopes up. Looks like Square Enix hasn’t given up on Windows Phone yet!

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We’re hard at work on our Skulls of the Shogun review, but it’s a long game and also features an extensive multiplayer component. As such, we’ll hold our judgment of that title until next week. In the meantime, let’s look at one of those formerly Nokia exclusive Xbox games that half of us loved to love while the other half loved to grumble about:  Risk.

The Nokia-Electronic Arts partnership has produced games in a variety of genres so far. The mostly highly represented game type is actually board games, with The Game of Life, Connect 4, Trivial Pursuit, and Risk among its numbers. Risk recently gained Windows Phone 8 compatibility, making it a prime target for review. It’s also one of the stronger board game adaptations to appear on Microsoft’s mobile platform.

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It’s long been rumored that Nokia exclusive games and apps are just timed exclusives and will eventually become available to all Windows Phone users. We’ve been working behind the scenes to get the exact details behind the exclusivity window, but today a happy occurrence has answered one question for us. Former Nokia-exclusive Xbox game Mirror’s Edge is now available to all Windows Phone 7 and 8 users, just over six months after its original release!

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When exclusive Xbox Windows Phone/Windows 8 game Wordament jumped ship to iOS, we were perhaps a little disappointed. Windows Phone needs all the exclusive games it can get, and Microsoft doesn’t need to do Apple any favors. Still, the game has gone multiplatform now and there’s no turning back.

In fact, Microsoft just published the most platform-agnostic version of Wordament ever. This one’s playable via HTML5-enabled web browsers. Best of all for Xbox gamers, the web game comes with 50 GamerScore worth of Achievements!

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Flight Control Review: The seed of proliferation

Let’s face it, all the cool Windows Phone gamer kids are playing Skulls of the Shogun right now, but we can’t review that game until we’ve spent a little more time with it. Instead, we'll take a look at a classic title. Some people felt left out with last week’s Flight Control: Rocket review since that fine game is a Nokia exclusive. As such, it’s high time for our review of the original Flight Control, a game that all Windows Phone 7 and 8 owners can play. Flight Control comes from developer Firemint (now known as Firemonkeys) and Namco Bandai games.

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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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We caught wind of this a little late, but the Windows 8 Xbox game The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running from Other Ocean and Microsoft is free through Monday. Dead Man Running normally costs $1.49 despite being designed and planned as a free-to-play game, with lots of in-game purchases on offer. So why not hurry up and get it free like it’s supposed to be?

Head past the break for our full impressions of the game itself.

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No new Xbox games for Windows Phone appeared this week, not even a game from Nokia. This marks the fifth week without a new release – the longest in Windows Phone history. But Windows Phone 8 did gain a new playable title in the form of Shuffle Party (which was previously incompatible), and all Windows Phone users can look forward to the highly-anticipated Skulls of the Shogun next week.

It’s no secret that we consider the ball to have been dropped pretty far as Xbox games for Windows Phone go. You might even say the ball had rolled across the street and into the scary old neighbor’s yard. Throughout the release drought, Windows Phone Central has worked hard at getting an explanation from Microsoft themselves. At last we have official word and a bit of good news to go along with it.

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Next week’s Xbox Windows Phone release Skulls of the Shogun is possibly Microsoft’s most ambitious game yet. Not only will it be launching on Windows Phone, but also XBLA and Windows 8/RT simultaneously. Take that, WSOP: Full House Pro! Sorry, I just ate some sour grapes. On top of the three-platform release, Skulls also supports shared campaign progress across devices thanks to cloud saving and asynchronous cross-platform multiplayer.

The only problem with Skulls coming to all Xbox-supporting platforms at once is that Microsoft has yet to establish a ‘universal app’ pay structure like iOS and the Playstation 3/Vita support. Thankfully the game’s developer 17-BIT and Microsoft have just announced special launch pricing that will make picking up all three versions (or even just one) more attractive to gamers.

