Xbox LIVE Arcade

Marc Whitten's Annual letter to Xbox LIVE members (includes Summer of Arcade details)


Earlier today Marc Whitten released the following letter to all Xbox LIVE members filling in a few gaps in knowledge following today's Xbox Media Briefing. Along with the letter is the full list and details for this years Summer of Arcade as well.



Dear Xbox LIVE Members,

I’m really excited about what we unveiled today at E3 and I hope you are also. We announced things that you expect us to deliver, like a great blockbuster game lineup and more TV, sports, movies and music. And we also unveiled new features like Internet Explorer for Xbox and Xbox SmartGlass, which will give you new and exciting ways to enjoy TV, movies, sports, games, web and music across the devices you already own.

Thanks to Xbox LIVE members like you we’re redefining the future of the living room, and I want to take this opportunity to share a more detailed look at what’s in store for entertainment on Xbox.

· International Expansion of Kinect Voice Control and Search. We are deeply committed to bringing the services and entertainment that people love on Xbox LIVE to our members around the world. This year, we are expanding our voice search capabilities to 12 new countries and we are bringing more entertainment applications than ever to more countries on Xbox LIVE. We’ve also made it easier to connect to our global Xbox LIVE service on Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox 360 in English, French, Spanish and Chinese.

· Xbox SmartGlass. This is a brand new Xbox innovation that makes your entertainment smarter, more interactive and more fun – across the devices you already own. It makes your tablet or your phone more intuitive, so if you are watching a movie or playing a game on Xbox 360, relevant content will automatically appear on your SmartGlass device. Imagine having the ability to pick your plays from your tablet instead of the TV screen during an intense game of “Madden,” keeping your next move a surprise to your opponent. Imagine meeting up with a boss in “Ascend” and seeing all the necessary details appear on your phone to help defeat it.  Or, turn your favorite tablet or phone into a great remote control for your Xbox console. We’re excited to make all this possible for you and more.

· Internet Explorer for Xbox. This is something you’ve been asking for, and we waited until we could deliver a web browser experience truly optimized for the TV. You’ll be able to easily find and view the internet content you crave on the best screen in the house. And, with the power of Kinect and Xbox SmartGlass, you’ll able to navigate websites with any device or the sound of your voice. 


· Favorites. This is another request we’ve heard frequently. Favorites allows you to personalize the dashboard by saving your movies, TV, games, music and the web right to the home screen in the dashboard. Favorites will make it easier and faster than ever to get to your favorite content on Xbox and Xbox LIVE. 


· Xbox on Windows 8 and Windows Phone. Xbox is the premium entertainment experience for video, music, and games on your Xbox 360, on Windows 8 and on Windows Phone. And of course our LIVE service makes it even easier to share, discover, play and more with all of your content.

  • Xbox Music will bring you a world-class music library and great new ways to enjoy, share and discover new music across all of your Windows devices.
  • Xbox Games makes your experience with the console even better. You’ll have access to your avatar, recent games and leaderboards, and connections to your friends, giving you anywhere access to things you love about Xbox on the console. You can even purchase Xbox 360 games from anywhere and have them ready for download the moment you turn on your console.
  • Xbox Video provides you access to the video marketplace, making it easy to browse and search for TV episodes and movies. You can see your videos in your personal collection and even cue the TV show or movie up on your Xbox 360.

· New Search Features. Last year, we brought you the ability to search for your favorite movie, TV show, or actor with your voice. This year, we’re taking it one step further and bringing you the ability to search for your favorite genre. Now, you’ll be able to say “Xbox, Bing comedy,” to quickly find movies and TV shows across your entertainment apps. Not only can you search for your favorite type of content, but we’re also extending Bing voice search to include content in the YouTube app. The best viral videos will now be discoverable in your search results, all with the sound of your voice. 

· Performance Improvements. We continue to invest in improving the performance of the Xbox dashboard. Whether you’re getting in and out of entertainment applications, browsing the games library or navigating large entertainment catalogs, we are working to make these experiences quick and seamless. 


