January 17, 2013, 8:30 AM —
Microsoft has taken its first baby steps on the path to integrating Xbox Live Arcade games and Windows 8 games, according to a post at the Official Xbox Magazine UK site. The post references a page on PlayXBLA which highlights 15 titles that are being called "Xbox games on Windows 8." At least one of these (Microsoft Minesweeper) has been around since the launch of Windows 8, so it isn't clear if this is a new initiative or just a new marketing campaign.
Anyway there's only one problem; these aren't Xbox games in the way I think of Xbox games. Microsoft calls them Xbox games because you use your Xbox Live account while you play them, and you can earn Achievements and use your Xbox Live Friends list and so on. So they're games that exist in the Xbox Live ecosystem, but they aren't the same games you have on your Xbox.
For instance on the actual Xbox is a game called Toy Soldiers: Cold War while on Windows 8 there is Toy Soldiers: Cold War: Touch Edition. While it's certainly understandable that the two games aren't running on the same code base, it'd be nice if they shared a save file stored in the cloud. That kind of functionality is coming, according to Engadget. Their Microsoft contact told them that upcoming title World Series of Poker: Full House Pro will let you start a game on the Xbox, save it and pick it up later on a Windows 8 device. Hopefully that will become a standard feature.
The other big disappointment is that there's no indication of a program similar to Sony's 'cross-buy.' More and more often when a game is available on both the Playstation 3 and the Playstation Vita, gamers get both editions for one price. It's going to be hard to justify spending $10 on a game for the Xbox and then spending $10 more for the same game on your Windows 8 device, just so you can play it on the road.
And speaking of $10, that's a typical price for these games on Windows 8, and while similar games cost the same amount on the Xbox, the pricing seems a little high on Windows 8, where you have access to such a vast variety of Indie titles and discounted older titles for less than $10. Steam claims to have over 1,200 games under $5 and over 2,200 under $10, for example. Windows RT users, of course, are stuck with whatever Microsoft puts on its store, which is just one more reason why you probably should avoid Windows RT devices.
All that grumbling aside, it's a start and I'm looking forward to seeing if Microsoft keeps expanding the system. I love the idea of playing a game on my Xbox in the evening then picking up where I left off on my Microsoft 8 tablet during my lunch break at the office the next day. In the meantime, I've downloaded a couple of trial editions of the Windows 8 Xbox games to my desktop and they (unsurprisingly) play great. Of course I'm playing them the way games are meant to be played: using mouse and keyboard or an Xbox controller rather than tapping and swiping a touch screen!
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