Editorial: Xbox Live on cell phones: more than messaging

I have been extremely busy this week. But let’s give our first editorial a shot.

As Microsoft’s “Live Anywhere” promise continues to grow, I began to ask myself why my Xbox Live experience wasn’t as portable as I would like it to be. Then I asked myself what could be done to make it happen, what would make it great, and how Microsoft could best approach it.

Let me begin by saying Xbox.com is a great start to what I want. Among my favorite things are being able to check in on my online friends, as well as read and send messages to them. My first question is: why can’t I do it from my cell phone?

Now, it’s true, that if you have a smart phone or some other web-enabled device, you can generally travel to Xbox.com and use those features. iPhone & Android users even have a similar application that would allow these communication methods. But why can’t I go to my mobile phone’s built in store and get an official Microsoft made application for viewing my friend’s lists and messaging my friends? Why not even allow voice messaging? After all, a cell phone is sort of designed just for that!

Okay, but this argument has been made before. What makes my little whine-fest any different? Well, I want more. I want a true xbox experience available on my cellular phone. I want the games. Sequels, spin offs, and even 3rd party ports of tons of Xbox games are on cell phones. More game studios are going multiplatform, and casual games, like those found on the Xbox Live Arcade, are generally put on Xbox Live after they’ve become popular through some other method, like the PC. Still, having an “Xbox Live Arcade” app would absolutely make money. Not every Arcade game has to be available through this method, but the minute you give me the choice between Zuma on my cell phone, and Zuma on Xbox Live Arcade for my cell phone… suddenly we’re talking something different.

How different, you ask? I want achievement points. Mobile achievements. If I load up Contra, Street Fighter II, or Tetris Splash on my cell phone, and have the ability to earn 50, or even the same 200 Gamerscore – I might never put my cell phone down. If Microsoft managed their portfolios correctly, developers would be clamoring to get their Xbox Live Arcade game, which would sell better with achievements, on the new Xbox Live Mobile platform.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that the game is exclusive to Xbox Live members, or that the achievements would have to be enabled for people who wouldn’t even know what gamerscore is. Still, just having the option available for people to log in to their Live accounts and perhaps benefit a little bit for it – that could lead to increased sales of games for people who might overlook mobile games – the Gamerscore junkies! Meanwhile, the game plays and looks the same (as much as possible), as to not alienate non Xbox members from picking up the game on their mobile-carrier’s download service.

Sounds nice, but what about the execution? With Google’s Android debuting on T-Mobile, and the iPhone launching on AT&T – why wouldn’t Microsoft pair up with Verizon to make this happen? As more and more people are jumping ship away from Sprint, Verizon wireless makes perfect sense. They already have a well designed music store, as well as their “Get It Now” service (I believe they are phasing out the name, but the framework for the service is cemented in place). It seems like it would not be an impossible transition and would open up an entirely new platform to us gamer-geeks who already have cell phones!

So, now that I’ve written a small book – how do you feel about it? Would you rather they launch it on your cell phone carrier? Should it only work on Windows Mobile phones? What do you think? I encourage you to register and comment!

"Editorial" posts coming soon… now with Twitter!

A few months after I started the current version of WinBreak, I kept promising more of “my input.” And while I may have given my partiular spin on an article or two, I haven’t written too many “editorial” type columns. That’s all changing.

If you just can’t get enough of me (and I know you can’t), you can now follow my Twitter. It’s not hyper-active like some other users, I might only make 2 or 3 updates in a day. Who knows, I may even go days at a time without updating it. Apart from that, I will also begin writing a few more editorial pieces, strictly my opinion, not those representing any of my… oh, wait, I don’t have sponsors… so yeah, it’s all me! These posts will be tagged “NuAngel’s Notes.”

Why all of the sudden, you might ask? Well, after making a long winded post in the Xbox.com forums that nobody will ever read, I decided to start bringing more of my opinions here. I will even encourage members to log in and comment on the stories. I will be making the registration process a little easier to find – all the while, finally (hopefully) updating my blog-software. I’m using an older version of WordPress, but every time I try to update, I lose all of my content! I’ll work on that later, but don’t you worry – your login information should still be mighty safe, when you register.

Anyway, yes, be on the lookout for upcoming editorial posts – I’ve got things I’ve been holding back for a while, and hope to bring it all to light in a comedic yet fact-facing manor… I’m not the next Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, but I’ll try and get you to crack a smile, like I did in the past.

WBX: Gears 2 Game Crazy Launch in full effect

WBX: WinBreak Exclusive
After our special report yesterday, Special Events reporter ButtonMasher79 decided to follow up to see how the launch went. She followed up with a few pictures, as well as the following report.

