One of the things I like about Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 is how integrated the gaming experience is. Both platforms are powered by Microsoft’s extremely popular Xbox LIVE service, so they include the usual achievements, leaderboards, friends lists, Avatars, etc. But they also include support for asynchronous game notifications, Beacons, and SmartGlass. The end result is an experience that is consistent across platforms, despite the obvious differences in hardware and software.
The best examples of this are turn notifications and SmartGlass. I recently downloaded the new Xbox LIVE-enabled version of AlphaJax (a game I highly recommend, by the way), started a few games, and then sat down in front of my Windows 8 PC to get some work done. A few minutes later, a push notification appeared on Windows 8 letting me know that I had a new AlphaJax game invite. While I couldn’t continue the game on my PC – AlphaJax isn’t available on Windows 8 - the notification was a handy reminder that someone was waiting for me to take my turn. Many games support these notifications, and they also appear on Windows Phone.
SmartGlass works similarly, instantly sending a notification to my devices when I turn on my Xbox 360. This allows me to sit down in the living room, turn on my game console, and tap the notification on my Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet to start controlling the Xbox and using second-screen experiences. The SmartGlass Live Tile also shows whatever game you’re currently playing or recently finished.
Beacons are the only aspect of this that doesn’t work as well as I’d like. While notifications appear in the Games Hub’s notification center on Windows Phone whenever a friend starts playing a game I’ve set a Beacon for, they stay around way too long. More often than not, the friend has long since finished by the time I notice the Beacon, yet it still shows up under notifications. As a result, Beacons haven’t been all that useful on mobile devices as opposed to the actual Xbox 360 console.
Of course, these are just a few of the many gaming features. Beacons and notifications aren’t new on Windows Phone, but with Windows 8 devices now on store shelves, the experience has become better than ever before. Game notifications are no longer limited to just my phone; they’re on PCs and tablets as well.