ionballex

It's been a while, but we're back with another installment of our Xbox Live Developer Interview series! This time we talk with Paul Kelly, director of IronSun Studios. The British development house has already brought IonBallEX, Battlewagon, and MonstaFish to Xbox Live. Here we discuss some of their influences, design philosophies, and even their next Live game. Head past the break for the full interview and lots of exclusive concept art!

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Remember that huge Easter sale on Xbox Live titles we were so enthusiastic about a short time ago? It took a little while to receive confirmation on this, but we’ve learned that the seven featured games have permanently dropped in price to 99 cents. That’s good news to Windows Phone gamers as it means we have a new (and more competitive) price point for games!

The seven games that dropped in price from $2.99 to 99 cents:

Wondering what prompted the change in prices? The obvious answer is that Microsoft timed the drops in accordance with the release of the Nokia Lumia 900 (review). With the much-vaunted handset producing a flood of new Windows Phone owners and potential gamers, the big MS probably thought it important for these new customers to be able to pick up a few Xbox Live games on the cheap. Angry Birds in particular really needed to come down in price due to it being offered for free on a few other platforms already. In case the hubbub over Rovio passing on bringing Angry Birds in Space to Windows Phone (and their subsequent one-eighty) didn’t cue you in, it’s very important that the masses have their Angry Birds.

In Angry Birds’ case, platform equity is most likely reason for a price drop. And certainly most of the seven games cost 99 cents on iPhone as well – but not all. De Blob Revolution actually sells for $2.99 on iTunes at present. Something tells me it simply wasn’t a hot seller on Windows Phone, perhaps due to the weakness of the De Blob brand or the game’s lack of post-release updates. As for Toy Soldiers: Boot Camp, why that’s a Windows Phone exclusive! But the game is a bit content-light, a factor that may have led to its price shedding a few dollars.

Wondering whether the game makers had any say in their titles’ new prices? “We had the opportunity to drop our existing games to the new price point, so we decided to do so and test the water, so to speak,” one Xbox Live developer told WPCentral. The same game maker expects to drop the price of another title in the future.

The new price offers advantages to everyone involved. Developers now have a little more control in the pricing of their games, and gamers can pick up titles more affordably. Of course, for a game to be more profitable in the 99 cent range than $2.99, it needs to sell over three times as many copies. Initially, the Windows Phone user base simply wasn’t large enough to sustain such low prices. Microsoft could have still launched with the sub-dollar price, but games would have been loss leaders until more people picked up handsets. Now that Nokia is fully onboard and actively advertising the Lumia 900, the user base has either grown enough or is expected to grow enough in short order to make lower game prices viable.

How many of these seven games have you picked up since they got cheaper, dear readers?

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Microsoft hasn’t announced it yet, but we’ve caught wind of a mobile Xbox Live Easter sale. Or it could be a celebration of the Lumia 900's release - who knows? The following games are currently only 99 cents each:

This is easily the biggest and best sale on Windows Phone Xbox Live titles ever – seven titles is a lot, and they’re 66 percent off instead of the usual 33. Which games will you be picking up, awesome WPCentral readers? I probably had the most fun with Burn the Rope, but you can’t lose with most of these.

We don’t know the dates of the sale, but it’s likely to run at least through Sunday. This post will be updated should we spot an official date.

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Wow, somebody at Microsoft is on the ball this week. Not only has Gerbil Physics appeared on the Marketplace ahead of schedule, but so has the new Xbox Live Deal of the Week. Said deal happens to be IonBallEX from IronSun Studios. It’s on sale for $1.99, down from $2.99.

IonBallEX is an Arkanoid-style game in which players use a paddle and ball to break bunches of bricks. This game is more interesting than many of its brethren (especially 3D Brick Breaker Revolution, ugh) thanks to its gothic steampunk setting, a wide variety of block types and power-ups, lots of enemies and bosses to fight, and an addictive upgrade system. Check out our full review for more details.

IonBallEX is on sale for $1.99 for one week only. Get it here on the Marketplace and start knocking some balls around.

Thanks to Tyler1701 for the tip. Kid’s got the heart of a champion!

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IronSun Studios' IonBallEX (review) nicely filled a niche in the Xbox lineup. Their new title BattleWagon looks to do the same, but this time it doesn't fit an established genre so closely.

The developer describes Battlewagon as an arcade action/strategy game. Players equip a medieval Battlewagon with various weapons and upgrades and then send it to invade enemy castles. Combat uses simple, one-touch controls that should be well-suited to mobile play. With 68 levels that take place across the four seasons and some lovely Amiga-esque graphics, Battlewagon should provide a fresh and lengthy gameplay experience.

Battlewagon is currently targeted for a late December release. It will require Mango out of the gate, which shouldn't be a problem by then. We’ll let you know when the release date and price become official.

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IonBallEX - Review

The Atari classic Breakout may have started the brick-breaking genre, but Taito’s Arkanoid took it to the next level, adding enemies and powerups into the mix. Enter indie developer IronSun Studios, whose IonBallEX draws liberal inspiration from Arkanoid while adding a few unique twists.

Before we get to the nuts and bolts, a history lesson: IonBallEX (a title which could seriously use one or two spaces) is the Xbox Live sequel to the original IonBall, which debuted as an indie game on Windows Phone (see our review). It then migrated to Xbox 360, also as an indie game. The only Xbox Live brick-breaking competition on Windows Phone is the abysmal 3D Brick Breaker Revolution (review), so IonBallEX is automatically the best game of its type by default. Thankfully it’s actually pretty good.

Slide past the break for our full review.

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We've teased about IonballEX for a little while and now you can try it yourself. Yup, IonBallEX, the first indie game gone Xbox LIVE is now available for $2.99 (and a free trial). From the app description:

"IonBallEX is a modern twist on a classic Breakout style game, featuring an XP-based progression system and end-of-level bosses that are going to push you to the extreme, all delivered in a unique SteamPunk style. With 35 challenging levels, mind-bending features and awesome bosses; IonBallEX is the breakout game to "break" all the others. See where you can get on the leaderboards, or unlock achievements like "Record Breaker" or "Wipeout"; the IonBallEX challenge is here"

The game is a modest 35MB download (still need WiFi though) and so far we have to admit, it ain't too shabby. Head on here to the Marketplace for the link and let us know what you think in comments.

See the video preview after the break...

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IonBallEX is this week's Xbox Live game

Last week, WPCentral broke the news that IronSun Studios’ IonBallEX (yes, the developer is averse to spaces) would be coming to Xbox Live. We just didn’t expect it so soon! IonBallEX is this week’s Xbox Live release.

IonBallEX is an Arkanoid-style game in which players use a paddle and ball to break bunches of bricks. This game is more interesting than many of its brethren thanks to its darkly futuristic setting, a wide variety of block types and power-ups, lots of enemies and bosses to fight, and its experience system. Plus it’s a sequel to an indie game, which we don’t often see on Xbox Live. For more details and screenshots, check out our preview.

IonBallEX (boy I’d rather type that as Ion Ball EX) comes out on Wednesday, August 17 and will cost $2.99. Brick-breaking fans won’t want to miss it.

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