· Summer of Arcade. Each year Summer of Arcade delivers the most anticipated downloadable games of the season, and this year is no exception. With five back-to-back weeks of unparalleled releases, the fifth annual Summer of Arcade includes: 


  • “Deadlight” (Tequila Works/Microsoft Studios). “Deadlight” is a puzzle platformer, where the player must take advantage of the main character’s agility to solve obstacles, and dodge zombies, manipulating the many interactive elements of the scenery. With more walking corpses than bullets, the feeling of danger is constant.
  • “Dust: An Elysian Tail” (Humble Hearts/Microsoft Studios). As the mysterious warrior, Dust, your action-packed journey will take you from peaceful glades to snowy mountaintops and beyond. Battle dozens of enemies at once with an easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master combat system, and uncover the story of an ancient civilization on the brink of extinction as you fight to uncover your own past in a gorgeous hand-painted world.
  • “Hybrid” (5TH Cell/5TH Cell). “Hybrid” is a pioneering third person shooter set in the near future, where global conflict exists between a species known as the Variant and a rebel human faction known as the Paladins. 5TH Cell strives to give players a completely new gameplay experience never seen before in the genre. 
  • “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD” (Robomodo/Activision). “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD” takes the best elements of the classic “THPS” games and gives them a fresh update to create an all new skateboarding experience. Tapping into fans’ muscle memories, and combining sharp visuals with the best controls ever in a Tony Hawk game, the feel is cutting edge yet timeless.
  • “Wreckateer” (Iron Galaxy/Microsoft Studios). “Wreckateer” uses Kinect to put you in control of a massive castle-wrecking ballista. With the help of Wreck and Tinker, travel the land and destroy 60 castles using six magical projectiles, and explore the infinite ways you can wreak havoc with “Wreckateer’s” fully-dynamic destruction. 


· Xbox LIVE Tournaments. We are working with Virgin Gaming to launch a new tournament service on Xbox LIVE, later this year. This new entertainment app will allow players to choose from a wide variety of free-to-play or paid-entry tournaments and head-to-head matches, for top titles from leading publishers. Xbox LIVE Tournaments, powered by Virgin Gaming, makes tournaments easy to join, fun and accessible to all types of gamers.

This year, we’re delivering the best in entertainment from Xbox. We’re bringing you more premium games, TV, movies, sports, web and music, enjoyed in unique ways that only Xbox can deliver. We’re making the entertainment experience complete with more ways than ever to discover and engage with all your favorite content across devices. Our mission is to make Xbox an amazing place for all of your entertainment – anytime, on any device. Keep playing, sharing, watching and pushing us – it’s only getting better from here.

See you on Xbox,

Marc Whitten

Gamertag – Notwen

[Via Major Nelson]

E3 2012: Xbox Briefing wrap-up


For those who did or haven't seen the 2012 Microsoft Xbox Briefing here are the bullet points for your easy digestion:


  • Halo 4 openings the show beginning with live action transitioning into in-engine cinematics and finally into gameplay.
  • Don Mattrick enters the stage to officially kick off the briefing
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist is first up ( revealed for the first time) with a gameplay demo. The Mark and Execute is back in a big way with “Killing in motion”. Kinect integration is apart of the game where you can literally talk to the enemies through Kinect by whispering distractions to them.
  • EA Sports’ Andrew Wilson is next up to talk EA Sports with Kinect. After a brief showcase of FIFA 13, a switch to Madden 14 is up next with the appearance of Joe Montana barking out play calling and hikes via Maddens new Kinect integration. Madden 14 lands on August 28th, 2012.
  • Next is a new trailer for Fable: The Journey.
  • Phil Spencer makes his way onto stage.
  • Gears of War is next up with a trailer for Gears of War Judgement coming in 2013.
  • A trailer for Forza Horizon ( releasing October 23rd, 2012) follows up Gears of War.
  • Head of Strategy Yusuf Medhi takes the stage to show off Kinect voice search on the Xbox dashboard. The NBA is headed to Xbox with NBA League Pass as well as the NHL with NHL Gamecenter. ESPN will start to stream all of its live programming in HD on Xbox 360.
  • Xbox Music/Video (out with Zune) is announced for the first time with over 30 million tracks on Xbox, PC, and mobile phones.
  • To round out the Kinect centric part of the briefing is Nike with a fitness title Nike + Kinect Training.
  • Marc Whitten makes his way onto stage to talk about Xbox Smart Glass. It is to work with your Windows, Apple, and Android devices.
  • Internet Explorer is announced to finally be coming to Xbox after years of everyone asking why Xbox had no browser when the competition does.
  • Windows 8 to also receive Xbox Smart Glass.
  • Tomb Raider is the next game demo with brand new gameplay.
  • Phil Spencer is back on stage. With Xbox Live Arcade we are introduced to Signal Studios’ Acend New Gods (releasing in 2013). Next is Twisted Pixels LocoCycle. After that is Matter (also releasing in 2013).
  • Capcom’s Resident Evil 6 is the next game demo.
  • Wreckateer is the next game demo ( releasing this summer on XBLA).
  • Next is SouthPark: The Stick of Truth.
  • To follow up South Park is Harmonix with Dance Central 3 with a performance by Usher.
  • Don Mattrick is now back on stage to bookend the briefing with new Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 gameplay.




Thor Coming to Pinball FX2!

