Does Microsoft have the will to bring its Xbox gaming franchises to Windows Phone?
Although the year got off to a rocky start with an extended Xbox game release drought, the Xbox Windows Phone gaming situation has actually been looking up since February. Gameloft’s highly anticipated Windows Phone 8 titles finally started rolling out, and some weeks saw two Xbox games released instead of just one.
Don’t think we’re out of the thicket just yet. The Xbox Live certification process continues to cause games like Cut the Rope: Experiments to come out much later than on other platforms, and meaningful title updates come just as late or not at all – both Windows Phone Cut the Rope games are missing levels that iOS and Android already get to enjoy. Microsoft’s solution to this problem seems to be encouraging big games like Temple Run to release as indie titles in order to circumvent the Xbox Live certification process. Because why bother fixing a broken system?
The draconian certification process may be a major impediment to the quality and number of Xbox games on Windows Phone, but Microsoft’s unwillingness to release exclusive games and capitalize on their wealth of franchises is just as big a roadblock. Now enjoy the ultimate installment of our How to Save Xbox Games for Windows Phone series to find out which Microsoft games Windows Phone is missing and what Microsoft can do to turn it all around. And don't miss the video above in which Microsoft's Larry Lieberman, Senior Product Manager and Casey McGee, Senior Marketing Manager address many of our gaming concerns!
Windows 8 Xbox games with touch-screen support should also be released for Windows Phone 8.
Full House Poker came to Windows Phone, but its sequel WSOP: Full House Pro will not.
You wouldn’t know it from the scant number of Windows 8 Xbox games that have made their way to Windows Phone, but it’s easier to port from Windows 8 to Windows Phone 8 than just about any other platform. One of our Xbox Live developer friends explains:
It’s not quite as simple as just flipping a switch, but when all you have to do to port a game is rework the UI and a few API calls, refusing to port from Windows 8 to Windows Phone 8 is leaving money on the table (while also discreetly pointing a middle finger at the dedicated Windows Phone user base).
Let’s look at the Xbox Windows 8 games that would port easily to Windows Phone 8 and yet have no mobile versions announced. Most of these are already available on Windows 8, while some are still in the works:
- 4 Elements II
- Crash Course Go
- Disney Fairies
- Dragon’s Lair
- Field & Stream Fishing
- The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running
- Microsoft Mahjong
- Microsoft Solitaire Collection
- Reckless Racing Ultimate
- Royal Envoy 2
- Team Crossword
- Toy Soldiers: Cold War
- Ty the Tasmanian Tiger
- A World of Keflings
- WSOP: Full House Pro
A few of these titles might actually be in the works for Windows Phone – as we complained in a previous column, Microsoft has completely stopped announcing Xbox Windows Phone games in advance. But it’s a safe bet that mobile versions aren’t planned for most of these. In fact, we know for sure that at least one of the listed games was actually pitched for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, but only the Windows 8 version got approved. Oh, Microsoft!
Considering that both platforms share touch screen interfaces and the majority of code is portable, there really is no excuse not to produce Windows Phone 8 ports of virtually every Xbox Windows 8 game.
Stop publishing Windows Phone-exclusive games on competing platforms.
Tentacles used to be a feather in Windows Phone's cap. Nowadays, not so much.
Part of showing solidarity is Microsoft releasing its own properties on its own platforms, such as the Windows 8 games I just mentioned. But another part is making sure those platforms actually have exclusive games that could attract new users. After all, Xbox Windows Phone isn’t exactly swimming in hot games, so why would Microsoft publish what few games it has on competing platforms?
Yet the Windows Phone maker has done just that, time and time again. Tentacles, Kinectimals, Fable Coin Golf, and Wordament all started life as Xbox Windows Phone exclusives. But someone within Microsoft – the company that owns Windows Phone and should want it to succeed at all costs – decided that making money from iOS users was more important than supporting their own platform. Did I mention that Tentacles and Fable Coin Golf don't even run on Windows Phone 8?
