Xbox Live integration has been a selling point of Windows Phone since day one. Gamers can earn Achievements; view their avatars, friends lists, and more from the convenience of their phones. But to do many of those things, you have to download the separate free Xbox Live Extras app and then launch it from the Games hub. It’s a needlessly complicate process.
Thankfully Mango will greatly streamline Xbox Live integration. Xbox Live Extras will join the dinosaurs and Milli Vanilli in extinction as its contents will now be built into the main Games hub. The Xbox Live page within the hub will display a user’s polygonal avatar and several other items: Xbox Live Gold membership status (lending credence to the rumor that online play will finally debut alongside Mango) and links to the user’s Profile, Achievements, and Avatar (for customization). This should make the profile and avatar editing options much easier to find than their previous location: stashed away in a pop-up menu at the bottom of the screen.
Live tiles are a great and wonderful thing. We all love them, and I’m pretty sure WPCentral’s Daniel Rubino has several tattooed on his arm. On the other hand, live tiles also take up a lot of space – only 6-8 will fit on-screen at once. People who own a lot of games on Windows Phone often have to scroll quite a bit to find the title they wish to play. Game organization and launching will become slightly easier in Mango thanks to a new list view within the Games hub. The list view displays each game’s name alongside icons that are about fifty percent smaller than before. It doesn’t really fit much additional information on-screen, but gamers will be able to locate titles by names instead of icons.
The Friends section will also receive a few minor tweaks. Friends’ profiles and bios will be separated onto two pages instead of being crammed onto one. Additionally, it will become possible to add new friends directly from the phone thanks to the addition of a New Friend button at the bottom of the Friends page. Now if Microsoft would just add the ability to send and receive Xbox Live voice messages from the phone too – only text messages are supported right now.
These changes will strengthen gaming and Xbox Live use on Windows Phone. Today’s conference didn’t address online play, but we’re still hoping for an announcement sometime around Mango’s actual launch. For Windows Phone gamers, that date can’t come soon enough.