As part of the Marvel Vengence & Virtue DLC coming to Zen Studios' excellent Pinball FX2, Thor will be battling the usual gods, demons, and pinballs.  At least the pinballs will be electrified by the God of Thunder's super powers!

Check out the video below.


Video: "Ghost Rider" Table Coming to Pinball FX2

The pleasant folks over at Zen Studios have sent word today that Ghost Rider is coming to Pinball FX2 on XBLA and, while that's been known for some time, they included a spiffy little trailer to go along with the reminder.

Here's what Zen has to say about it:

Motorcycle stuntman Johnny Blaze is cursed, doomed to live life as the Ghost Rider, a brutal spirit that exists only to mete out vengeance against evildoers. Get ready for duels with sinister villains summoned to the stage by Lucifer, all leading up to a final battle against the renegade angel, Zadkiel. Hell's demons are about to learn what it means to mess with the Spirit of Vengeance.

Check it out! I must have watched it 8 times since they mailed it to me yesterday.



Review: Sorcerer's Lair for Pinball FX2


In the name of full disclosure, Pinball FX2 is currently my second favorite game on Xbox Live Arcade at the moment (second only to Burnout Crash… for now).  This admission puts me in the convenient position to be both easily excited but difficult to impress.  Is it not true that the hardest people to impress are the biggest fans?

So I can say this with my unique perspective: Sorcerer’s Lair is amazing.  Game. Set. Match. You can stop reading.  Lucky PS3 pinballers have had this table for quite a while. Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of exclusive tables so I’m glad to see Zen Studios sharing their purple gloomy citadel table with Xbox Fans. 


One of my favorite bits of this new table is is the use of mini-games (without flippers) when you gain access to the secret areas.  It really changes things up for you.  Also, there are a few new effects that add some eye candy to the mix like a spectrally charged pinball.  Truth be told, if you liked the other Pinball FX2 tables, you’ll love this one.


However, there one issue that made me want to throw my controller.  It is far too easy to lose a ball down the left return.  On multiple occasions I would lose a ball between the center flippers only to have it saved.  When the saved ball fired back into the bumpers, it immediately went down the left return and it was game over without me even touching the ball.  I hope they can fix that tiny flaw.


If you can over look that one annoyance, I recommend you pick up Sorcerer’s Lair on Xbox Live Marketplace for 240 MSP.

Video: Orcs Must Die! Developer Diary


 The world of third person action tower defense games is heating up to a further state of awesomeness by way of Robot Entertainment. With the release of Orcs Must Die! right around the corner it would only make since for the dev team to give a glimpse into the digital only title via a Developer Diary.

Orcs Must die is due for release for Xbox LIVE Arcade October 5th, 2011 and PC on October 12th, 2011.

Microsoft's CES 2011 Keynote Highlights


The Consumer Electronics Show is here once again and the folks up in Redmond Washington are also without fail there as well to show off what's up next from Microsoft. To the liking of those in the gaming sector a great deal of Microsoft's Keynote was focused on Xbox 360, Kinect, and gaming on Windows Phone 7. Although things about Windows 7 were also talked about and shown lets focus on the gaming possibilities and the like. That's what you're here for isn't? There was lots of tauting of big numbers and here are the highlights as presented by CEO Steve Ballmer & Company.

  • Controller free Zune, Netflix, and Hulu Plus are coming this spring.
  • Avatar Kinect- A virtual meeting room with your friends through Kinect giving you a place to interact with each other's avatar as motion captured by you.
  • To date 50 million Xbox 360's have been sold.
  • Xbox Live has reached 30 million members.
  • Over 8 million Kinect sensor's have been sold through during the first 60 days of launch ( that's 3 million above projections of 5 million).
  • Fable Coin Golf headed to Windows Phone 7.
Of course there was more with tablets and low power laptops, but if gaming is what you ultimately care about there you have it.


Hydrophobia to receive HUGE title update


We've reviewed Hydrophobia, but that's not were the buck stops when it comes to this Xbox LIVE Arcade title. Nothing is perfect and so comes a massive update to Hydrophobia to answer all of the issues buyers and potential buyers might have had with the title. Known as Hydrophobia Pure, the title update landing on December 21st, 2010 will come with a monstrous amount of changes to the game along side a price drop to 800 Microsoft points.

To view the entire list of new features/changes hit them after the break.

