Xbox Live

XBox Live's Major Nelson, aka Larry Hyrb, helped announce the arrival of a new bluetooth-enabled headset for XBox 360.  The headset is equipped with a switch that will toggle it between XBox and Bluetooth modes, allowing users to connect to mobile phones, computers and more.  In addition, the power/mute button will now double as the "action" button for answering calls, etc. while connected to Bluetooth.

The new addition to the XBox accessories arsenal will go on to replace the current Xbox standard when it is released in November.  It will retail for $59.99.  The ability to switch from talking on the phone to communicating on a PC or over XBox Live is one more move in the Microsoft's direction of tying all of its platforms together with its "3 screens" approach.  The size and aesthetic lends itself a little better to playing Gears of War in the living room than to wearing around the office or into your local Starbucks, but the versatility is great.

Major Nelson posted a short video describing the features in greater detail on the XBox YouTube page .  You can also see a gallery of the new headgear, along with a new XBox media remote, here.

Source: Major Nelson

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Here's a reminder just in case you missed our initial mention of this contest or were unclear on the rules.

We want to know what games you’d like to see ported from another mobile OS to Windows Phone, and we’re giving away Xbox Live Avatar props for your trouble. To enter, visit this forum thread and tell us the following:

What one game would you most like to see ported from another mobile OS to Windows Phone as an Xbox Live title, and why? Remember, we’re only asking about games that are already available on other cell phones – not console games. Try to name the developer as well. You only get one entry, so make it count.

We will choose the nine most interesting and/or convincing responses and give their writers a redeemable code for a Beards and Beaks Avatar prop that can’t be purchased on the Marketplace. This contest is open to readers from any nation, but we can’t guarantee the codes will work outside of the US. It’s the journey that matters, not the destination!

Entries must be received by 10 AM PST on Tuesday, July 26.  Good luck everyone.

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We want to know what games you’d like to see ported from another mobile OS to Windows Phone, and we’re giving away Xbox Live Avatar props for your trouble. To enter, visit this forum thread and tell us the following:

What one game would you most like to see ported from another mobile OS to Windows Phone as an Xbox Live title, and why? Remember, we’re only asking about games that are already available on other cell phones – not console games. Try to name the developer as well. You only get one entry, so make it count.

We will choose the nine most interesting and/or convincing responses and give their writers a redeemable code for a Beards and Beaks Avatar prop that can’t be purchased on the Marketplace. This contest is open to readers from any nation, but we can’t guarantee the codes will work outside of the US. It’s the journey that matters, not the destination! Entries must be received by 10 AM PST on Tuesday, July 26.

Head past the break for additional contest details and free cookies!

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You know what we lack on Windows Phone? A good strategy turn-based fighting game. Yeah, never thought of it, did you? Luckily, "Fight Game: Rivals" seems likely to fill that roll. From Dutch based Khaeon Studios, the game is a MMA style with fairly impressive graphics and seemingly rich player content.

What's really kind of neat is how the fighting styles and even fighters themselves are based on real life e.g. the studio worked with experts to replicate as much as they can.

  • Prove yourself in underground fighting tournaments all over the world to earn the chance to go toe to toe with world-famous martial art champions like Alistair Overeem and Sem Schilt!
  • Striking visuals with highly detailed environments and characters
  • Unlock a large variety of unique moves, skills and abilities with detailed animations throughout your fighting career
  • Genre-bending 'strategy, turn-based, fighting game', optimized for mobile devices and touch screen operated game-play
  • Earn 20 unique Xbox LIVE Achievements

"With Fight Game: Rivals; here is your chance to become the king of kings amongst tournament fighters around the world! Fight the opposition on distinct locations in Europe, Asia and America and unlock a wide variety of devastating attacks and skills. Grow ever stronger, prove yourself in fighting tournaments all over the world and get ready to face the elite of combat sports, world-famous martial arts champions Sem Schilt and Alistair Overeem, and become the new champion!"

The game is exclusive to Windows Phone 7 for the first 3 months and looks to drop "mid September"/Q3 in the Marketplace. From the graphics, new style of gameplay and overall detail, we're pretty excited about trying this one.

Check out the interview and some gamaplay from RagingNerds.net above and see the game's site here.

via: InsideGames; Big thanks to Matt B., for the heads up!

