More Xbox LIVE games pulled: Fast & Furious, Star Wars Battle for Hoth, Cantina

Update: Microsoft's Karl Stricker has chimed in to let us know that these three games were removed by the develoeprs because the game's licenses had expired. So the good news is the games are pefectly fine for playing, the bad news is you can no longer play them if you haven't previously bought/downloaded them.

Bad news folks, looks like we have another case of missing Xbox LIVE games for Windows Phone again. This time three titles have disappeared:

Once again, we are left without reason as to their disappearance or whether they will return or not. Usually, the case has been they return at some point with an update or bug fix that was sorely needed, but we all know about the Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst fiasco.

Regardless of the reasons, duration of them missing or circumstances, we find the frequency of which Xbox LIVE games being pulled alarming. For one, these are the "A-list" titles and therefore shouldn't be having any such problems and if they do, they should have their updates fast-tracked. Number two, we find the lack of communication disturbing, to paraphrase our favorite Darklord of the Sith. Once again, we're all adults here and while we may not like games being yanked if we're told why and how the situation is being resolved, well, it goes a long way in ameliorating our concerns.

As usual, we'll work on getting answers. Until then, we're left with just questions. And frustration. And disappointment. Thanks, Tom S. & Mike J., for the heads up!

Minesweeper and Sudoko stirring up a storm

Sudoku and Minesweeper seems to be causing a bit of a stir. The two Windows Phone Xbox Live titles are now available over at the Marketplace (for free) but for some reason Microsoft limited the release to the U.S. Market only.

We received a small sampling of the ill feelings from our International readers the other day about this restriction but over at the Windows Blog, Microsoft seems to be taking it on the chin.  Here are a few of the comments that basically sum up the feeling of those readers.

"At some point the WP team is going to need to realize there are places outside the USA. So many missing features / USA only apps." -Freypal

"This just confirmed the fact that to the rest of the world Microsoft is just showing us a "big middle finger"."-K.Rawlins

"With all due respect, this "US Only" thing is getting old real fast. I am a US citizen, but I'm not sure why Microsoft loves screwing over the rest of the world."-Cylon Centurion

Michael Stroh penned the post over at the Windows Phone Blog and appeared to be as surprised as we were to learn these titles were "U.S. Only". Stroh would later learn that there are no plans to introduce these two games elsewhere and promised to make sure the Xbox Live team was aware of the ill feelings.

Now here's a question (actually two) for our readers. Is the irritation from not being able to play Minesweeper or Sudoku? Or is more over the principle of things? If it's the latter, I never knew Minesweeper had such a following.

Personally, I think unless an app has regional content that wouldn't make sense anywhere else, every Marketplace app should be available system wide. I can understand Bing Get Me There being only useful in London because I don't have any Tube Stations in Alabama.

But games? Come on, make them available world wide. Obviously you've got some language issues to tackle but the rewards will surely out weigh the cost.  Feel free to chime in with your thoughts. Maybe the Xbox Live team visits our blog as well.

Source: Windowsteamblog

Great Firewall of China blocking Marketplace?

Reports are surfacing out of China that the Marketplace has not been fully functional for the past few days.  According to users, WP7 devices are able to able to browse the Marketplace, receive update notifications, and make purchases, but as soon as they attempt to download, they fail with an "connection" error.  It is not certain, but likely culprit is what has come to be known as the Great Firewall of China, a netwok blockade that the Chinese government uses to control the flow of information and prevent its citizens from accessing websites/services that are thought to be unsuitable for one reason or another.  Past censorship has included Google, Twitter, Facebook, news sites and the Android marketplace.

Another possible explanation for the cutoff could be Microsoft themselves, who have not officially released their OS in China and may be denying access to countries that fall outside the Marketplace's current group of 16 supported nations.  WP7 devices have made their way into the country and have gained a loyal following who have found ways of using the Marketplace and downloading content.  It seems, however, that if MS were the source of the outage, they would block all Marketplace activity and not just downloads.  We would also expect to be hearing reports out of other countries where users have manged to get their hands on WP7 devices.

