More mobile Xbox games delisted as Windows Phone struggles to find its way

Xbox games for Windows Phone have fallen on hard times. New releases are all but non-existent on Windows Phone, and Windows 8 releases have dwindled to a smattering of casual games that Microsoft likely commissioned long ago. This has caused a measure of discomfort to some gamers who joined the mobile Windows platforms for Xbox Live games. I felt pretty bad about it for a while (a year ago).

As if the lack of new mobile Xbox releases and PR from Microsoft wasn't bad enough, the existing lineup of Xbox Windows Phone and Windows 8 games is starting to disappear. Last month we brought the news of Zombies!!! disappearing from the Windows 8 store, only to reappear as a non-Xbox game. Many more games have been delisted within the last few weeks as well, including Carcassonne, The Harvest, and Rocket Riot. Read on for a full list and some insights into why mobile Xbox games are dropping like flies.

Zombies!!! Windows 8

Recently delisted Xbox Windows Phone and Windows 8/RT games

  • Carcassonne from Exozet (Windows Phone 7 and 8)
  • Crash Course Go from Wanako/Behavior Interactive (Windows 8, Xbox 360)
  • Disney The Little Mermaid: Undersea Treasures! From Disney (Windows 8)
  • Gunpowder (Windows 8) from Rogue Rocket
  • The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running from Other Ocean (Windows 8)
  • The Harvest from Luma Arcade (Windows 8 and Steam versions. The Windows Phone version remains at least temporarily, but is restricted to Windows Phone 7 devices.)
  • Rocket Riot from Codeglue (Windows Phone and Windows 8)
  • Royal Envoy 2 from Playrix (Windows 8)
  • Team Crossword from ? (Windows 8)
  • Zombies!!! from Babaroga (Windows 8. Windows Phone version delisted and republished without Xbox features last year.)

All of these games were published by Microsoft, as independent developers were seldom allowed to self-publish Xbox games on pre-Xbox One platforms. Some were created as work-for-hire projects for Microsoft, while others were created on the developer's own volition.

We've also heard there is a significant chance of Doodle God (Windows Phone) and Hydro Thunder Hurricane (Windows 8) being delisted in the near future. Doodle God would be no great loss since its sequels like Doodle Creatures are readily available on Windows Phone and Windows 8 anyway.

Rocket Riot for Windows Phone

Trimming the Xbox portfolio

We've seen mass delistings of mobile Xbox games in the past, most notably when Microsoft pulled nearly all of the Windows Phone 7 games with in-app purchases in September of last year. Is this latest disappearance of 10 Windows Phone and Windows 8 games a result of technical issues and unwillingness on Microsoft's part to update the titles afflicted by those issues as well?

I reached out to the developers of the affected games (except for Team Crossword since I never downloaded it and don't know who made it for Microsoft), and most were kind enough to respond.

The reason for this new mass delisting is ownership. Although Microsoft published all of the affected games and controlled some aspects of their fates (such as pricing and updates), most of the titles still belong to their individual developers. That's the sort of publishing agreement that developers generally want, but Microsoft seems to be shifting away from those deals. Recently, Ryse 2 for Xbox One was reportedly cancelled due to developer Crytek's unwillingness to relinquish ownership of the Ryse IP.

"Microsoft publishing decided to trim out any titles that they do not own, and that do not fit their current portfolio," one of the affected developers explains. The game received notice of the delisting about six weeks in advance, the notification coming by call or email. Most of the developers were given the option to republish their games without Xbox features. Exceptions include Gunpowder and Gunstringer: Dead Man Running; those games are still owned by Microsoft and will not return unless the big MS has a change of heart.

The Harvest HD for Windows 8 and Steam

Effects on developers and consumers

Developer reactions to the delistings have largely been those of disappointment:

"We were disappointed to see [our game] pulled from Windows Store as well. It's really a bummer … On the distribution front, the Windows marketplace experience was definitely a struggle.""While we are disappointed by the decision we don't feel like any wrong was done to us. We see it as Microsoft is going through a number of internal changes and this is what happens.""This means that anyone who purchased before will not get any further updates nor fixes, and if they switch devices, and there will be no way to get the app back. They will have to buy it again if they want it. This was not our choice… I am very done with MS publishing. Very bitter taste."

One developer took Microsoft's side:

"Microsoft is trying to stimulate developers to do more updates on their games. Letting developers publish themselves is the best way to do this."

