By Jared Newman | Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 9:19 am
Xbox Live is supposed to be a big hook for Windows Phone, but until now Microsoft hasn’t fully described what the platform’s upcoming “Mango” update will do for gamers. We now have a better idea thanks to a blog post by Microsoft’s Michael Stroh.
Unlike Mango in general, Windows Phone’s fall Xbox Live update isn’t a major overhaul. Instead, Microsoft is filling in a couple of key omissions — in-app purchases and parental controls — and adding wearable avatar badges to reward in-game achievements. Xbox Live will also get “Fast Async,” which is supposed to improve turn-by-turn multiplayer games.
That means live multiplayer is still absent, and the promise of cross-platform gaming between Windows Phones and the Xbox 360 continues to move rather slowly. Only one new game, Kinectimals Mobile, will feature Xbox 360 connectivity, letting players transfer their virtual pets onto the phone by scanning a QR code. Microsoft also announced 14 new Xbox Live games, but there’s still no word of Halo, Forza Motorsport, Fable or any of Microsoft’s other big exclusive franchises coming to smartphones.
Mango will also bring some other tweaks that Microsoft announced earlier, such as interactive avatars within the Xbox Live app, improved messaging across all Xbox Live platforms, a more organized list of games and head-to-head achievement comparisons with friends. Also, once multitasking comes to Windows Phones, jumping in an out of a game without losing progress should be easier.
When I reviewed Xbox Live for Windows Phones last year, it had lots of potential but too many missing features to be a serious smartphone gaming platform. The Mango update will help, even if it leaves a few items on my wish list.