There's no telling whether or not access to the Marketplace will be restored, or who is responsible, but for the time being, it is being reported that download access is still available for those who use a VPN service to mask there source IP address.

We'll keep you posted if we get more info on this.

Source: Penn-Olson, WPSauce

So much for controlling Marketplace spam

Not to beat a dead horse...well, actually that's exactly what we are doing, but looks like either Microsoft is becoming lax in enforcing mass-publishing of apps or we misunderstood what they meant.

Back in June, in reaction to negative complaints of a few devs "spamming" the marketplace, Microsoft posted new guidelines to cut down on these types of scenarios. Here we're referring to spamming as mass-publishing the same app but with a different location or institution, instead of having a single app with the ability to choose from within. This clutters the Marketplace, inflates numbers and just plain looks bad. And we're not even counting here the "fake" apps that don't do anything.

Part of those changes was a cap:

1. "To avoid the scenario where bulk publishing crowds out other apps in Marketplace in the future, effective immediately, we are limiting the number of apps any one developer can have certified in a single day to 20. Developers creating a large number of apps can still submit all of them for certification, but they will be certified at a maximum rate of 20 per day rather than all at once."

Evidently this does not mean publishing those apps though. We just noticed no less than 37 'MyTranso' apps being published and pushed at once to the Marketplace. That's more than 20, even if we're off by one or two. Sure, it's the weekend but we thought the change Microsoft implemented would cut down on such nonsense. Guess we were wrong, but perhaps we're just being too picky? Let us know in comments.

via: WP7AppList

WP7 Marketplace growth almost halted, Mango the cause?

Looks like we've experienced some kind of problem on the Windows Phone app count line shown in the above graph measuring the amount of newly added apps. It's shown to be pretty much halted. But fear not dear chaps, I've brought along some crumpets, cups of tea and some Pimms (you just never know) to keep you all patient while we work through some possible explanations.

So we've seen a sudden halt in growth, what's the cause? Well, we must not forget that "Mango" is just around the corner and developers have been using the beta tools provided by Microsoft to update their apps by taking advantage of new APIs etc. with any new projects they're undertaking. It could well be that all apps being developed now are actually taking advantage of the features (and improvements) found in "Mango" and will be submitted once the doors open up to developers.

Then again Mark, who tipped us on this news, also made a point about developers potentially having issues with the newly updated AppHub, which is backed by some reports. The platform has previously experienced a slow down in app growth back in January, as shown in the chart above and below. This certainly isn't anything to get worked up about, I'm sure we'll experience a flood of new submissions once "Mango" submissions are opened and the update is rolled out to the public.

In the end (or if you wish to have the tl;dr version of this article) - "Mango" is coming and developers may be waiting for the submission gates to open up. Nothing to worry about, quality over quantity right?

Source: WP7Applist, thanks Mark for tipping us

25 ways to promote your WP7 app for free

Over at AdDuplex, Alan Mendelevich has published an insightful blog post for developers covering promotion and marketing of Windows Phone applications. Should you have a submitted app that is now available to the public, how do you go about marketing it? 

Alan has listed 22 (AdDuplex is listed four times) tips and tricks that he has seen other developers do. These are perfect for indie developers who aren't backed by brands/companies or investors. The list include the AdDuplex service, word of mouth, beta testers, social media, some cool dudes (WPCentral), website deployment and creating a demo video on media sharing portals (YouTube as an example).

Head on over to the AdDuplex blog (link below) to read the full run-down of ways to promote your app.

Source: AdDuplex Blog

AppTastic logo design contest winner

Remember the AppTastic logo design contest we covered not-so-long ago? Well, after 35 submissions, a winner has been announced through user votes and you can witness the glory of the winning logo above (and below). We'd like to pass onto our readers a warm thank you from the AppZotic team for showing both interest and support in picking your favourites - because you guys rock! 