We covered this issue in greater detail back when Wordament launched on iOS with Xbox Live Achievements, so please refer to that article for a lengthier discussion. It all boils down to this: as a minority platform, Windows Phone requires exclusive games and apps in order to attract new users. Selling previously exclusive games on iOS brings in money short-term, but it hampers Windows Phone sales long-term.
Internal politics and competing divisions are probably the single greatest obstacle Microsoft faces going forward. Let’s hope they somehow pull it together and get everyone on the same page sooner rather than later.
Even more importantly, Microsoft needs to bring its major franchises to Windows Phone. Yesterday.
Gameloft gave us Asphalt 7, so why can't Microsoft make a mobile Forza?
After two years, which of its existing console properties has Microsoft even published on Windows phone? Let’s see…
- Crackdown: Project Sunburst (now delisted)
- Crimson Dragon Side Story
- Fable Coin Golf (not Windows Phone 8 compatible)
- Full House Poker (not Windows Phone 8 compatible)
- Fusion: Sentient (a misfire)
- Hydro Thunder GO
- Ms. Splosion Man (inexplicably not Windows Phone 8 compatible, and also available on iOS)
- Toy Soldiers: Boot Camp (another misfire)
That boils down to exactly one top-tier franchise (Fable) still being sold, with the rest being either XBLA or Kinect adaptations. I’m not complaining that these games exist (other than Fusion: Sentient, Boot Camp, and the too buggy to live Project Sunburst). But shouldn’t there be more games on that list?
As a matter of fact, not long ago we listed more than 30 games that Microsoft owns the publishing rights to but has failed to adapt to Windows Phone. One of those – Minecraft, technically belongs to Mojang, but the two companies have an excellent relationship thanks to the bestselling Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition. There is no reason that iOS should have an official Minecraft game while Windows Phone doesn’t.
Still, Microsoft owns several IPs that either sell or have sold gangbusters on Xbox 360 within the last few years: Halo, Gears of War, Fable, Forza, and Project Gotham Racing. (I list Fable because there’s much more life in the property than just Coin Golf.) Microsoft’s Zune media player had a Project Gotham Racing game, but Windows Phone doesn’t. Does the big MS not know how easily racing games port to smartphones? We should be playing PGR and Forza (either a sim or adaptation of Horizon) on our phones right now.
The real barometer of Microsoft’s Windows Phone support: Halo
N.O.V.A. 3 (above) is close enough to Halo, but many users still want the real thing.
In the end, it all comes down to Halo: Microsoft’s system-selling first-person shooter series. There is a sort of Halo/Mountain Dew/7 Eleven adver-game in the works for Windows Phone, along with iOS and Android. Let’s hope that deplorable idea dies in the conceptual womb. But Xbox Windows Phone cries out for not one, but two real Halo games: a shooter and a strategy title.
First-person shooters are quite popular on smartphones, as Gameloft’s Modern Combat 4 and Halo clone N.O.V.A. 3 prove. And Windows Phone 8 has the hardware chops to run a faithful Halo port without skimping on too many graphical details. Microsoft doesn’t even need to assemble a large team to make this game happen. Just collaborate with Gameloft to adapt an existing Halo game or create a side story to the franchise. We know Gameloft has an excellent FPS engine for Windows Phone 8 and they’ve admitted they’d love to work with the Halo license. Heck, even just licensing Gameloft's engine would save a ton of effort.
Some people don’t take a shine to touch-screen controls in shooters though. That’s why a mobile adaptation of Halo Wars makes perfect sense. Halo Wars is a real-time strategy game developed by the now-closed Ensemble Studios, and the only non-FPS Halo game to date. It might not have sold as well as mainline Halo games on the Xbox 360, but smartphones are especially suited to strategy games – just look at Skulls of the Shogun and Galactic Reign. If Microsoft wanted to make a smaller-scale Halo game for Windows Phone rather than a graphically intensive shooter (or in addition to it), Halo Wars would be perfect. Downsize the graphics, adjust the control scheme, and you’re golden.