A full 100 people were expected and received for the Gears2 launch party at Game Crazy in Lakewood, CA. Gaming began at 9pm with a LAN-style player vs. player tournament with a total of four systems operating simultaneously. Customers were adding funds to their accounts so the transactions would flow smoothly and quickly. “The turnout is what we expected, it’s great for a weeknight and we’ll get more coming in tomorrow,” said Store Director Stephanie Armstrong. Game trivia, balloons, and giveaways peppered the evening and proved entertaining for all.

Down the street, GameStop had closed their doors and posted a sign that read “midnight launch tonight.” There were about thirty people waiting in the 55 degree ocean-cooled air in their fold-out chairs on the dark sidewalk.

A 20-minute drive from Lakewood is Universal CityWalk where a GameStop hosting Major Nelson and representatives from Microsoft. GameCrazy customer and editor-in-chief of BreakingTheGame.com Andrew Carr (pictured above with store manager Stephanie Armstrong) said he preferred this venue because he wouldn’t be guaranteed access to the dignitaries and thought that this location would be “a lot more fun.”

District manager Juan Rodriguez was working the sales floor and offering the strategy guide for 20% off with purchase of the game. “We overcame a lot of challenges to get here tonight but we’re glad to be here now,” he said, having arrived from the airport with the copies in-hand at 11:15PM. The existing copies will probably sell out by tomorrow at noon but the store anticipates replenishment as soon as Saturday.

Sara Culver, Special Events Reporter for WinBreak.com

You can view a few more pictures in the Gears 2 Lakewood Launch photo album.

WBX: Gears 2 Launch @ LA Game Crazy almost ruined!

In the darkness of a Federal Express warehouse, a crime affecting LA area gamers is alleged to have occurred. “I awoke to a call from my district manager saying all my Gears of War 2 copies had been stolen,” said Stephanie Armstrong, Game Crazy Store Director in Lakewood, California. Investigation is pending with Federal Express and law enforcement but it appears likely that a warehouse worker has absconded with the property. “We wondered why we didn’t get the shipment yesterday, but some companies will only ship overnight for delivery on release day.” She says this is sometimes done to maintain street date.

An anonymous source has indicated that he purchased a copy of Gears2 at a 7-Eleven convenience store. “They didn’t scan my game, they just scanned a generic bar code they had on a piece of paper and took my money.” The bar code is a unique product identifier that would electronically reflect the date and time that particular product was being sold, “by using a generic code it would be possible to circumvent the street date and the store can just scan them all out after midnight,” said the buyer.

Juan Rodriguez, District Manger for the LA Market, Game Crazy intends to pick up an emergency shipment at the airport this evening to make copies available for customers at the midnight launch. No word on the Collectors Edition copies yet but Game Crazy will do their best to make things right for their customers despite the malicious acts of a third party criminal.

Sara Culver, ButtonMasher79 and LA Special Event Reporter for WinBreak.com.

Today in XBLA: Vigilante 8: Arcade

It was a game that people have been asking for, and many thought might not ever happen. Well it has finally arrived! Today, Vigilante 8: Arcade launches on the Xbox Live Marketplace for a mere 800 MS Points. If you’re stuck somewhere away from your 360 right now, check out the V8:Arcade website for some great pictures, videos, and tons of other stuff.

Review: PS3: Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars

I have been waiting for far too long to write this up. I was putting it off in hopes that I would be able to provide video or screenshots, etc… but alas, my schedule has not permitted me to do anything too exciting or fancy. You will have to rely o nthe already established Battle-Cars image gallery.

I have been following Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars for a long time now. But what of it after it released?

You will be glad to know that I got my hands on the game, and am finally able to give you a little more details.

First, if you have a PS3, and have not downloaded the demo of the game: do so! The tutorials and demo levels make the game extremely easy to learn, and give a better demonstration than any preview, review, or summary is ever going to do!

I like to know what I’m doing, before going online and getting destroyed by every player under the sun, so I took the detour of going through the tutorial levels first. They teach you almost everything you need to know about driving the vehicle, dodging oncoming traffic, jumping, using the ramps and walls to your advantage, and going supersonic. The one thing you don’t get a big lesson in: ball handling. You learn a few blocking techniques, but after playing online, you’ll notice a few players out there are just as good in this game as Beckham with a soccer ball.

Still, once you get the basics down, you want to hurry out online and see just how good you really are. You’ll learn right off the bat that supersonic is only one of the many keys to success. Going fast will get you destroyed, or foolishly send a ball in to your own goal, than most other techniques in the game. Pay attention to the tips the game gives before each session: they know what they’re talking about. Jumping before hitting the ball is an excellent way of keeping the ball on target, and getting into the goal, instead of right above the goal! You may also recall our interview with Dave, in which he advised players not to be affraid to jump for the ball – so true! Nothing surprises players on the ground, waiting for the ball to fall, like shooting up and taking it like an NBA toss up!