What is AppTastic all about? It's set to improve the user experience of the Windows Phone Marketplace with filtering and other useful features not found in the default app. As a small bonus, it is set to be submitted either today or tomorrow depending on how quickly they implement the remaining features and ensure quality is consistent. 

What do you make of the winning design, and will you be checking out the app when it hits the Marketplace? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

App Hub Updated, Mango app submissions a month away

Microsoft has been busy updating their Windows Phone App Hub. This is where Windows Phone developers go to manage their accounts, change settings, submit applications to the Marketplace and generally stay up to date with everything Windows Phone.  We mentioned some of the details of the update earlier but here's how it breaks down.

The update focuses on three areas.

More geographic markets for developers: Essentially Microsoft is broadening Windows Phone's horizons by adding 19 new consumer markets that include Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and Taiwan.

There will also be 7 new developer markets that include Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, South Africa and South Korea.

In addition to market expansion the App Hub is now localized for Korean and Simplified Chinese and price tiers have been successfully modified on a country-by-country basis to adjust for fluctuations in the global currency exchange rates.

Lastly, on the geographic front, Microsoft's Advertising PubCenter support will be extended to 18 additional countries by the end of 2011. They include Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. This will enable developers in these countries to receive mobile in-app advertising revenue in their local currency.

Continued after the break

ChevronWP7 Labs to cost $9?

With the announcement of ChevronWP7 Labs bringing a new unlocking tool/service to the Windows Phone developer table, we all began rejoicing at the prospect of a continued homebrew community with Microsoft's indirect support.

Our Daniel Rubino put forward the question to readers as to how much they thought would be reasonable for the service. He mentioned $5-15 could be considered suffice for a small pint fund that the team could use at weekends. We weren't far off with this estimate as Chris Walsh has mentioned over Twitter that ChevronWP7 Labs will set interested users back by only $9. A Small fee compared to the $99 with AppHub (which was recently re-launched).


Of course we wont be able to submit apps to the Marketplace, have registry access or native access to the OS, but the ability to create apps and side-load them to be a happy-as-Larry user is huge plus for a mere $9. Perfect for developers who are just starting out or who reside outside the supported countries for Marketplace submission - although we have covered a few services (App Exchange and Yalla Apps) that overcome this issue.

Finally though, a word of caution: Chris has since deleted his Tweets, so this may not be final yet...

We'll keep you up to date with more news, be sure to follow ChevronWP7 Labs on Twitter.

Via: MobilityDigest

Microsoft evens out Australian Marketplace conversion


With the recent AppHub re-launch, we are seeing some alterations with app pricing in some countries. Australia, being a worthy example, are used to having $.99 apps costing them around $1.25 (AUD$1.18). With a recent change, more accuracy between the conversions is now present with that same price tag only setting the buyer back by $1.05 (AUD$.99).

According to a reader at 1800PocketPC, Switzerland is also witnessing a slight reduction. Have you noticed a drop in price (or re-calculation) where you reside? Let us know in the comments!

Source: Chris Walsh, via: 1800PocketPC 

Windows Phone Marketplace gets updated categories

Here's a cool little update: Microsoft has pushed out, seemingly in addition to the AppHub features, changes in categories to the Marketplace for Windows Phone.

Simply launch your Marketplace and head to Apps. You'll see a few changes including replacing "and" with "+" signs, making things surprisingly easier to read. In addition, we now have a dedicated "Books" and "Business" category (we're not too sure if the latter is new).

We bet this has something to do with the AppHub's "private beta market" launching tonight as well as MS just wanting to further divvy up their 26K apps they have available. Let us know if you find any other little changes that we missed in comments!

Edit: Games too, have new, more detailed categoreis as well, including things like "shooter" "classics", "strategy + simulation", etc. Very nice.

(Thanks, Tahiti Bob, for the heads up!)