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The original Flight Control from Australian developer Firemint created the line drawing genre. It plays to smartphones’ strengths, allowing players to craft flight paths for incoming aircraft by drawing smooth lines on the touch screen. But the gameplay boils down to endless score runs, limiting its appeal to goal-oriented gamers.

Thankfully Firemint and EA took that consideration to heart when developing their sequel Flight Control Rocket (aka FC Rocket). It improves on the original game in pretty much every way, although the new focus on grinding goes a little too far. Still, FC Rocket is my pick for the most addictive Nokia exclusive Xbox Windows Phone game yet.

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I regret to report that the Xbox Windows Phone game release drought continues unabated this week, making the fifth week in a row without a new release (not counting Nokia exclusives). But it’s not all bad news. For one, we have the awesome cross-platform Skulls of the Shogun coming out next week on January 30th. And this week, Microsoft will be throwing Windows Phone 8 users a bone…

Following on the heels of yesterday’s Let’s Golf 2, another game gains Windows Phone 8 compatibility tomorrow: Shuffle Party from Babaroga and Microsoft Studios. Shuffle Party will be free as always, and is probably the third best free mobile Xbox game after Wordament and AlphaJax.

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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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Need to renew your Xbox Live membership? Looking to start an Xbox Live membership? Just want to save some bucks on an Xbox Live membership? Buy.com is offering a 12 month Gold Membership subscription to Xbox Live for $34.99.

The twelve month subscription normally runs about $60 and even if you still have months left on your existing membership, this deal will save you money down the road.

Just make sure you choose "budget shipping" when you check out. This will save you the $3.99 shipping cost for the card. We aren't sure how long this deal will last but you can find all the fine print on the Xbox Live Gold Membership deal here at Buy.com.

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Lets Golf 2 is a popular Xbox Windows Phone game that has evidently had some installation issues with Windows Phone 8 devices. Issues that caused the installation process to crash leaving Windows Phone 8 users in the club house.

Whatever the issue, Gameloft has found the bug, squashed it and now Lets Golf 2 can be installed without problems on your Windows Phone 8 devices. We've successfully installed the game on both the Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC 8X. However, the 8X took a significantly longer time to install (over five minutes).

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We dished out praises like crazy to the original Full House Poker game for Windows Phone. It was the first Windows Phone 7 game to have proper avatar support and is still the only one, really. A picture of the user’s avatar on their stats screen like AlphaJax and Wordament have doesn’t really count; users want to play games as their avatars.

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Just when it seems like Xbox games for Windows Phone’s darkest hour, when all hope of a new release before January 30th has long been abandoned… Nokia once again comes to our rescue with a new exclusive Xbox for Lumia owners: Blobster from Chillingo (who we’ve barely written about today) and Divine Robot. With this surprise late-day release, there are now eleven Nokia exclusives in the Xbox lineup.

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After today’s disappointing news of another week without a new Xbox game for Windows Phone, our gaming readers could probably use some cheering up. Well, I’m pleased to share some win-win information with you now. Not one, but two partially delisted Xbox games for Windows Phone have just become Windows Phone 8 compatible: Feed Me Oil and Parking Mania, both from Chillingo.

That brings the list of incompatible games down to 23, the lowest it has been since Microsoft’s new mobile OS debuted. Hopefully it continues to shrink in the months ahead!

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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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Picnic Wars Review: Why can't food all just get along?

Chillingo, Electronic Arts’ indie publishing arm, has produced many fine Windows Phone games in the last year: Contre Jour, Little Acorns, and Feed Me Oil, to new just a few. Lately though, all of Chillingo’s releases have been Nokia Windows Phone exclusives – for better or worse. Their latest such Xbox release Picnic Wars comes from Crown Adam, a tiny Swiss developer and Philippines-based Anino Games. This interesting take on food fights starts out quite strong, but ends on a lemony sour note.

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