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Here are the game developers that Xbox Windows Phone desperately needs

Last week, Gameloft kicked off their much anticipated wave of Xbox releases for Windows Phone 8 with Asphalt 7, a game I call the best racer on the platform in our review. They’ve followed up this week with the very strong The Amazing Spider-Man and the not-so-strong and highly skippable Real Soccer 2013. With at least 9 more games coming, including first-person shooters, action games, and even an MMORPG, it’s safe to say that Gameloft will keep Windows Phone gamers pretty busy this year.

Similarly, Electronics Arts and its subsidiaries Chillingo and PopCap have produced a ton of fine mobile Xbox games as Nokia exclusives within the past few months. All of the Nokia EA games are expected to become available to general Windows Phone audiences six months after release, so they really do benefit the platform as a whole.

However large and prolific they might be, publishers Gameloft and Electronic Arts can’t keep the Xbox Windows Phone lineup afloat all by themselves. The world of smartphone gaming is vast indeed. iOS and Android thrive thanks to many game developers and publishers, both great and small. Today we continue our ‘How Microsoft can save Xbox Games for Windows Phone’ editorial series with a look at the game makers that our platform needs in order to thrive.

Microsoft must work to retain Xbox Windows Phone developers and secure new ones.

Temple Run 2

While the first Temple Run is due at some point on WIndows Phone 8, iOS users are already enjoying Temple Run 2 (pictured).

I’ll admit that Windows Phone is still a niche platform compared to iOS and Android, so expecting a high-volume developer to port all of its games to Microsoft’s mobile OS is a bit much – especially when none of the big middleware engines like Unity and Havok are actually ready yet. But Microsoft can’t afford to just wait a few years and hope that more developers eventually sign on.

For one, we’ve seen evidence of Xbox Windows Phone developers of all sizes becoming disillusioned and leaving the platform, including previous supporters like Game House and IronSun Studios. The unpleasant and time consuming Xbox Live certification process, the relatively small user base, and a lack of financial incentives from Microsoft are all at fault. The platform needs to be gaining developers, not losing established ones.

Besides, if Microsoft takes a wait-and-see, low-spending approach towards the Xbox Windows Phone lineup, in a few years’ time there simply won’t be a Windows Phone gaming scene. Gaming might not be the number one selling point of a smartphone platform, but it’s still big business on iOS and Android. Every year that Microsoft neglects to put their might behind growing Xbox Windows Phone is another year that iOS and Android grow and advance further than this underdog platform. If someone doesn’t draw a line in the sand and get Windows Phone properly caught up, there will eventually be no catching up.

Key publishers that appeal to gaming enthusiasts must be encouraged to go all-in on Windows Phone.

Alright, so Xbox Windows Phone needs more developers and publishers, but which ones? Look at the existing Windows Phone lineup: it’s filled with puzzle games, physics puzzlers, and casual games. Those all have a place, but ‘core’ games are woefully lacking. The platform needs meatier, more hardcore games such as can be found in ample supply on iOS and Android. Hardcore doesn’t mean limited appeal; not only do more serious games sell great on other platforms, but remember that a lot of Xbox Windows Phone gamers actually come from the Xbox 360 and want to play console-like games on the go.

The lineup of Gameloft games that I discussed earlier are a perfect start to providing that deeper, more compelling console-style experience on Windows Phone. Now let’s look at a few more high-priority publishers that Microsoft should be wooing.

Square-Enix

Demons' Score

Demons' Score sports some impressive mobile graphics.

This Japanese publisher is already onboard with Windows Phone, having published Final Fantasy and KooZac so far. Both are fine titles, but the original Final Fantasy is clearly dated and puzzle games like KooZac aren’t what the publisher is known for. Square-Enix is dipping its toes in the Windows Phone waters rather than jumping in head first. But the publisher has some top-tier mobile titles that could be ported to Xbox Windows Phone, if only Microsoft would convince them to do it:

  • Chaos Rings II
  • Chrono Trigger
  • Demons’ Score
  • Final Fantasy Dimensions
  • Final Fantasy III
  • Final Fantasy IV
  • Final Fantasy Tactics
  • Secret of Mana
  • The World Ends with You

If left to its own devices, Square-Enix might possibly port Final Fantasy II this year – a 3-year old iOS port of an aged NES game that most RPG fans consider inferior to the original, and still quite dated for an RPG. But imagine if the publisher leapt ahead to their strongest games, and brought those over at a rate of two or more per year. The games listed above would sell like hotcakes, plus before too long Square-Enix could publish Windows Phone ports much closer to its iOS releases.

