Gaming on Windows Phone devices has been integrated with Xbox Live since Windows Phone 7 launched in 2010. Now approaching the release of Windows Phone 8.1, 40 games previously incompatible with Windows Phone 8 have been updated.
Is this the shot in the arm Windows Phone gaming needs? Or is there another problem?
Gaming On Windows Phone: Unmatched
Mobile gaming is imperfect. There are various problems from battery drain on graphic-intensive games to accuracy issues with the UI (although hardware gaming controllers can help here).
For Windows Phone 7’s launch, a collection of excellent titles were released in 2010 that were enabled with Xbox Live integration, allowing you to improve your Gamerscore while playing on your phone.
While iOS and Android have been moving in this direction (think the PSN compatible Sony devices or even the occasional Xbox Live games such as X and Y for these platforms) the Windows Phone gaming experience – enhanced with improved hardware on Windows Phone 8 – is unmatched in terms of extending the gaming experience beyond the device.
Games Updated For Windows Phone 8.1
Strangely, however, when Windows Phone 8 was released, a huge selection of titles were suddenly unavailable to play. Although Windows Phone 8 was (claimed by Microsoft to be) incompatible with Windows Phone 7 hardware, there was an indication that games could be easily updated in order to run on the “pure” Windows Phone platform; the one that Microsoft had apparently always intended to release.
Move along two years and 40 games have just been updated for Windows Phone 8, with 512 MB RAM support and improved/upscaled graphics, among them several games that were left high and dry when Windows Phone evolved in 2012.
Some big name titles have been updated at last, such as Alphajax, Max and the Magic Marker (above) and Halo: Spartan Assault. Some of those updated, such as Alphajax, are new to Xbox Live, but most were originally released with integration for the platform.
Xbox Live titles are all equipped with achievements for you to complete, with the resulting unlock adding to your Gamerscore.
Getting It Right: Problems With Windows Phone Gaming
Windows Phone gaming has had its problems. A quick look at the list of games shows a great selection of hugely playable titles, but for every Halo: Spartan Assault there is a Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst, a geo-location based zombie capture the tower game companion game to the main Crackdown 2 title, but which was inexplicably cancelled. As it utilized a remote server, this was turned off and the game removed from the Windows Phone store.
No one has been reimbursed, and this isn’t a standalone case. (Other games that have been pulled include Fast & Furious, Star Wars Cantina and Battle for Hoth, Twin Blades, MiniSquadron, and PES 2011 and 2012. These games cannot be downloaded again.)
This new slew of updates are a long time coming, but if you’re an Xbox Live junkie they’re very welcome. After all, releases on Xbox Live have been slowing down, apparently due to issues over ownership. While some games have disappeared completely, others have reappeared as non-Xbox Live titles. For really enjoyable titles this isn’t too much of a problem, but either way it’s frustrating.
Could Xbox Live Be Removed From Windows Phone?
What would happen if this frustration was increased across all titles? It seems that Microsoft is playing hardball with games publishers on Xbox Live, and losing out.
Apparently the suits at Redmond want to take ownership of game IPs for Xbox One and Windows Phone where Xbox Live integration is present. Naturally, this hasn’t gone down well with the publishers, which is why we’re seeing games on Windows Phone in particular suddenly losing their Xbox Live banners.
Clearly Microsoft doesn’t want to kill Xbox Live otherwise it wouldn’t be releasing its own titles with that integration. But it does seem that the network is likely to become underused on Windows Phone 8.1, a surprising development given the importance of that integration back in 2010.
Has Xbox Live Integration Lived Up To Expectations For Windows Phone?
Xbox Live should be an integral aspect of Windows Phone. Perhaps there’s some debate about this within Microsoft, but having a ready-made audience is a massive advantage.
Yet the expected Xbox 360-Windows Phone team up deals never appeared, with only Xbox Live players hooked on unlocking achievements seeming to be interested in the mobile platform.
Throw in the missing prospect of co-operative and multi-player action (either using Wi-Fi, Xbox Live or NFC) and the lack of the promised “sister game missions” that would have seen Windows Phone games providing progress in a full Xbox 360 title, and you’ve got a platform of missed opportunities when it comes to gaming.
Why Windows Phone Gaming Needs A Shot In The Arm
Ignore the sound, graphics and playability, and look at the platform and titles, the flexibility, features and Xbox Live integration, and you’ll quickly see that gaming on Windows Phone is merely “good enough”.
I love playing games on my Windows Phone, and I know I’m not alone in this. However, I’ll happily give up Xbox Live integration if it means great games continue to appear on Windows Phone 8.1 – but will you?
How do you feel about this? Is Microsoft’s greed causing damage to Xbox Live on Windows Phone? Is the mobile Xbox Live integration overrated anyway? Let us know how you feel!
Image Credit: K?rlis Dambr?ns via Flickr