When I spoke on the telephone with a Windows Phone executive two years ago, he seemed to anticipate a mobile Halo game within the next year or so after our conversation. But that executive has since shifted off of the Windows Phone team. It’s no coincidence that PR efforts and new game announcements died off after that time.
Xbox Windows Phone doesn’t appear to have a leader who believes in gaming or the Xbox brand any more. We’ll know that has changed when Microsoft finally announces a true Halo game for Windows Phone. Until the company is willing to take that important step, we cannot believe they take gaming on this platform seriously.
Wow, Microsoft actually did release a Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 Halo game this year - Halo: Spartan Assault. It's a decent title (albeit much smaller in scale than N.O.V.A. 3) and we could take it as a vote of confidence in Xbox Windows Phone. But as 2013 rolls on, we see more and more weeks without mobile Xbox releases. Unless Microsoft starts putting time and money into securing new Xbox games for Windows Phone, I fear the titles will eventually stop coming.
Halo Wars and Windows Phone 8 are a match made in heaven.
So ends the final long article in our long editorial series! Don’t forget to check out the previous installments:
- Part 1: Xbox Live certification
- Part 2: The importance of Xbox to Windows Phone, game engines
- Part 3: Volume control, redownloading games, advertising
- Part 4: Announcing games and a download code system
- Part 5: Backing up save data, cloud storage, leaderboards, and messaging
- Part 6: Third-party developers and games
- Part 7: Porting Windows 8 games, Microsoft franchises, and Halo
If you enjoyed these articles, please comment, retweet, and tweet them to the good folks at Microsoft. 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!
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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!
Seriously Microsoft needs to wake up and get rid of these idiots that are holding it back.
They have not a clear strategy: they even bring some apps to iOS before bringing them to WP. And after they are complaining why Instagram isn't on their platform. Well to shorten my comment, they need to organise them and define clearly a strategy, an objective, and deadlines to reach them.
However, it is clear that under Ballmers leadership, there is a focus on enterprise because it brings in the money. This is why Windows gets all the resources ahead of windows phone. At Apple, the reverse is the case because iOS is their bead and butter. Heck, there are rumors that Apple pulled resources from OSX to speed up iOS development.
Since Microsoft is unable to dedicate maximum resources to windows phone, I only hope that Blue successfully merges all the platforms WP, Xbox and Windows so Windows phone can finally get the attention it requires.
MS just posted twice the profit Google did for last quarter.
I do agree they are frustratingly slow or remiss at some things. Windows Phone did not move the UI or experience on very much from 7. I appreciate that they re-wrote the internals (and agree it was probably the right thing to do) but they need to speed up now. Adding some of the features required should be at 6 month intervlas, not yearly release (not for basic features like profiles, or separate volume for music and incoming call - or custom SMS sounds etc)
Always hoping that the best thing is the next version, it's beginning to be the catch phrase of MS.
And I actually am what you could call a Nokia fanboy. They were the reason I moved to WP and they'll be the reason I'll leave it, if they move to Android or something else. But yes, we agree, in the bigger picture, Microsoft is the one to blame. Arrogance has played big parts in Microsofts downfall. And it seems that's not getting better judging by these kinds of interviews.
Actually, to be completely honest, Xbox Live is the last thing I could care about WP. Mainly because I prefer PS3 to Xbox and so I don't even use the gaming platform. But I can still see the potential in it. And I'm fairly aware of what's going on in gaming. That's why I think these people are miserably failing at their jobs. Now, I assumed that their lack of touch with reality was because of something called "generation gap", a thing that, wether we like it or not, plays always a role in company managements. That's why Apple thrived on MS's laziness/arrogance. Steve Jobs (whom I never really liked) had a much better understanding of the new generations than Bill Gates had or Balmer has. And yes, I know Jobs was not that much younger than Gates.