Capcom

Street Fighter X Tekken

Street Fighter X Tekken is surprisingly playable on touch-screen devices, so why not Windows Phone?

Capcom is another Japanese publisher with a huge presence on both consoles and smartphones. Windows Phone has a single Capcom title so far: KenKen (mysteriously not available on Windows Phone 8). But just like KooZac, it’s not exactly a top-tier effort. Here are some Capcom games our platform really needs:

  • Final Fight
  • Ghosts n’ Goblins Gold Knights II
  • Ghost Trick
  • Marvel vs. Capcom 2
  • Mega Man X
  • Monster Hunter Dynamic Hunting
  • Phoenix Wright
  • Resident Evil 4
  • Street Fighter IV
  • Street Fighter X Tekken

Again, that’s an extremely solid lineup. If Microsoft and Capcom inked a multigame deal akin to the Gameloft 12 games agreement, Windows Phone could be swimming in stellar Capcom games in no time.

Warner Bros

Batman Arkham City Lockdown

Batman: Arkham City Lockdown relies on the Unreal Engine that we discussed in a previous editorial.

Another major force in entertainment, Warner Bros. produces smartphone versions of many blockbuster console franchises. Just look at this list:

  • Bastion
  • Batman: Arkham City Lockdown
  • LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
  • LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
  • Midway Arcade
  • Scribblenauts Remix
  • Tapper World Tour
  • Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3

Activision

Black Ops Zombies

Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies is a couple of years old, but Windows Phone could still use it.

Activision is one of the largest console publishers in the world, right beside Electronic Arts. While ‘The Big A’ is less prolific in the mobile arena than the two previous publishers, it still produces some very important iOS games.

  • Activision Anthology
  • Call of Duty Zombies
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies
  • Pitfall! (A 3D reimagining of the Atari 2600 already available on Windows Phone)
  • Skylanders Battlegrounds
  • Skylanders Cloud Patrol
  • Skylanders Lost Islands

That’s right, Call of Duty – the single bestselling videogame brand in the world – could be ported to Windows Phone. Microsoft already has a great relationship with Activision, often negotiating timed exclusivity of Call of Duty DLC for the Xbox 360. Leveraging that relationship to bring Activision into the Windows Phone stronghold makes perfect sense. Why let Gameloft’s upcoming clone Modern Combat 4 have all the fun?

Bethesda

Dishonored Rat Assassin

Dishonored: Rat Assassin - This screenshot speaks for itself.

This console publisher hasn’t been cranking out mobile games as fast as they used to, with Dishonored: Rat Assassin being their only recent release. Rat Assassin is a Fruit Ninja clone that ties into last year’s critically lauded console release Dishonored. Although a small-scale mobile title, Rat Assassin has that rare crossover of casual gameplay with hardcore appeal. Bethesda also owns id Software’s back catalog of iOS releases, all of which would be highly welcome on Windows Phone.

  • Dishonored: Rat Assassin
  • Doom Classic
  • Doom II RPG
  • Doom Resurrection
  • Rage 3D
  • Wolfenstein 3D Platinum
  • Wolfenstein RPG

Two of those games are RPG spin-offs of first-person shooters – both genres that Windows Phone badly needs.

Take-Two Interactive

Can any phone gamer ever be truly happy without Borderlands Legends? I would argue 'no.'

This media giant consists of two gaming brands: Rockstar and 2K Games. The former has yet to touch Windows Phone development, depriving us of their fine Grand Theft Auto ports. 2K Games did produce decent Xbox versions of Civilization Revolution and Sid Meier's Pirates. Still, 2K's biggest mobile title Borderlands Legends is what gamers really want.

  • Grand Theft Auto III
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
  • Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
  • Max Payne Mobile
  • Borderlands Legends
  • NBA 2K13
  • NHK 2K11 (This would need to be updated, of course.)

Next installment: The games Microsoft themselves should be making

Now then, how do you feel about the publishers in this article, guys, gals and hybrids? What other mobile game developers and publishers should Microsoft court for Xbox Windows Phone development? Let us know in the comments below.

If you enjoyed these articles, please comment and tweet them to everyone who would benefit from it. The problems Xbox games face on Windows Phone won’t change until the right decision-makers realize their importance. Let’s do our best to make a difference together!