In fact, all of the game makers who have chosen to republish are excited about the prospect of being able to update their games at will. The end result will be better versions of those games than would have existed under the mobile Xbox banner. The games that will definitely return without Xbox features include Zombies!!! (already back on both platforms), Rocket Riot, and Carcassonne. The Harvest will likely return to Windows later this year, though it's unclear whether that would mean Windows 7, Windows 8, or both.

The delistings carry some obvious downsides though:

  • A few Achievement hunters will refuse to play the new versions, as with the vast majority of mobile Windows games, because non-Xbox games don't feed their Achievement addictions.
  • A handful of the affected games simply won't return to our platforms in any form.

Just as the delistings are a matter of ownership to Microsoft, they also impact consumer ownership. As a quoted developer pointed out, players who purchased the Xbox Windows Phone versions of the delisted titles will lose access to those titles if they uninstall them or change devices. Windows 8 games can be redownloaded even if delisted, it seems. Affected players can seek refunds directly through Microsoft support. I've had some success in procuring refunds for delisted games the past.

Carcassonne

The special case of Carcassonne

The delisting experience was largely out of the developers' hands, with the exception of Exozet, makers of Carcassonne for Windows Phone. Carcassonne was the first Xbox Windows Phone game to offer real-time multiplayer, although the feature proved impractical and problematic in practice (see our review). Microsoft never cared for the real-time concept in mobile Xbox games, so developers like Exozet and Gameloft couldn't rely on established frameworks and tools in order to implement their multiplayer modes.

Exozet would have loved to improve the multiplayer via title update. They also planned to adapt the physical board game's expansions and offer them as downloadable content, as evidenced by the "Coming soon" message in the game menus. But Microsoft would not allow the developer to update the game or publish new content for it – a common complaint among mobile developers whose games Microsoft published. Check out our developer interview to learn what Carcassonne's future could have been like.

In this case, Exozet was not content to cede the future of their game to the apathetic publisher's hands. They asked Microsoft to delist the game so that they could publish a new version and retain full control over its content, features, and updates. The new version will offer an identical experience to Exozet's Carcassonne games for Windows 8 and RT (released a few months ago) and Android.

Carcassonne

Those versions of the game are built with the Unity Engine, as the new Windows Phone game will be. Windows 8 and Android players can already buy the expansions such as "Inns and Cathedrals" that were denied to them on Windows Phone.

Neither tablet version has online multiplayer just yet, but that feature will be coming soon. In fact, cross-platform online multiplayer will be coming to Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Android! Just another feature we would never have gotten from the Xbox Windows Phone game.

Although Exozet has expressed displeasure at being unable to update the phone version of Carcassonne in the past, the experience has not diminished the studio's enthusiasm for Windows platforms.

"We love working with Microsoft and we love developing for Windows platforms and therefore we are actually glad we could do this now," the developer explains.

The new Windows Phone version of Carcassonne should arrive later this month or in August. To see what it will be like right now, check out the impressive Windows 8 version.

  • Carcassonne – Windows 8 and RT – 55 MB – $3.99 – Store Link (opens in new tab)

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!