Hydrophobia Pure Features:

Improved Graphics

  • Character dynamic self-shadowing
  • Enhanced lighting
  • Improved textures
  • Better water spray effects
  • Improved water reflection and refraction
  • Enhanced electricity effects
  • Environmental geometry tweaks
  • Additional video texture work

Physics Enhancements

  • Increased number of dynamic objects
  • More realistic character water resistance
  • Explosive forces re-balanced

Overhauled Camera System

  • Camera positioned closer to character
  • Improved tracking of the action
  • Enhanced collision detection
  • Better FOV for framing the action

Improved Movement and Animations

  • More fluid and precise character control
  • Improved character animations add realism
  • Enhanced animation transitions make the character more 'weighty'

New Climbing System

  • Continuous hand-over-hand climbing system added
  • All new, more realistic animations
  • More fluid climbing controls and movement


  • Automatic ledge grab functionality
  • Improved swing mechanic
  • Improved jump-from-balance mechanic

Control Layout

  • Switch to a more traditional control layout
  • A to jump
  • LT to aim
  • RB to detonate enhanced Gel and Energy Rounds

Dialogue Re-Edit

  • Dialogue has been pruned
  • Irritating or extraneous lines cut

Cutscenes Re-edit

  • Cutscenes reviewed and edited
  • Overly long cutscenes shortened


  • Emails and E-Books no longer interrupt gameplay when collected
  • Collectables re-positioned throughout levels
  • Points awarded for collectables tweaked

New Waypoint System

  • Waypoints for every objective and sub objective
  • Choose permanent on-screen waypoints or new MAVI only mode
  • Waypoints added for Ciphers and Frequency Keys with colour coding
  • Corpses with Frequency Keys glow orange for easy identification

Map Improved

  • Improved controls and button layout
  • Default view of Kate's position
  • Toggle Kate's position / objective location manually
  • Easier to navigate


  • Prompts re-worked for better clarity
  • Prompt triggering reviewed and improved


  • Video tutorials cut back
  • Improved in game tutorials
  • New tutorial puzzles

Wading Improved

  • Enhanced physical character feedback from water forces
  • Improved transitions between wade states

Swimming Improved

  • Improved swimming controls, more finely balanced
  • 180 degree swim turn removed
  • Improved camera behaviour when swimming
  • Underwater combat system streamlined


  • Improved feedback for Cipher and Frequency Keys
  • Ciphers re-positioned for greater accessibility
  • New mission orders related to Ciphers add to the backstory
  • Existing puzzles refined where possible
  • New electric puzzle elements added

Damage System Improved

  • Kate no longer unfairly damaged/killed by unseen elements
  • Fire/electrical damage reduced
  • Combat damage re-balanced

Overhauled Damage Feedback

  • Monochrome health feedback system implemented
  • Enhanced directional damage indication
  • Heartbeat force feedback and SFX added
  • Audio ducking system improves health feedback

All New Oxygen Feedback System

  • Oxygen bar added
  • Heartbeat force feedback and SFX added
  • Phobia effect for oxygen feedback enhanced
  • Phobia audio hallucinations added
  • FOV pulse added for drowning feedback
  • Phobia warping effect removed from non-submerged sections

Overhauled Combat System

  • Automatic weapon holster/unholster system
  • Seamless integration of combat / non-combat systems
  • Improved aim reticule
  • Aim remapped to LT
  • Destructible objects highlighted more clearly
  • Destructible objects easier to hit
  • A greater supply of ammo throughout the levels
  • AI improved and enemies rebalanced
  • More enemies and more engaging combat design

Weapons Improved

  • Sonic Rounds overheat removed
  • Sonic Rounds charge time halved
  • Sonic Rounds do more damage to NPCs and are lethal
  • Multiple Gel and Energy Rounds can be deployed simultaneously
  • Deployed Gel/Energy rounds can be detonated as a group

All New Cover System

  • Smoother transitions in and out of cover
  • Easier and more intuitive to get in and out of cover
  • Toggle cover whether armed or unarmed
  • All new animations make cover system more realistic

Checkpoints and Reloading

  • Checkpoint positions reviewed and improved
  • More checkpoints
  • Automated and faster reload after death

Levels and Game Balance

  • Vent behaviour improved
  • General level design tweaks
  • AI numbers and positioning improved
  • Ammo amount and placement improved
  • Collectable placement improved
  • Gameplay balance improved throughout


  • Price dropped to just 800 Microsoft points
  • Trial extended to allow players to sample more of the game for free
  • Xbox LIVE's Deal of the Week ( Dec 13-19)


    As if money where falling from the sky this time of year the kind folks at Xbox LIVE have yet another weekly deal for you to mull over. This time things are on a casual front (whatever that means to you). 50% off it is on the following titles.



    Normally This week Savings
    Bejeweled 2 800 400 50%
    UNO Rush 800 400 50%
    Zuma 400 200 50%
    Tetris Splash 800 400 50%
    Feeding Frenzy 2 800 400 50%

    [Via Major Nelson]