Xbox games begin receiving branding updates as the launch of the Windows Store draws near [Updated]

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If you’re running the Windows 8 Release Preview with Wordament installed, you might have noticed a small change to the app’s live tile over the last few days. The game’s Xbox LIVE branding has been redesigned, most likely in preparation for the imminent launch of the final version of the Windows Store.

Anyone can develop and publish a game on the Windows Store or Windows Phone Marketplace, but only certain developers are granted Xbox LIVE status, giving them the ability to implement Xbox LIVE features like achievements, leaderboards, and much more. Historically, these top-of-the-line games have been marked with special Xbox LIVE branding on the live tile to help differentiate them from the rest of the apps. Microsoft, however, appears to be changing this branding, with Wordament leading the way.

The traditional white bar at the top of the live tile has been changed to a pastel green color. Interestingly, Microsoft has chosen not to go with the more recognizable Xbox green. One also has to wonder how this new color will look on a wide variety of live tiles; white seems much more versatile. The branding itself is also being shortened from “Xbox LIVE” to simply “Xbox” next to the iconic spherical X logo.

Of the 59 games currently available on the Windows Store, only three of the games – Wordament, Fruit Ninja, and Doodle God – are already available as Xbox LIVE-enabled games on Windows Phone. Of these, only the first two sport Xbox branding on Windows 8. Fruit Ninja hasn’t been updated with the new branding yet, but it can’t be too far off. If you look closely at the screenshots in our Living with the Windows 8 Release Preview series, you’ll notice that Wordament featured the old branding as recently as last Friday.

While there’s a chance that the updated live tile could mean nothing, it doesn’t seem likely. Unlike the other two games, Wordament was developed by Microsoft employees in their spare time. It started off as an “indie game” but quickly grew in popularity. Soon, Wordament was invited to join the Xbox LIVE family, which included an achievement-laden re-release and prime placement in early versions of the Windows Store. As a result, Wordament is likely on the leading edge when it comes to such things as branding changes.

Is this life-changing? Not in the slightest. But the update is certainly interesting. The launch of the final version of the Windows Store is fast approaching. In fact, Paul Thurrott and Rafael Rivera believe that it could launch in “as soon as a few days.” When it finally arrives, expect updates for all of Microsoft’s built-in apps, along with this potential – and quite likely – branding change.

Update: We have received confirmation from the Wordament devs that this is indeed a branding change for Xbox games on Windows 8. “It is one of the final options” but “It will likely change one more time” between now and launch.

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William Devereux

William Devereux is the former Microsoft editor at Pocketables, as well as a Microsoft MVP and SkyDrive/ Insider. As his title implies, he wrote about all things from Redmond, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone. He is currently carrying a Windows Phone 8X by HTC and a Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet.

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