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

154 Comments
  • I need to become a wp dev....is it that hard? Cause all these other devs are annoying
  • +1
  • I'd help partner up been learning programming since wp7 but too poor to put up $100 for a subscription I just want the tools first to get a good feel then I'd pay $100
  • installing and using the emulator is free. You can develop for free and then getting someone to publish it would be easy. If you had a quality working game, heck, I'd publish it.
  • Find someone with a edu email account and sign up for dreamspark....Free Dev account (and free unlock for your phone to test) it's for students but, if you know someone with or can get access to a edu account, you can get one...
     
    As for learning, I want to learn C# and C+ to start doing Wp7 and 8 programs, Dont think any Noob could do games like the pros do but, you need to start someplace...
  • I started developing thinking exactly like you are now, try it its fun. I started by trying to build my app by poking around in expression blend, seeing what happens when I do this or that, then I looked at source code, and then combined some elements from that into my app. Although for me it took 4 or 5 months at least so if you really want to start you have to be commited
  • Even once you make a game you still need to have it marketed. And getting sites like these to market your game unless its popular is pretty tough.  Check out Wordemic! Fun scrabble game you play with everyone in the world at the same time.
     
  • +10
  • The WPcentral community should get together and create a collaborative development group.
    Skype every other day and learn .NET (WP and W8) development skills from one another.
    Before you know it, every member of the group is contributing code for awesome apps and games!
    We'll just need one person to be a publisher. Everybody can use the express edition of the SDK.
  • I've want3ed to get in on some development. What better time tha.n now. :D
  • I have a thread started similar to this. Look for windows phone app starter. I like the idea.
  • I'll start up a private Facebook page. I'll put it in the forums and maybe on WMPU, etc. as well.
    Look up "Dot net c# Indie Devs"
  • +1000
  • I would buy a real Scribblenauts game for my 920.
  • Anything from Square Enix would be amazing. It blows my mind that they havent released FF VII in some form for mobile, as its their best selling franchise iirc.
    Either a redone version of the original, or a more 2D approach more like their FF IV version for iOS.
  • +1
  • My only problem with Square Enix is that they kinda take anything for mobile and find some way to try and make a ton of money on it. I mean, I have a FF1 black mage tattoo, but ponying up another 7 dollars for the game on wp7...after all the other ports i've owned...no thanks. Priced like other mobile games..I could have gotten it.
     
    "Final Fantasy: All the Bravest" comes to mind, though it is missing from the list above. I'm pretty sure some of their other mobile titles have made the 7 dollar charge for FF on wp7 seem like chump change.
     