Now, the reason why Microsoft's management is making so many strategic mistakes may not be the age. In which case is lack of vision or share stupidity. I still like to think that what's missing here is the capacity of understanding the new generations. There's a reason why MS with WP keeps being the kid running after the bus. As for Microsoft giving up on WP...that will depend on the amount of money they can do with it. But with the current lack of thrive to push the OS forward and correct/improve things faster, it's more likely that they will drop the idea sooner than later because consumers aren't willing to just wait for Microsoft to do things other companies already have available. Which will be a shame.
I too have a master’s degree and an understanding of what a generation gap is. I also remember the days of DOS. All I’m saying is that it's a matter of perspective. What you see as laziness/arrogance, I see a concentration in enterprise for many many years. I believe that because they are relatively new to paying a good amount of attention to the consumer market, they need some time to adjust, not that they don't have the capability to adjust. I understand that it is taking longer than we want it to, but this game is far from over. Whether or not you agree, I believe that Gates is as much of a visionary as Jobs was. And Ballmer, while I love the guy, may not necessarily be the visionary his predecessor was. Regardless, he is excellent at keeping the board members and investors happy, while still bringing in tons of innovation and money. I don't think the people he has working for him have a lack of understanding of the younger generation, but things like this are a lot easier to say than do. I'm sure you've kept up with news on MS and how competitive each department within the company has been. With the departure of Sinofsky, things are supposed to change and I already think the company is headed in the right direction for the consumer market. Maybe there are certain people at MS that are stuck in the ways of old, but MS certainly doesn’t lack young blood either.
The point of the whole armchair analyst comment was that there are many things about MS internally that we don't know or understand. Do I know that I'm 100% correct? Of course not, but that’s exactly the point. We can point fingers all we want, and come up with all the reasons in the world, but we just don't know what is happening internally. That’s why I say, you can call them slow and say that you are not satisfied with the way things are, but to point out specific reasons about certain people at MS, unless you know them personally or internal MS info, I would say is somewhat unfair. It's all a matter of perspective.
However my problem with FPS on a touch device is the movement. A virtual joystick doesn't work as well with me as a physical joystick does.
And I never thought Zune would be Xbox Music... I mean I hate talking to people about there music apps of choice and then I have to say I subscribe to "Xbox Music". I mean Xbox means games for most people, Zune meant music, but Microsoft said they needed their naming convention less fragmented w/e....
My BIGGEST gripe is the fact the Xbox messaging is not integrated into the message hub... wtf?! WP is suppose to be easy to use and quick access. I get why it would it would be hard for Gtalk but they Own Xbox messaging.
Sorry for ranting and back to the point. They released Halo Waypoint which would show you real time map information to display your team location for Reach. This was awesome but I had no way to attach it to my controller so it was too cumbersome to ever use. And honestly for me that is where the gaming ingenuity for WP ended.
Growing pains. Some of it is commitment and bad execution. Much of it I chalk up to a 3-year product cycle. Will RT and Phone 8.1 have the APIs to better support XBox 720? Or will the AMD processor games simply be too big and powerful to port and Smart Glass be the selling point? Will we see some nice blu tooth game controllers to go along with that 1080P?
Sorry Paul, bu now is the time to the editorial spin-off "How To Publish Your Windows Phone Games In Brazil And Make More Money". :) Congratulations for the perfect editorial! WP Central is THE best!!
iOS simply has a minimilist hardware and simple OS with a wealth of apps to support it. Every time you need to do something you have to go into an app to do it. WP on the other hand offers a wealth of functionality built in already. This is the reason why Apple no longers offers an 8GB iPhone. Apple realized that the majority of people would run out of space too quickly and their phones wouldn't be able to do much of anything with that limited amount of space. This is why I feel WP is better than iOS
Microsoft has a great design and a lot of amazing ideas but people like these 'book keepers' are whats holding back the company. trade them out for some people who dont make excuses they should be saying 'how do we do it not this & make it seemless' not saying 'why we cant'. I was an iPhone user and recently switched to a Lumia 920 and couldn't be happier with the hardware and a lot of the software but I feel like Nokia is the main reason thats a great device and maybe they should be given more control over the software, at least they're excited about the things they are doing.