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This week’s Xbox Live release, Tentacles – while awesome, is perhaps a little icky with all the tentacles and eyeball eating and such. Next week’s release should cleanse the palette nicely. It’s Sally’s Salon Luxury Edition from Game House.

Sally’s Salon is the tale of Sally, a woman with a dream. She’s out to make her fortune by chopping and styling as much hair as possible. It’s like Sweeny Todd, only without the arterial spray and Helena Bonham Carter. Anyway, Sally’s Salon is actually a nice evolution of the Diner Dash formula. Players don’t just rush back and forth between chairs helping everyone look their best. They can also purchase upgrades for the salon to help keep customers happy, such as coffee and magazines. The game features at least nine unique locations to play through, as well as plenty of moxie.

Sally’s Salon Luxury Edition hits the Marketplace on Wednesday, July 27 for $4.99. That’s like a third what most of us pay for a haircut! Stay tuned for our exclusive interview with publisher Game House too.

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When Max and the Magic Marker went on sale last week, bargain-minded gamers got their shot at Press Play’s creative platformer. But that was then, and this is now. It’s time for something new from the Danish developer. I speak, of course, of the Windows Phone-exclusive Xbox Live title: Tentacles. It’s out now on the Marketplace.

Tentacles is a top-down platformer starring Lemmy, a microscopic tentacled creature. Lemmy journeys through the body of the scientist who created him, battling the dangerous creatures he encounters and eating their eyeballs (seriously). Don’t worry, they’re jerks and deserve whatever they get. Tapping the screen moves the little hero one tentacle at a time, and he also has a clawed tentacle for attacks. The 3D graphics look great and the game has a ton of personality.

Tentacles costs $4.99 and there is a free trial. Use your own tentacles to grab it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Whoo hoo, The Sims 3 is the Xbox Live Deal of the Week

We’ve got good news and bad news for you, faithful readers.  The good news: this week’s Xbox Live Deal of the Week title definitely needed a discount. The bad news: it’s not much of a discount. I refer, of course, to The Sims 3 from EA. It’s on sale for $4.99, down from $6.99.

The Sims 3 is a mobile version of the hit life-simulation game. Players create and customize a Sim and then try to complete various goals with him or her, such as getting a promotion at work and kissing another Sim. It makes for a great game, on PC and consoles at least. But the Windows Phone version doesn’t quite match up. As our review points out, the character customization is extremely limited. Load times are lengthy and frequent and menu navigation is clumsy. Worst, the game has a habit of losing save files; it happened to me once. The Windows Phone port badly needs updating but EA hasn’t touched it since launch.

Maybe you don’t mind a few bugs and loading screens. If so, you can find The Sims 3 here (Zune link) on the Marketplace. The $4.99 sale price lasts for one week.

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geoDefense save data bug fix on the way

Since geoDefense’s Xbox Live debut, we’ve heard the occasional complaint from gamers who lost their save data. geoDefense isn’t a tremendously long game, but nobody wants to lose their progress – especially if they’ve put some effort into improving their scores.

The developer, Critical Thought Games, has actually been aware of the problem for a while. In a blog post at his site, designer David Whatley explains the nature of the problem:

“Well the issue is in the file handling. Essentially your highscores (and other info) are saved to a file (duh)… if the data being written is smaller than the last time, then the resulting file will still be as long as it was before the save... with the data at the end being garbage.

When I load the data, I get this trailing garbage and the whole block fails the checksum checks and thus it disregards the data as if it had been tampered with.”

So basically, sometimes when gamers replay levels, the new data ends up being smaller than the old data, corrupting the entire save file. This doesn’t affect Achievements already earned, but scores and all other in-game progress are lost.

Critical Thought has already submitted an update to Microsoft that fixes the problem. Hopefully it passes certification quickly, though we know that process can be a bumpy road sometimes. The current in-game version number is 1.5. When the next update hits, it’ll read 1.6 and your saves will be home free.

Until then, Whatley offers this advice:

“…If you play geoDefense WP7, just don't replay any levels you've already won and the bug won't happen. If it's already happened, uninstall and reinstall the game to clear the state. Once 1.6 update is out and you upgrade, then you can safely go back and replay already won levels to improve your score.”

Despite this save data trouble (which many of us have not encountered), geoDefense is one of the better tower defense games on Xbox Live. Read WPCentral’s full review for all the choice details.