254 Comments
  • What the hell is Microsoft doing? This is just stupid.
  • +920
  • Agree!
  • I think they will republish the games but drop the Xbox support and will be free.
  • No, they won't be free if they weren't before.
  • They will, Those games are too old now.
  • I sympathize with people in India having a hard time being able to pay for apps due to payment system issues. But no, that is not going to happen. The games will come back as premium games. Some will even have new in-app purchases, like Carcassonne. The developers want to profit from their work, including the work to deliver new updates to these titles.
  • Microsoft is becoming so incredibly stupid. Maybe they should just give up Windows and start making Android laptops, tablets, and phones. Because that seems like what they are trying to do. It's becoming increasingly difficult to be a Microsoft fan.
  • Agreed
  • No more updates to a host of Microsoft products including Windows 7 from Jan 2015! (only security updates for Windows 7 from then on.)
  • That is more then fair.  Security updates are just fine.  MS should focus on the latest mainstream updates for the OS's.  Windows 7 actual End Of Life is 2020. Pretty damn good if you ask me. 
  • its microsoft!  they do this crap all the time.  this is why i dont buy digital media from them.
  • The hell?! I don't even understand why harvest was taken off. For a brief period it was available again and it was very obvious everything but the opening video worked perfectly on WP8
  • Here I was hoping all the games would come back as true universal apps when this tech is actually released... Not just little images that say the app is in both stores. With the combining of windows rt and windows phone coming with threshold, the future for many apps are uncertain.
  • +521
  • Just one day after “Gaming Day” Microsoft comes and stabs their users in the back. This furthers confirms Microsoft strange case of split personality. It’s like Jekyll and Hyde.   One half of Microsoft is trying so hard, pouring money, time and resources on Windows Phone, trying to make it great. But the other half doesn’t give a dang about Windows Phone at all and treat it like its bastard child. Heck, they should name the next version of Windows Phone, Windows Phone Snow. This half kills good resources like good quality Xbox games and gives top priority to rival platforms apps (Skype, Office, OneNote, Remote Desktop, etc) while neglecting their own apps.   It looks to me that Microsoft has so much potential and they have the power, they have the resources but they lack a passion and the direction. I don’t like Google and its ways, but I have to admit that they do have that, passion and direction.   To tell you the truth, I’m getting really tired of this condition. My phone contract ends by March next year and I’m really considering other options. I love Windows Phone, but it seems clear to me that one half of Microsoft doesn’t.
  • GoT much? ;)
  • LOL. GoT obsessed!
  • This is exactly how I feel about MSFT and WP now..i'm feeling quite embarrassed to recommend my friends WP due to recent developments.
  • Here's hoping Nadella fires the lazy, pompous and frankly disinterested half of MSFT and lights a fire under the passionate half. Oh wait... This is MSFT not Apple or Google. *sadface*
  • Phil Spencer.
  • +620
  • This is what happens with a new CEO. Why would anyone spend time, money, and sweat to develop new games and apps for Windows Phone or Windows 8. The apps are so damn horrible on Windows 8 what a joke. Lookout Xbox, their coming for you next. Chop, Chop!
  • Yeah that's what I'm seeing now, very soon they'll be ripping off Xbox although they've denied that rumor. I think there are lots of instability issues at Microsoft....a Confused company I see now.
  • Windows Phone Xbox is dying. It started from our Games hub. So long WP, gone are those days where we got sweet Xbox games every week. Sad
  • Dying? It's dead, Jim.
  • Even Game Hub it was forgot by MS.
  • Xbox will come back when WP gets a better market share
  • When?... In 2055? Will be using Kenzibit mobile by then.
  • By 2055 people will be implanted with a mobile phone chip about the size of a pen head (also NSA tracking device). We want have screens because are eyes will be wearing special contacts that will show what we need to see or what they want us to see. Did anyone see the Matrix? Oh ya, and Homeland Security will be the only phone company.
  • All under one operating system...lol
  • Wonder if we'll get Xbox on those implants
  • That sounds stupid a major selling point was Xbox on ur phone, that's like saying apps will come once people do, but people wont come without apps
  • +820
  • well said... MS gives up to easy if things don't work out in the beginning... if they had kept developing the xbox stuff on the winphone, they would have a draw to it, then get more market share. This just reduces the reasons for people to switch to it. ugh.
  • Was wondering whether to publish my game as an Xbox game or a regular one, but I'm not really seeing the benefit of going Xbox. Plus its expensive.
  • As far as we know, Microsoft isn't accepting new submissions for mobile Xbox games anyway. And yeah, I can give you so many quotes from experienced devs who say it's not worth the hassle at all.
  • Now that is very sad. We gamers want more games on our windows phone that we enjoy playing.
  • I've been trying to get my gamer points up that's was the only reason I played many of my mobile games
  • One of the main reasons I liked this phone was Xbox integration, but its not a deal breaker for me since I don't play Xbox too often anymore.
