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June 23, 2011

Upping our game: What’s new in the Games Hub for Mango

I used to play games on my Xbox only on the weekends. Now that I work on and own a Windows Phone, I play them at least once a day. As a new “avid gamer” and one of the program managers behind the Games Hub, I’m excited to take you on a gamer’s tour of Mango, the next release of Windows Phone coming this fall.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Games Hub in Mango is its new look: A cleaner and lighter design that emphasizes your game collection and Xbox LIVE info—the heart of the hub. Responding to your feedback, we also made tweaks to improve the overall performance and speed.

Finally, the Games Hub in Mango now comes with many of the features previously found in the popular Xbox LIVE Extras app, such as 3D avatars with fun animations, a new Collection view, and more. Here’s a rundown of the changes.

The Games Hub in Mango has a new design and great new Xbox LIVE-friendly features.

Improved Collection view

When you download a game from Marketplace, it shows up in the Collection view of the Games Hub. Large icons now dominate this view. But we found this design forces some users to memorize icons to identify a game. The layout also isn’t currently consistent with the App list, located off the Start screen, where all your apps appear.

Since our guiding principle for Mango was making it easier for people to quickly and efficiently find the games they want to play, we’ve made some improvements.

In Mango, games are neatly organized in the same familiar alphabetical list view as your apps—icon on the left, name on the right. Once you’ve amassed more than 20 games—something that can happen pretty quickly on this Xbox-friendly phone—finding titles you play frequently can become a chore, requiring multiple swipes. Our customer research and your feedback told us people want to quickly and easily get back to recently-played games.

To fix that, in Mango we’re introducing a new Recent category. When your collection exceeds 20 games, the last three titles you’ve played now appear right up top, so you can get to favorites faster. (This has been very useful every time I find myself with a couple minutes to spare during the day!)

If you have a lot of games, you'll see the last 3 games you played in the Collection view.

New 3D avatars with attitude

We know how much Xbox LIVE users love their avatars. In the current release of Windows Phone, the Games Hub displays avatars as a static 2D image. To flesh out your alter ego with an extra dimension, you need the free Xbox Live Extras app from Marketplace.

In the past few months we’ve received a lot of feedback from people wishing 3D avatars would be the norm on the phone. We’ve heard you loud and clear! So you’ll be happy to know that in Mango, we’ve fully integrated 3D avatars into the Games Hub.

Avatars on the phone are also now more playful: They wave at you, yawn, and perform a host of other actions. Shake your phone and your avatar dances—or even faints. Bug your poor alter ego too much and it might lash out at you (I won’t spoil the surprise by saying what it does) or pull the Collection screen into view to hide behind (my personal favorite).

Avatars are now more lifelike and display more emotion.

Better Xbox LIVE experience

Besides better avatars, all the features previously found in the Xbox LIVE Extras app are now built into the Games Hub. These include:

  • Improved Xbox LIVE messaging: Read and reply to Xbox LIVE messages sent from another Windows Phone, a PC, or an Xbox console. We’ve also added more avatar delighters here. If a message contains certain emoticons (e.g. Smile, Sad smile), you’ll notice your avatar’s expression change to reflect that emotion! (If a sender overloads a message with conflicting emoticons, your avatar will look bewildered.)
Send and receive messages from your Xbox LIVE buddies!
  • Connect with Xbox LIVE friends: Find out if your Xbox LIVE friends are currently online through the friend status view. You can also search, browse, initiate, and respond to friend requests right from your Windows Phone 7.
  • Integrated achievements and new comparison views: See the recent games your friends have been playing, and compare gamerscores and achievements for all Xbox LIVE games played on the phone, console, or PC.
See all your Xbox LIVE achievements, and how they stack up against your friends.


  • Edit your profile: Moved to a new city? Have a new motto in life? Now you can update your name, bio, motto, and location right from the phone.
  • Improved Spotlight content: We’ve improved the news and info delivered to you via Spotlight in the Games Hub. Your window to the Xbox LIVE community will now be complemented with rich and vibrant images!
The improved Spotlight feature now has eye-popping images to accompany game-related news and info.
  • Improved game request notifications: In Mango, you’ll receive notifications for multiplayer game or turn requests and can track them in the Requests section of the Games Hub.
In Mango, it's easier to track multiplayer game invites and turn requests.

It’s been fun to watch the new Games Hub go from concept to reality over the past year. I hope you’re as excited as I am about all the tweaks and improvements on the way for gamers in Mango—many of them inspired directly by your feedback. Let me know what you think!