Shao-Lin's Road and Time Pilot MIA

It’s easier to criticize than compliment. Things we dislike stick out like a sore thumb. Also, I’m not too fond of sore thumbs! As you can tell, it’s time for some bad news and hand wringing. That’s because it looks like we won’t get either a new Xbox Windows Phone release or even a Deal of the Week to ring in the New Year.

Mum’s the word

First, let me just say that Microsoft didn’t actually tell us that there won’t be a new release or sale this week. But that’s indicative of a larger overall problem: all of our PR contacts took the week off, so nobody at Microsoft told anyone in the press about the bad news. For quite a while now, Microsoft has chosen not to announce new Xbox WP releases more than one or two days in advance. If nobody’s in the office come Monday or Tuesday, that means we just don’t get word about Wednesday’s plans. Wouldn't it be better to deliver the bad news quickly instead of making everyone wait until Wednesday to be disappointed?

Bad habits

Japanese ghost town
Photo courtesy of Tokyo Freak

Public relations woes aside, the lack of a new game release is the greater tragedy. Since November, we’ve already endured three weeks with no Xbox WP release. Today marks an alarming four weeks without a new game in six weeks’ time. If that happened on Xbox 360, people would call Xbox Live Arcade dead!

Maybe Microsoft and third party developers actually have bunches of Windows Phone 8 games in development but they’re just not ready yet. The lack of readiness surely stems from the WP8 SDK releasing so dangerously late in 2012. As a result, nobody but Rovio (who likely had early access) has had time to make WP8 games.

Still, this is the kind of situation that the Xbox WP portfolio planner should have anticipated. Maybe there can’t be a release every single week given Windows Phone’s minority status in the smartphone market. But release-free weeks need to be spread out way, way more than in the last two months. Right now it looks like Xbox WP games are just an afterthought to the platform creator.

Game Room reminder

Shao-Lin's Road Windows Phone screens

Maybe the big MS has forgotten about a couple of completed games they’ve had sitting on the shelf that actually could have been released during some of these dry weeks. That’s right, it’s time to remind everybody about Shao-Lin’s Road and Time Pilot!

Back in January of 2011, Microsoft announced a batch of 6 Game Room titles – classic games made playable on Windows Phone via emulation. Four out of the six came out, while Konami’s Shao-Lin’s Road and Time Pilot never did. All of these games are simply ROMs running on an emulator. We know the unreleased titles are done because we played them at CES a full year ago. They might have relatively limited appeal, though in my opinion they’re better than the four published games. More importantly, by actually releasing either title this week, Microsoft would at least be pleasing somebody. A week with no release pleases nobody – except maybe Apple and Google.

Time for optimism?

Let’s hope that the rest of the year bodes better for Xbox on Windows Phone than this week. If you need a new game right now, remember that Pac-Man and Galaga Championship Edition DX are both still on sale for a dollar. And don't forget to check out our Best Xbox Games of 2012 for more buying ideas!

Update: Microsoft responded and let us know that there definitely won't be a release or Deal this week.