Thanks, Marc G., for the heads up! The G is for geometry.

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Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst is an Xbox Live title that can’t seem to catch any breaks. Sure, when it debuted we gave it a positive review. After all, its ability to use both a phones’ GPS locations and satellite photographs to create in-game maps is quite innovative. But even at launch, the game’s online servers (required to use many of its features) performed sporadically at best. A series of patches that should have fine-tuned its performance instead introduced new issues. It got so bad that one of Project Sunburst’s Achievements became unobtainable for new players, necessitating its inclusion in our Broken Achievements exposé.

This week, Project Treadstone, I mean Sunburst was pulled from the Windows Phone Marketplace without explanation. We haven’t received a comment from Microsoft yet, but it’s safe to assume that the game’s ongoing problems and customer complaints resulted in the pull. Given that the game started out semi-broken and never became 100% properly functional after several updates, it’s possible that the development team just can’t get it fixed, but that’s a worst-case scenario. Hopefully Microsoft Game Studios cures what ails Project Sunburst and gets it back on the Marketplace soon. In the meantime, people who own the game should not delete it from their devices as they won’t be able to redownload it until it officially returns to the Marketplace.

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With Nokia on board, Microsoft are making some pretty big bets, and so they should if they're to remain to be seen as serious and in it for the long run. Microsoft’s COO Kevin Turner announced at WPC'11 that the company hopes to sell up to 100 million Windows Phone devices a year. Targeting and catering for a larger user base is the first baby step in achieving this goal.

What's also interesting is how Microsoft showed Apple's current ecosystem and how they plan to build a completely connected Windows/Xbox map to combat the fruit. Both companies are known for bashing one another at any given chance but the slides below are actually spot on. Being both a Windows and OS X user myself, I can whole-heartedly agree that there's a gap between my MacBook and iOS devices (iPad 2 and Apple TV).

It's one of the reasons why I prefer PC and WP7 over OS X and iOS. With the iPhone its a different OS altogether, a different store and a different UI. With the proposed plan by Microsoft, Metro UI will unite all their products and I can't think of a word to describe this development other than ingenious. The future of Microsoft is set to be 3 screens.

Via: MobileTechWorld

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Now that Windows Phone-exclusive Beards and Beaks is available on the Marketplace, would you expect Microsoft to follow up next week with something less exciting? An iPhone puzzle game port, maybe? I mean, we can all agree that there simply aren’t enough puzzle games on Windows Phone... Well too bad, suckas! Next week marks two big Xbox Live releases in a row as Tentacles from Press Play comes to the Marketplace.

Tentacles is a top-down platformer starring Lemmy, a microscopic tentacled creature. Lemmy journeys through the body of the scientist who created him, eating eyeballs (?) and battling dangerous creatures along the way. Tapping the screen moves the little hero one tentacle at a time, and he also has a clawed tentacle for attacks. Press Play’s latest game has impressive 3D graphics and a subversive sense of humor – no surprise as they are the team who brought us the highly creative Max and the Magic Marker, which happens to be the Deal of the Week right now.

Tentacles crawls to the Marketplace on Wednesday, July 20 for the price of $4.99. That’s like $1.25 per tentacle! Read WPCentral’s interview with developer Press Play for more screens and details.

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Ready for a new Windows Phone exclusive, Xbox Live gamers? Beards and Beaks fits the beak, I mean, bill. It’s out now on the Marketplace.

Beards and Beaks is not actually about birds wearing beaks as you might think. It’s actually the tale of an evil group of crows (much like Sheryl Crow, only with feathers) who invade a village of gnomes in order to steal their riches. It soon becomes an out and out war, with gnomes invading crow bases and vice versa.

Beards and Beaks may look like a tower defense game at first glance, but it’s actually an action-strategy title (sans towers). Players bring one or more gnomes into a level and control their actions via touch-screen flicks. The object is to collect treasures and prevent the crows from doing the same. In addition to the standard flicks, mushroom-fueled special powers can help turn the tide in battle. Don’t let the bad birds win!

As we’ve said before, Beards and Beaks is the first Windows Phone game developed entirely in-house by Microsoft Game Studios. WPCentral will soon bring you the full scoop on the development process with an exclusive interview with the developers!