I'm still only going to stick to WP as it's the only phone that's good enough after the Symbian system went away. Just wish Microsoft deliver soon, for their own sake.
Is he even human?
Who high up at MS could we forward our concerns to? The great thing about Elop is that you can always email the man himself. I doubt Ballmer is available...
These marketing guys are a JOKE. They didnt answer a single question!!!
Just to add, I have the 8x and feel that its a travesty how little HTC are doing for the platform unlike Nokia.
How i wish that i had brought the L920, we haven't had any love from HTC.
I look at the great looking FPS being made for WP8 and want to punch myself in the face wondering why Halo and Gears haven't made some sort of appearance. Racing games work pretty good, where is our Forza and PGR games?
GuaranF'nT that if Microsoft had 343 make a Halo WP8 game and advertised it on TV instead of a bunch of "look, you can post a FB pic faster on WP8 than Galaxy S3" crap, people WOULD want a WP8. But hey, who am I? Just somebody in-touch with what customers actually want instead of a stiff in a corporate office.
...of course...all this coming from a guy who is a professional chef, working over 60 hours a week, and really only using his phone as a phone, a messaging device, a means a viewing Facebook and posting vids and pics, and checking my work and personal email with the email integration...not a power user like you all are
1-windos blue update will be released
2-a lot of xbox games will be available to wp
3-most familiar apps will come to wp(instgram)
This anticipation is what holding me back from selling my lumia920 for s4 but if this did not happen then MS is nothing but a loser and dumb company
I didn't really learn anything but here is what I gleaned from this.
Microsoft's divisions seem to be very fragile and a very unforgiving place to work. No one wants to take ownership of anything that happens. No one dare step outside the box for fear of being ridiculed by management and possibly let go. It seems to be a my way or the highway kind of gig and the "my way" part is what we as supporters get to see.
I'm not sure if this is Balmer's management style, the people below him that report to Balmer or how its always been at Microsoft under Bill Gates but it is one rigid structure.
Only thing these two guys were missing was that Gestapo guy from Indiana Jones, their hands tied behind their backs and a bright ass spot light. lol. I mean these cats couldn't say squat about anything.
I said it before, mobile is about being bold and taking bold steps. This feels tepid to me. Really tepid.
• Windows 8 is a great and stabil OS....but the "metro" servicesisnt all there..
• Windows Phone 8 is a great upgrade. Its a great improvement over its predecessor....but there are services and software problems right out the gate. I believe MSFT must loose their Office product department to someone else. That way they HAVE to make their great ideas into great products. Some people hate Google for throwing services out there. Well MSFT just needs to finish their projects. I get so angry sometimes when I think of the wasted/wasting opportunities MSFT keeps coming up with. Make up your mind and do it right. End of MSFT skepticism..... I love you Microsoft :D (you seriously have to be mental to love this company) Free Prozac, on the house :D
Is there any mobile phone that "theoretically" does Exchange Email integration as well as Windows Phone ??? And still you have iPhone ruling the BYOD in the enterprise whereas Exchange is by the far the no. 1 corporate email platform !!!
Games / Office / Music / Camera - whats missing ???
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Super Mario 3D Land
Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Donkey Kong Country Returns
Luigi's Mansion 2
Smash Bros. (coming soon)
Zelda: A Link to the Past sequel The PSP has:
2 God of War games
Hot Shots Golf The PS Vita has:
PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale Games sell hardware, and big games sell A LOT of hardware. Microsoft should know this, since Halo is one of their biggest franchises.