'Weather Live' has now been pulled from the Marketplace [Updated]

Here we go again. The rabidly popular 'Weather Live' app which we reported on last week has disappeared from the Marketplace. The app, which started off at 3 stars quickly rose up in popularity, even bumping the #1 in News & Weather WPCentral app to #2--a first since we released our app months ago.

Now, despite receiving an update or two (we forget), the app is gone from the Marketplace without a trace. Was it the pulling weather data from an un-credited source? Did it violate the Marketplace rules? We're not sure but we hope it returns and soon as it's one of our favorites. The current version still works on your device though, so don't uninstall. This is one of numerous apps that have disappeared recently, including the Colbert Report, MTV News, Kayak, Project Sunburst and Cartoon TV (before it returned, gutted).

We've reached out to the developer for comment and we'll hopefully post a response if/when they get back to us.

Update: We've heard back from the developer--

"The app is using the undocumented (but very popular) Google weather API and late yesterday, there was a major outage at the back end. As such, all live tiles stopped working at the time. I suspect it is because Google blocked my server's access since I have ~1500 queries per hour on the hour...

I made several changes to alleviate the peak load and fortunately they seem to unblocked me this morning. So live tiles started working again. To hopefully ensure users are not subject to the downtime any more, I pulled the app from marketplace.

I do want to come back as this project is really a worthy one to me. However, I am trying to find a good source of data. As you may know, many of them prohibit use by mobile applications."

(Thanks, @Sogeman, for the heads up!)

Yalla adds paid app support [Developers]

Good news for developers outside the loving arms of Microsoft's AppHub: Marketplace submission proxy, Yalla Apps, has added a few services to make your lives easier.  First and foremost, devs can now use Yalla to submit paid apps and collect money from sales in the Marketplace.  They have also begun offering payment via MoneyBookers, making payment to international developers much more convenient. 

In addition, Yalla has changed their charging structure.  For an annual subscription price of $99, users will be able to submit unlimited paid apps and up to 100 free ones.  They will also receive a free device unlock, which normally costs 100 credits. 

"Our aim is to enable people to have easy access and availability to technology, to give them the means to use their skills. The new enhancements made on the Yalla Apps platform are the perfect way of making the platform even more accessible to developers in the Middle East and Africa region, with further ways for users to make revenue from their creations and get their apps out on the market using Windows Phone 7 Marketplace," said Gustavo Fuchs, Microsoft Mobility director, Middle East & Africa.

This news is hopefully some consolation to those who learned in March that they would have to go through a third-party to submit apps to Microsoft.  There was a fair bit of controversy, as Yalla's terms of service state that apps published through them will include the tag: "Brought to you by Yalla Apps on behalf of [Your Developer Name]."  Furthermore, parent company, Prototype Interactive, develops apps themselves, leading some to see this as a major conflict of interest.

Source: ITP; Via: WMPU

Sorry, Agents. Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst has vanished from the Marketplace

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.

GroupMe now available for WP7

GroupMe, the popular group-texting service, has hit the Marketplace.  The WP7 version, which was the second-most requested platform by users, was actually spear-headed by an intern HackNY's Summer Fellows Program.

Using a data connection and/or texting, GroupMe allows users to create different user groups.  Any time a member of the group sends a message, the other members will be notified.  In addition, GroupMe assigns each group a common phone number, so any single member can start conference calls on the fly.  And while you can use this snazzy app to communicate with your friends through GroupMe, it is not necessary.  Any phone that can text can create groups and get started.  Best of all, the service, just like the app, is free.

The current iteration only supports the group messaging, chat and conference calling, but more features, such as location tracking and photo sharing are expected to follow in the near future.  The startup has gained a fast following, and has even gotten the attention of celebs, like Paris Hilton, who recently tapped them as her go-to forum for viewers of her upcoming show on cable network Oxygen.

Get GroupMe here.