  • As someone posted in the forums, WP is suffering death by a thousand cuts. What a waste of a great OS. And really should make people think twice before buying anything from the WP store.
  • Yep. with Microsoft being the main culprit.
  • I think everyone will agree that the other MS divisions should leave the Winphone/xbox divsions alone, they had been doing fine without all this intervention. MS departments seem to do great if they are left to their own decisions. XBox and Winphone had been doing great.
  • Geez! I paid good money for both Crash Course Go! and Hydro Thunder Hurricane... if "ownership" is an issue it is because morally you shouldn't take access away from those who've already paid for it. (PS Don't tell me I can keep it installed. What about if I need to refresh my PC?)
  • I got a refund for Crash Course Go last week. You should contact them.
  • How do I contact them?
  • Go here: https://commerce.microsoft.com/PaymentHub/Help Click "getting help" and then "contact support". I'm sure you'll manage from there.
  • Thanks for sharing. I should do that for all of my delisted games...
  • After reading this article that's exactly what I did... AND IT WORKED! I got refunds for all WP8 and W8 delisted games and any In-App-Purchases I had made on those games, totaling more than $125.
  • Holy crap really? Did they just credit your Microsoft account?
  • They refunded them to the payment method I used on a per app basis, a little bit of credit card refunds and a little bit of MS account refunds
  • I'm so contacting Microsoft for a refund for Carcassone. And I'm getting closer and closer to switching to Android. They've successfully dismantled the feature that made me even give WP a chance back in the day when it was announced. All other OS features that I'm depending on is available on other platforms (Xbox Music, OneDrive, Outlook etc etc).
  • Didn't you hear. Windows Phones will soon be able to run Android. Im just waiting for the Dust to Settle.
  • But why buy a high-end WP to use non native apps/games? I'd rather switch to iOS due to them actually committing to their OS.
  • If you don't mind using a small screen. When I see an iPhone I just think...... small.
  • Actually I do mind small screens, but why not just jailbreak the iPad mini and get phone and messages on it? So sick of how MS has been brutally killing the whole WP lately. (Android apps, XBL, Office lacking features, XBM lost features, got rid of the usefulness of the Me tile and other stuff). All things that made me stay on WP is slowly disappearing... Which make me sad, cause WP7/8.0 Was good. 8.1 brought some good changes, but a few more bad ones.
  • You forgot Cortana being available everywhere.
  • If it runs Android apps it will only be the ones published in the Nokia X store, meaning basically nothing. Don't ever expect to have Play Store access, it will never happen.
  • Yeah but their ones there wont have viruses and malware..... Industry testing and nokias show 9% infected in main channel.. 75% of droid apps will run unmodified... so whats the issue? too many people have a bug up their B###. hell the devs may actually make some more money on WP as its revenues as almost the same as playstore.
  • I will do the same. Not for the money, it's more of a statement against MS stupidity
  • I agreed, I'm not sure if I would buy a Lumia again or change it to the rumored iPhone with larger screen. I've been a huge fan of Windows Phone since WP7, but I don't really see something that really makes me stay on the platform, by the way we already have all the Microsoft's apps -and sometimes even better- on other platforms. I hope Microsoft face this reality and they start to give some more love to Windows Phone, I really want the plataform success!.
  • They wont. It has been 4 years since WP was released and they did almost no groundbreaking changes to any of their apps. Games, Mail, Music, People, Messaging, etc. All of those Apps either stayed the same or got worse. I hope they'll face it and start to make changes but at the same time I know they wont do anything.
  • Ok I just cancelled my Lumia 930 order from Expansy's, after being away from WP for a year and a half I was going to come back, but after reading this thread it just feels like a sinking ship now. Talks about Microsoft switching to a services company and dropping hardware may be a bit down the road but they haven't given me much reason for hope in the future and makes me feel wary to invest. Xbox on Windows Phone was one of the main reasons I bought into the platform, along with xbox music and office, and those main features are disappearing or becoming non exclusive enough that it's not a reason to adopt the platform.
  • Although I wish they didn't change games hub
  • Makes you wonder why we even have a games hub....
  • Yeah, its starting to get useless. Really starting to consider going full Linux + android or OSX + iOS...
  • I don't use the hub any more. It is truly just about useless.
  • I don't understand the cries over the games hub. Is it just because games are listed in the apps list now?
  • That's one part of it - Chris Sanford also expresses it well in his comment. But what I really hate is I can't share, pin, and uninstall games from the hub. Check out this story for a full list of the new hub's issues: How the WP 8.1 Games Hub changes your gaming experience