    Square doesn't get mobile and until they do, I couldn't care less if they come to WP.
  • Admittedly I bought Tactics on iPhone. One of my favorite FF titles and it was 15 bucks! One of the best but damn! Still.....played the heck out of it. Agreed completely though. Its like Nintendo (bit of a fan boy here). Love em to death but these premium prices are a killer.
  • I think their pricing is fine, however I do think companies should make an effort to make their cross-platform products "one purchase, all platforms".
    Besides the pricing, squares FF games have been very well ported afaik.
  • Things are slowly speeding up. I am confident that the next major update will FINALLY be the "one" to put us on the same level and potential.
  • While I am a big support of WP, thats what we all said with Mango, and then with WP8 :)
  • Yep completely agree! haha but as you can see WP8 was a major improvement from WP7. I desperately hope BLUE will finally put WP on the same level....
  • The problem is that as WP evolves to catch up...the rest of the OS's are also advancing....so Microsoft needs to sprint while everyone else is jogging in order for some serious change. Getting these big name publishers is a must...Capcom, Square, Warner Bros, etc.
  • The other os's aren't advancing by much. As far as I can see the biggest advances in ios was the notification center and making a 3d map software that did a poor job of showing accurate information. The biggest feature in Jelly bean seems to be google now and some usability and performance improvements. WP can be on equal footing with the other platforms but they need to get off their asses. Blue better have many real improvements to showcase or people will start abandoning the platform. Also, everything they announce better be available withing a month of the announcement. The announced many apps with wp8 that are still not here.
  • There will always be issues like mentioned in the article until ms gets the certification process improved. Once a week I read a developer mentioning the process is horrible and some will be getting their games on ps4 before the next xbox because of this. This is MS's biggest roadblock....themselves
  • Forget big titles, bring temple run to WP -_-
  • +1 and top11 please.
  • Yesss!!! Temple Run or die!
  • I am pretty sure they said Temple Run was comming. 
  • Yep, it says so in this very article.
  • All I see is the picture, not the name..I am on the WPC mobile app BTW.
  • Ah, for some reason the captions for screenshots don't show up in the app. Will have to ask our dev about that.
  • Too bad temple run 2 is already out...
  • I'll take Gunstringer. It's an exclusive on Windows 8 and pretty much same genre.
  • lost cause?
  • I really want com2us and nimblebit to come to wp
  • Rockstar Games !
    If my XOOM can play GTA III & GTA Vice City without any issues , then my 8X should be fine ... I love me some Grand Theft Auto !!!
  • I knew I forgot somebody. Added them into the article.
  • Yea I want some GTA here too....
  • I'll take anything of quality with Windows Phone 8 or Surface RT.
  • I tried it before ... But never got a reply ...
  • How about Konami ?
    Playing Metal Gear Solid 1 again would be awesome
  • Konami has actually published a decent number of Windows Phone games, but nothing lately.
  • WP needs GTA.
  • +1 this is the only game series I really care about on mobile. We need Chinatown Wars, 3 and Vice City.
  • YEEEESSSS!! Vice City is still, to date, my favorite of all the GTA games. Most fun, best storyline, strongest main character, and definitely the best easter eggs! (chainsaw and tub full of blood, anyone?)
  • Great articles but how many readers actually are taking the time to email these companies and tell them that we WP8 owners are interested in their product on our platform? That is what makes the real difference. Emails from customers. How can they know about interest if we don't tell them about it?? We can't spend our time talking about specific games we like and dislike. I say bring them all to WP8. Let the downloads do the talking..
  • What about Microsoft themselves, shouldn't they be leading the way? Forza, Halo Wars, PGR are all Microsoft IP they could produce themselves. They produced games for Windows 8 eg Adera and had "coming soon" notices for WP but nothing in the end. And didn't they make a big deal about creating a studio for making mobile games? What has come of that? I think if Microsoft themselves can't be bothered to create AAA games for their platform its a bit much to expect 3rd party devs to care.
  • +1
  • That's next week's article in a nutshell.
  • Agree. An exclusive Halo game would get some attention. Gears of War is their other big exclusive. Why not commission Epic Games to make an Infinity Blade version of that? Let's not forget Microsoft owns Rare. They were one of the powerhouse mobile developers of the Game Boy era. Viva Pinata is a brand with some potential. It even has a cartoon series kids can watch on Hulu.
  • It's an interesting coincidence that when the xbox guys opened up achievements as a teaser on non-Microsoft platforms is right around the same time things really slowed down on Windows Phone. I think getting stabbed in the back like that really took some wind out of their sails. I get why Xbox would do that if they were a separate company, but if Ballmer is really "all in" on Windows Phone like he claims, he needs to work harder to align the empires within Microsoft. It's a huge cultural change for them, and the synergy that has started over the past few years will quickly unravel if he doesn't keep driving the company (really, really hard) in that direction. The Windows Phone guys NEED the full support of the Xbox guys to solve all of these problems; they can't do it on their own. Obviously the Xbox guys have a lot on their plate with the new console coming this year, but to me "all in" means you find the resources to make things happen that need to happen, especially when you are a company as big as Microsoft.
  • Paul what do you think WP is lacking that many game developers treat it as an option? Is it the development process or lack of support from Microsoft or is it that they don't see a future of this OS.
  • Just two things: lack of support from Microsoft and a small installed user base. The number of users is slowly growing, so if Microsoft would step up and give it their all, we would get over the hump.
  • I think windows blue and the nxt xbx have a major role to play in the direction of the WP gaming platform. I think MS is holding something major for a future event. I have a feeling that cross platform gaming (win8/9,WP & Xbox???) is something ms is working hard to implement.
  • MS need to stop screwing around with their cert process. I've heard from a number of devs for XBLA now that going through all that process is just expensive and time consuming and those same devs praise how amazing the same process on Steam is because you can make a tweak, publish it and have the update out within a number of hours and at no cost to them.
     
