If you’re a fan of mobile gaming and also own an Xbox 360 console, you might well be aware of Xbox Live, Microsoft’s digital delivery service that also supports multiplayer and most importantly allows you to unlock achievements in particular games and improve your Gamerscore. Some say that it has redefined gaming.
This is a feature that is almost exclusive to Windows Phone, and adds a massive new element to mobile gameplay. In addition, the platform comes with an app (Xbox Extras) that enables you to check achievements and edit your avatar (Microsoft also offers another Xbox-style bonus in the shape of the SmartGlass remote app).
Now, Xbox Extras isn’t unique to Windows Phone as the My Xbox Live tool for Android and iPhone offers some similar functions.
But for gamers, the ability to improve your Gamerscore is a massive reason to choose Windows Phone 8 over other platforms. The question is: what exactly do you get, gaming wise?
Xbox Live Games vs Non Live Titles
There are two types of game available on Windows Phone. First you have the Xbox Live titles. These require you to have or create an Xbox Live account (including Gamertag and Avatar) which will record your progress through games on your phone or on an Xbox 360 console (and presumably the fabled Xbox 720 when it is released).
As you make progress through the games on your phone you will unlock achievements, just as you would on the main Xbox 360 console (this is one of many similarities – the Xbox 360 has been sporting a Metro/Modern UI for some time now, regardless of what you might think of it on Windows 8).
All Windows Phone games are available from the Store, including non-Xbox Live games. These titles are often just as good but don’t have the Xbox Live integration. As a result they are usually a bit cheaper than those that do improve your Gamerscore.
Top Xbox Live Titles for Windows Phone
The list of each type of game is considerable. Although Windows Phone doesn’t have the same depth of choice as Android and iPhone, however, you’ll need to spend time checking reviews and taking advantage of trials in order to make sure that you’re happy with a game before purchasing.
Our Best of Windows Phone Apps guide will give you a good idea of the games you should be purchasing for your Windows Phone. If you’re particularly interested in finding the Xbox Live games that are particularly good for boosting your Gamerscore, however, you should try the following:
- Angry Birds: Star Wars
- Asphalt 5
- Beards & Beaks
- Civilization Revolution
- Doodle God
- geoDefense Swarm
- Max and the Magic Marker
- Need for Speed: Undercover
- The Sims 3
While this is really only scratching the surface, these games are the easiest for you to unlock achievements and increase your Gamerscore.
Managing Your Gamerscore and Avatar
Although you will receive “toast” notifications as you unlock achievements, these will perhaps be ignored as you become occupied with the game action. So how can you check what you have unlocked, and what your current Gamerscore is?
This information is available in the Games hub, and with a swipe to the right you can see your Gamertag, avatar (who will often be found paying with his own Windows Phone) and check your Achievements. The list will display both Windows Phone games and Xbox 360 titles, and you can also use this screen to upgrade your Xbox Live account while you’re on the move.
In addition to these tools, there is also the downloadable Xbox Extras, available free from the Windows Phone Store. This enables you to retrieve information from your Xbox Live account and change your avatar. Everything from dress style and physical features to accessories can be updated, just as it can through an Xbox console.
Why Windows Phone Is Popular with Xbox Gamers
By restricting full Xbox Live access to Windows Phone (other than via the Wordament game for iPhone), Microsoft promote their mobile platform as an extension of the Xbox 360 gaming experience.
The big deal is that you can score on the go; I’ve been fortunate enough to top up my Gamerscore on the train, on the beach, in a supermarket and even… well, there are certain places that smartphones end up being used in, even though you shouldn’t really – if you catch my drift?
Is Windows Phone 8 the best smartphone platform out there? Who knows? The stats say otherwise, although adoption is improving, particularly in the UK and Europe. Is Windows Phone 8 the best smartphone platform for gaming? Probably not – but it is the only one that offers a full library of games that will enable you to improve your Gamerscore and unlock achievements. That in itself makes the platform worth considering…