Beards and Beaks costs $2.99 and there is a free trial. Put down the ‘shrooms and pick up the game here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Last week’s Xbox Live Deal of the Week, Bubble Town 2, may not have been very exciting but it was a pretty fun game. Still, this week’s Deal of the Week is clearly something special. Max and the Magic Marker is going on sale for $2.99, down from the regular price of $4.99. Keep in mind Max used to cost $6.99, so this is quite a savings.

Max and the Magic Marker is a puzzle-platformer in which the player draws objects directly into the game world via the touch screen. It features a bright, child-like art style and a soundtrack from eclectic Danish artists Analogik. Our review found it to be extremely creative. To learn more about Max, check out our interview with developer Press Play.

Max and the Magic Marker will be on sale for one week starting on Wednesday, July 13. If you’re a fan of platformers or puzzle games, don’t miss the chance to get it for only $2.99. You’ll find Max here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Imangi Studios, makers of Harbor Master, just released another patch for its fine line-drawing game. WPCentral has bravely fought off a nasty batch of pirates in order to deliver the patch’s contents.

Harbor Master version 1.2 change log:

  • Fixed the Xbox Live leaderboards to show all time high scores instead of weekly high scores
  • …and that’s it.

Not a huge change, but it’s certainly nice to have the leaderboards working right!

In Harbor Master, players direct ships to port by drawing lines on the touch screen. After a ship has unloaded its cargo, it must also be steered safely away. Seven levels with hazards like cyclones and sea monsters, plus some fairly tough Achievements, will keep players busy for a long time. For more details, check our preview here. Our full review will arrive to port any day now.

Harbor Master costs $2.99 and has a free trial. Pick it up here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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It’s no secret that Microsoft is consolidating several of its brands into the uber-successful Xbox brand. Just last week we reported that the Games for Windows website is moving to Xbox.com. In the last few days, Microsoft phased out Zune original sales on their site. And of course, it’s long been rumored that the Zune brand will split up into several tiny robot lion brands.

That rumor gains more credence thanks to some recently-released screenshots of the upcoming fall Xbox 360 dashboard update. Not only does it look super slick and Windows 8-ey, but it’s also lacking the Zune logo in its music and videos sections. Zune, we’ll always have Paris.

The big question though: How will this matter to Windows Phone, going forward?


Update: Looks like Thurrott may have been a a little quick on the gun. Zune is still listed as an App in the new Xbox hub, as seen above. It's just not named for Music/Music, which may be the area in which you access local media, whereas Zune is for streaming, etc. Read more at They Lyons Den.

Source: Supersite for Windows, Live Side

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Casual game fans will surely love this news. Game House, publisher of the hit game Doodle Jump, has a new Xbox Live title in the works: Sally’s Salon Luxury Edition. WPCentral is proud to bring you these exclusive screenshots of the Windows Phone version. (Note that the screens are a bit grainer than the final game will be.)

Sally’s Salon is a new spin on the classic Diner Dash formula. Customers enter the salon with their hair all a-frizz and it’s up to Sally to get them seated and trimmed to perfection. She needs to exercise careful time management, otherwise patrons will go elsewhere for their lock-shearing needs. When the profits start rolling in, players can hire new employees, upgrade salon stations, and add new amenities such as coffee machines. Stylin’!

Sally’s Salon Luxury Edition is currently undergoing certification with a target release date of August. We’ll be sure to let you know more about the game closer to release. In the meantime, check out Sally’s Achievements from our friends at Xbox360Achievements.org.

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Nielsen: Gaming dominates smartphones

This sort of headline is enough to make our Paul Acevedo jump around with joy and pull many smug faces to the rest of the team due to gaming dominating other categories in terms of usage on multiple smartphone platforms. Since the beginning, games have always been a major hit on iOS, especially those that are Facebook orientated. Windows Phone 7 has Xbox Live and some fairly big titles (the upcoming Beards and Beaks for example), while Android is somewhere in between.

So we're already aware of how popular games are on smartphones, what's so intriguing about this latest analytic data? The breakdown of hours on platforms.

With WP7 featuring Xbox Live, achievements, the Xbox Live hub and some arguably larger titles than competitor platforms, one would expect to see WP7 topping the above chart with more hours accumulated than iOS and Android, but this is not the case. Not only is the platform behind in the total number of hours, but Microsoft's mobile OS seems to be slightly under the industry average of 7.8 hours a month.