Source: GroupMe

Weight Watchers app redesigned and "must-have"

Maintaining one's diet, change, can be pretty tricky when you're on the go.  However, the newly-designed Weight Watchers official app, PointsPlus Calculator, makes it easier.  Whether you're out to dinner or picking up groceries for the week, all you need to do is enter the nutritional information into the calculator to find out how many points-per-serving an item will be.  The app will also let you log activity to see how many points you have burned by exercising.  The interface is simple and sleek.  PointsPlus is free to download, but is only available for Weight Watchers Online and eTools subscribers.  Due to the nature of the subscriptions, users are required to log into the app on a monthly basis.

Weight Watchers is just one of a plethora of companies to release "official" apps for for WP7 in recent weeks.  Microsoft likes this one so much that they listed it as one of their "must-have" apps in their Best of Marketplace.  Click on the Via link below to see the others that made the list.

Download the PointsPlus Calculator here (opens Zune).

Source: Weight Watchers; Via: Microsoft

Google lifting more UI stylings from Windows Phone?

We're not shy about calling out Google and more specifically Android on their terrible UI--it lacks coherence, style and underlying philosophy of what it should be. It looks like it was designed by computer nerds and not, well, designers. In that sense, it's nice to see Google overhauling their Android Market which always looked like it was beaten with an ugly stick.

Still, we've received quite a few emails noting that their new Marketplace seems to take some liberties with Windows Phone's Metro UI: text based, no chrome, pivot controls, etc. We're not prepared to say that Google sought to make a copy-cat UI here, but it is clear that they are moving in a more minimalist, text-driven direction that seems to becoming popular these days. It's not as bad as their ad that completely ripped off a few weeks ago, but it does show that they're taking their cues from Metro or at the very least, they know they have a UI problem and need to spice things up a bit.

For years people said that the incremental changes to Windows Mobile was just "lipstick on a pig". Well, here's looking at you, Android.

Source: Google; via Android Central; Thanks, Carlos, dtboos and others

App Exchange WP7 Marketplace submission service [Developers]

The App Exchange is a service which focuses on developers who reside outside the realm of supported countries for application submission into the Windows Phone Marketplace. They allow these developers to register an account and submit their application to the team for Marketplace forwarding on the developer's behalf. Each submission costs $19.99 and a re-submission sets one back at $9.99. A 'coming soon' service is none other than device unlocking, which is priced at $49.

Supported countries include Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Please note however that WPCentral is not advising developers to use this service.  Should something go wrong, don't shoot the messenger. With all third parties, one must be aware of possible problems that could arise. Always read the Ts and Cs and be sure to contact them for more information prior to signing up.

A pretty in-depth walk through can be found using the link below at MSDNPhilippines.

Source: App Exchange, via: MSDNPhilippines

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

Windows Phone Mango taking over the world with languages

So we're all aware of Windows Phone 7 launching with five display languages; English (UK and US), French, German, Italian, and Spanish. We also know that Mango is bringing 17 new languages to the table including Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian (Bokmål), Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Swedish.

What's interesting to note is the more detail we've received in this article. John McConnell, Principal Program Manager, stated the following about available languages:

"I want to stress that you might not see all these display languages listed as options on your phone. The exact display options depend on your handset manufacturer and mobile operator."

This makes perfect sense to prevent languages being present on a device that may not ever be used by the majority of folk in a particular country or with a carrier, thus saving space. Languages will be installed by OEMs or operators. To allow East Asian language support Microsoft is also adding four new fonts, which will only be available should your device feature the respective language. The fonts are as follows:

  • Japanese – Yu Gothic
  • Korean – Microsoft NeoGothic
  • Simplified Chinese – DengXian
  • Traditional Chinese – Microsoft MHei

As well as the above, Mango also includes the Segoe UI Symbol font, which includes emoticons (Emoji), the new Indian rupee currency sign among other symbols.

Read on past the break for keyboard languages, Bing services and the future.