     
    It's not like MS's cert does jack shit anyway. I've had updates on my phone that have completely broken the app and made it unusable so MS aren't really doing anything on their end.
  • To say they aren't doing anything is far from the truth. I've had so many cert failures from things I didn't even pick up on myself. I do agree that occasionally they pass something that breaks that they shouldn't. Had this happen myself but only on wp8 handsets, so I'm thinking that's more the reason
  • With the next big WP update (Blue) coming near the end of year, and the next Xbox being released for holiday season as well, I am guessing (or maybe just blindly hoping) that we see a big connection between the Xbox brand and the Windows Phone brand. In the eyes of consumers, the Xbox brand is the strongest of all Microsoft's products; I think the smartest idea would be to tie into that brand as much as possible. Apple did it with the iPod- after the wild success of the iPod (where it was so popular that any mp3 player was loosely referred to as an iPod), Apple put "i" in front of practically every product and it worked.
  • We've been waiting for WP and Xbox connectivity for awhile. Smartglass is a start, but that's not WP exclusive. I'm getting tired of waiting for the next big update to make everything okay.
  • How long did it take android to get to where it is today?!?!? Windows phone is the youngest of the top 3 Oses and besides they also have a lot more competition, people need to be more patient
  • But Microsoft is playing catch-up. That requires them to move faster... otherwise the industry will move on to something else.
  • Yep! Exactly.
  • One thing that would really set Xbox gaming on WP apart is some sort of docking gamepad peripheral, complete with PS Vita style analog sticks, triggers, bumpers and buttons. Combine that with Xbox Live functionality already available and some of the more powerful flagship devices like the L920, Ativ S and 8X, and you've got the ultimate portable gaming solution with no compromise. Include a 3000mah battery in the peripheral for extended gaming sessions and you've got a system that is relatively inexpensive (sell the peripheral for maybe $60-70+the subsidy for the phone of your choice) and destroys the competition in every regard! Developers will flock to that, and the advanced titles and superior gaming experience will bring the 'core gamers to our platform in DROVES.
  • O MY GOODNESS THANKYOU! THAT WOULD BE AWESOME AND SMART!
  • What Microsoft needs to do is the next xbox should support bluetooth wireless controllers.  Then make the new xbox 3 controllers connect to a Windows Phone with bluetooth.  At that point you have full first party compatibility with Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone with gamigna nd controllers.
  • What you said x 100. Its such a missed opportunity that Microsoft hasn't capitalized on Xbox for mobile. If they made an official universal micro USB controller that could also dock your phone that would be awesome.... On my Nexus 7 I use a otg cable to connect a wired Xbox 360 controller. Why can't I do that for WP8!? If NOVA 3 and Modern Combat 4 also come out on Windows 8/RT I might opt to get those titles on a platform that has USB support.
  • On a side note, Bluetooth would work but lag is always a problem. Look up MOGA controller for Android tablets- too much lag. WP8 doesn't support the most recent Bluetooth spec either.
  • Lots of us have thought about something like that for a long time, even MS apparently: http://www.wpcentral.com/latest-microsoft-patent-suggests-interchangable-accessories
     
    I would have the bottom part like regular Xbox controller and have the adjustable docking part on a hinge like the DS/3DS top screen though. It may seem bulky, but the target is gamers who want a dedicated gaming experience, not people who want super-slim phones and only play Angry Birds or whatever; it's gamers who would carry around a dedicated portable gaming device in addition to their phones, except in this case they'd be the same core device and it'd be WP/Xbox instead of Vita or 3DS.
  • I'm not sure if a "docking" gamepad peripheral can work with there being several WP8 models out there all with different shapes and sizes. I could see a Bluetooth one (hopefully as little lag as possible) or at least a USB cord pull-out controller.
  • It seems more developers are taking an interest in Windows 8 than Windows Phone. Microsoft needs to get that Blue out by the end of the year. I just don't think there is much Microsoft can do... unless people leave in droves for WP. Developers are more interested in BlackBerry it seems. I keep hearing from people that they would get a WP8 over a BB if WP had a phone with a physical keyboard.
  • Kormiko, not only that about the physical keyboard, but BB10 is getting instagram. Something WP users have been asking for!!!!
  • I still get people asking me what my phone is... so they are curious, and that's good.  But I also get, "I didn't even know there was a phone by Windows."  This is from non-tech savvy people, but still. I go into BestBuy and they don't have them on display or have the 900 where the 920 should be.  They have the Surface by the phones instead of by the other laptops and tablets.  What is that? I really hope Microsoft is working on their own Google-like glasses right now.  If they aren't, they are going to go through this same process again.