Is this a negative finding? Not at all if we're to take Microsoft's advertising and marketing campaign for WP7 into consideration. Remember the adverts that stated how Windows Phone will enable users to complete tasks quickly and get back to real life? Perhaps this rubs off onto gaming too? Maybe we're now so used to sending SMS messages, replying to emails, browsing the web, downloading apps and more with speed that we don't spend hours upon hours immersing ourselves into Xbox Live?

Then again, it could be that the price of Xbox Live titles and iOS ports on WP7 are just too high to justify. The final chart shown below displays the advantage of having the Xbox Live brand used on Windows Phone and the integration with the service. WP7 users are more likely to download apps than any other platform with iOS and Android not so far behind (of course this data isn't accurate), while Blackberry trails in last place (which is expected).

What do you think about this data, and do you believe Microsoft should look into increasing the average play time per user?

Source: Nielsen, via: WPSauce

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After a long absence, Xbox Live action title Twin Blades - from developer Press Start Studio - has returned to the Marketplace.

Twin Blades tells the tale of Sister Angelika, a scythe- and gun-toting nun on a mission to save the world from an evil necromancer. You know, necromancers tend to get a bad rap. Why do people have to hate? Anyway, instead of talking her problems out like a mature adult, Sister Angelika simply slices and blasts through hordes of zombies in this action title. A virtual thumbstick controls running and jumping while buttons take care of scythe and gun attacks. Twin Blades has a lengthy story mode and a survival mode. The Achievements aren’t too hard, but it will take four total playthroughs to get them all. Stay tuned later today for our full review!

Twin Blades costs only $2.99 and there is a free trial. If you support the oppression of necromancy, hack and slash your way here (Zune link) to grab it from the Marketplace.

PS Yes, this is the Xbox LIVE game this week.

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Last week Women’s Murder Club from I-Play was the Xbox Live Deal of the Week. Continuing the trend, another I-Play title goes on sale this week: Bubble Town 2. The sale price is $1.99, down from $2.99.

Bubble Town 2 is a Puzzle Bobble/Bust-a-Move clone. In these puzzle games, a stack of colored bubbles slowly descends from the top of the screen, threatening to crush the player. By aiming and firing your own bubbles you can make matches and eliminate the stack. Bubble Town’s controls are a bit imprecise but it’s still pretty fun. It also has some of the most hideous graphics ever, a true testament to how far an artist can go without the benefit of education or talent. But hey, until Taito decides to bring Bust-a-Move to Windows Phone, Bubble Town will have to do.

Bubble Town 2 will be on sale for one week starting Wednesday. You can get it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace. Anybody think I-Play’s other Xbox Live game - Fast & Furious: Adrenaline - will go on sale next week?

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Real-time multiplayer gameplay on mobile devices has long been a feature many gamers would like to have on the move (we have some form of multiplayer gameplay though - Haypi Kingdom being an example), but with constant connection dips (while on the move) and data limitations in place, plus many more factors, it's never been fully implemented.

Victor Bahl, director of the Mobile Computing Research Center at Microsoft Research, explains the problem:

"Multiplayer gaming on smartphones is a very challenging technical problem, Gamers move around, the wireless channel is hostile, the bandwidth you need is not always there, disconnections can happen, and smartphones are energy-constrained. If you just take a game and put it on a smartphone, it is not going to work."

Fear not, all is not lost. The talented team at Microsoft Research has been hard at work on 'Switchboard' - a potential answer to most (if not all) problems with multiplayer smartphone gaming in its current form.

 "There are techniques for multiplayer games to handle ‘jitter’—occasional spikes in network delay. When those techniques react to jitter, you may see a player or object jump from one spot to another. Such ‘glitches in the matrix’ become problematic if they happen frequently. A major challenge in this work is to predict what a player’s latency will look like for the foreseeable duration of a game and minimize such glitches."

"Switchboard finds suitable game candidates by “pinging” their phones to estimate latency: the time needed to move a packet of data. Latency is important to gaming because a long lag time—in the hundreds of milliseconds—to move data can affect game play”, notes Gantenbein."

While it may not provide seamless play for WP7 users, this is a step in the right direction and shows Microsoft are attempting to address obvious limitations/problems. Let's see how this plays out, but for now hopes should remain relatively high for some degree of multiplayer action potentially being possible in the future with Xbox Live.

Source: Microsoft Research, via: Windows7news

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