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December 12, 2012

What’s new for gamers in Windows Phone 8

Games—who doesn’t love them? You play them when you’re happy, when you’re sad, when you’re bored, and even (for better or worse) when you’re busy. A huge part of owning a smartphone is about games and gaming, and here on the Windows Phone team, we’ve sought to continue delivering the very best in gaming experiences.

As one of the program managers on the Games team, I’m here today to take you on whirlwind tour of game-related highlights in our newest release.

The new Games Hub—better than ever

Perhaps the biggest change to the Games Hub is the Xbox pane (previously “Xbox LIVE”). Your avatar, Gamerscore, and subscription level (gold or silver) are still there, but your achievements and avatar closet are now accessible through the small tiles, to align with your beautiful new Start screen.

This new Xbox pane is bigger than before—now occupying two full screens. Right out of the box, there are tiles for Xbox SmartGlass (which I’ll talk about later), Friends (where your friends’ avatars live), and the Games Store. But keep your eye out: this area is programmable, so more tiles could appear at any time. Oh, and one more thing about this part of the Hub—there are new avatar animations! You’ll definitely want to check out your avatar’s new dance moves…but I won’t say anymore lest I spoil the surprise.



Continuing the tour, we’ve changed the name of the Requests pane to Notifications and, responding to your feedback, transformed it into a more useful and relevant part of the Hub. For one, it now only appears when you actually have notifications—sparing you clutter when there’s nothing new. Second, it’s been expanded to cover notifications more broadly, not just friend and game requests. Your Xbox messages, beacons (which tell your friends what games you’re playing or want to play), game notices (invites, nudges, win/lose), and friend requests all now appear in one place. What’s more, you’ll get toast notifications for many of these as well.

Finally, as shown below, we’ve also made some subtle design tweaks to the Games Hub, including moving your indie games collection (“other”) above the “get more games” link for faster access to those titles. [See also: How to use the Games Hub.]


Xbox SmartGlass—Windows Phone as your remote

One of the coolest new things about the Windows Phone 8 games experience is the new Xbox SmartGlass app. Building on the earlier Xbox Companion app, we’ve made your cross-device entertainment experience better than ever. Hate navigating your Xbox with the controller? Voice control not working because you have too many friends over? Now you can use your Windows Phone as a remote for your Xbox.



Try searching for a game on your phone—then simply tap in the SmartGlass app to play it on the Xbox. Same goes for music and video – you can play, pause, skip, and adjust the volume on stuff coming from your Xbox directly from your Windows Phone. SmartGlass also works with Internet Explorer on Xbox—check out this recent post for more details.


Better for game developers

The last thing that we’ve done for gamers in Windows Phone 8 is arguably the most important, even though it’s not a shiny interface change. We’ve enabled developers to write apps and games natively, as opposed to from a managed environment. In other words, we’ve made it super easy for developers to code apps and games for our platform simultaneously with other platforms, and with fewer cross-platform changes (developers can find more detailed info here). What does this mean for you? Simple—more games! I can’t wait to see what game developers come up with next. [See also: 5 addictive indie games for Windows Phone]

Wrapping up

The Games team has worked hard and collaborated across Windows Phone and Microsoft to bring you the very best mobile gaming experience. Between our cleaner new Hub design, Xbox SmartGlass, and developer-friendly under-the-hood changes, we believe Windows Phone is now more than ever the phone of choice for gamers. We’re eager to hear your thoughts and feedback.