  • It's a piece of shit. Slow, constantly updating..., you can't uninstall games from it, when you open a game it still has "new" tag in the applist. The avatar is blurry. I really don't know what they're doing. Belfiore has to go. And he should take Myerson with him. These two guys are going to kill WP. Nadella has to stop them before it's too late.
  • I feel like it's the other way around. Belfiore has been since they announced Windows Phone 7 Series in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress back in 2010! Myerson was (I think) either the Windows or Xbox team. It is Nadella who's the new player here, he was doing Azure!
  • I agree with astroXP, but Nadella shouldn't go, he should get a huge firmly grip of the whole situation and clear this up.
  • Nutella's a screw up
  • The official hub seems XBL-centric.
    It's making less and less sense to have our that way. + The apps exist now to make custom "hubs" or folders that are probably easier to use.
    Things change.
  • seems faster.... Lol... On all seriousness the games hub is faster than when 8.1 fist came out. Not being able to uninstall in a pain.
  • I don't give a monkeys about XBL. A good game is a good game without silly bragging rights, but MS have fucked up royally on the Games hub front. It's slow and clunky, jittery and laggy, constantly updating. The little avatar man doesn't do the funny stuff he used to do and the games are all in the apps list. It's a confusing mess.
  • Seems like they tried to make it like the win 8 games hub that's also useless.
  • Win 8 has a games hub? Oh, that piece of sh!t... *mutters naughty words*
  • It's broken for me, doesn't sign in to my account.. So, yeah, it's useless.
  • Just open the sign in API and friends list for Xbox live, make it wide spread like fb.
  • Microsoft were bragging about how big changes were coming to xbox live etc, i just didn't think they meant ruining wp xbox live even more!!!
  • Windows phone is dead. I no longer Invest is paid apps. When my contract is up ill prolly switch to a galaxy. Sucks
  • At least pick an HTC device, sheesh
  • HTC M8 is a beautiful phone... But what hardware gives me a decent camera, up to date specs, wireless charging, NFC and the ability to use 128GB SD cards? Choices are limited for those of us who want it all... And personally, I'm done paying for compromise. Some say be patient... I feel I've BEEN patient. Wait time is over now. I want what I want and nothing less is acceptable.
  • LG G3 is the way to go
  • Or a sony..
  • Xperias have the ugliest Android UI
  • Agree..the most horrible UI in whole android..and I'm not even forgetting Samsung!!
  • Although Xbox for Windows Phone is dying/dead, the Windows Phone platform itself is doing better than ever. More and more game developers come over - they just can't use Xbox features any more.
  • Yeah, it's a shame that for some of us it feels like the whole OS is dead now.. Xbox was one of the main selling points for me, but now I can't use it because the games hub won't sign in and I can't earn Achievements. Other thing is Xbox Music, which is improving (while Xbox Games isn't), but still quite a bit behind. While those are minor for some, for others it might be huge.. Then there's also the fact that even MS is making Android phones now and that's quite ironic... I'm very pissed about XL going out of WP and that makes me consider Android, and if I could get a high-end MS android I could switch to that...
  • Same here. Patiently waiting for the iPhone 6 to finally drop so I can get rid of my crappy Lumia 920. 
  • Thats exactly the problem with xbox games: Updates. I cant believe that Devs are not allowed to update their own games in most cases. Xbox Live for Mobile has to go. seriously it hast to be replaced with something like Xbox Indie or something like that. I hope that Xbox framework
    they are working on comes sooner then later.
  • They can make it work, just as they did for the Xbox indie games one but for some reason there are people within Microsoft's Xbox division who have a burning hatred for Windows Phone and the company is so lacking in leadership no one will do anything about it till apple or google take the lead and show them the way, yet again.
  • and how exactly do xbox indie games differ from non-xbox games on windows phone? Both don't have XB achievments, both are prettymuch independend from MS.
  • I think I heard that Microsoft has come to understand what a tremendous obstacle they created with their Xbox Live process on the phone that simply was NOT working and this might be the actual result. Maybe its for the best, they completely moth balled their mobile OS and redid the entire thing for WP7 and onward. So they should rethink and revise their games strategy for the good of developers and their customers. Like GladOS would say, "Killing products and giving good service shouldn't be mutually exclusive. The rocket really is the way to go..."
  • None on the list really interested me so I can say i wont miss them.
    This is like the tactics Nintendo used in the 80s with the famicom disk system
  • Laaaaame. I bought into WP7 because of Xbox live integration. Now its gone and well....im not sure how I feel about that.
  • Ouch
  • Oh well. Games are fun with or without achievements
  • Yep! It saddens me that some people forget that.
  • Paul, achievements are a big part of Xbox gaming. Just because we're talking about a phone doesnt make them less so. Werent achievements one of the highlights of the Master Chief collection when Microsoft announced it at E3? Wasnt their success the reason Sony copied them with their Trophies? Just because Microsoft screwed up Xbox on WP doesnt mean we should dismiss a big part of why millio