But what about the game itself? What can I say, it’s pure fun. During the interview, Dave had suggested that the game was intended to have multiple play types, but they kept coming back to this one. It’s easy to see why. It’s fast paced, it’s fun, and oh yeah – it’s addictive. Graphically, the game might not be the most impressive thing you’ve ever seen, but it plays like liquid. Everything is smooth and fast paced, even after a goal is scored the action doesn’t stop with a ball sitting in a goal!

The sound did receive some attention, but much like the graphics, sometimes feels like an after thought. The music is good and the sound effects fit right in, helping to reinforce the feeling that you’re slamming your vehicle into a large metallic orb.

As an added bonus, the game offers great potential for building teams and leagues, as well. People could develop special moves, and tandem techniques, with enough time together. I look forward to playing this game on a regular basis. Earning trophies should also help a few people who might not be itnerested in the off-line game mode delve a little deeper! The multiplayer makes it easy to find and join friends from your friends list, as well.

For a $15 price tag, there is really no reason not to pick this game up. Wipeout HD is priced at $20, and it might look awesome, but I can guarantee you won’t have half as much fun playing it. I found myself laughing, and analyzing my own mistakes – “how could I have blocked that shot“, or “why did I miss that!?

All in all, I’d give the game an 8.4. Not the most outstanding work from the artist’s perspectives (visual or audio), but the game is fiercly addicting and all ’round fun. It nails the casual gamer market, in that I can play a few rounds and put it down – come back to it later, play a few rounds… I’m not forced to sit infront of my TV for 13 hour sessions of “I just can’t turn away” like Metal Gear Solid 4 or Dead Space. The fact that others are finding it fun can easily be seen at MetaCritic, where users are averaging the game at a whopping 9.5!

As a final word, you will notice I did not get into the excellent features of the game – such as uploading your videos to Youtube. The simple fact is I have not played around with that much at all, and while I think it is exciting and shows great potential for the Playstation 3, I just don’t think that it should have any bearing on the overall score of the game itself, which is why I didn’t goo out of my way to look at those for the review.

Better Know a Gamer: Issue #18: DarkShine34

Nu: What’s your Gamertag, and what’s the story behind it?

Darkshine34. I tried to choose something that sounded “intimidating” and 2 things that didn’t go together. Darkness can’t shine! o.O

Nu: Excellent, I always enjoy gamertags with some thought in them! Where are you from?

East Coast.

Nu: How old are you, and what do you do (school, job, family, hobbies)?

19. I’m going to a technical school for computers. I have 2 jobs, one is an internship at as an I.T. person and the other is a Janitor :). I love video games, music (mostly metal but I listen to a ton of different stuff), and I love full contact fighting. I trained in it for 3 years but don’t have time anymore haha.

Nu: How long have you been gaming in general?

Since the original NES came out.

Nu: How long have you been a 360 owner?

Since they came out.

Nu: What was one of your favorite Xbox / Xbox Live moments?

Hmmm…owning people in Halo with my one friend was pretty grand, and freaking people out with my Guitar Hero-ness is entertaining.

Nu: Stay tuned, people – videos of his Guitar Hero-ness to come! Which Xbox 360 Achievement are you most proud of?

1000 Note Streak – Guitar Hero 3. Took me forever to get that.

Nu: Are you currently working toward any achievements?

All the crazy one’s for GH World Tour.

Nu: What game(s) are you playing the most now?

Guitar Hero World Tour & Fable 2.

Nu: What’s playing now (what music do you listen to when away from your Xbox or when listening to music ON your Xbox)?

Metal – Arch Enemy, Children of Bodom, As I Lay Dying, Between the Buried and Me, Megadeth, Slipknot…to name a fewNot-so-metal – Wolfmother, RAGE, Coheed & Cambria, Rush, Firewind, The Fall of Troy, and so on.

Nu: Do you try to stick with one Gamerpic, or change it frequently?

I’m stickin with my free original fable icon.

Nu: What is your current favorite Xbox related website to visit?

WinBreak because the creator is a total badass.

Nu: Whatever you say! What game are you looking most forward to in 2008?

Guitar Hero Wor… wait… I guess now it would be Fallout 3!

Nu: Do you have an all time favorite game, for any console or the PC?

Many. But if I had to choose I would say either Final Fantasy X or Chrono Trigger.

Nu: Do you have any gaming buddies you frequently play with / want to make almostas famous as you?


Nu: Any parting words for the droves of readers?

Cinnamon buns.

Nu: Deep.

And thanks to DarkShine34 for taking time out of his class to ignore his teacher and respond to be a part of the latest BKAG!