Xbox One Will Be Sold Without Kinect and Entertainment Apps Now Free to All

Microsoft made a bold decision to sell their new console, Xbox One, bundled with the new Kinect hardware. It was a bold decision because its rival Sony decided to make their motion sensing accessory optional with their own new console Playstation 4. As a somewhat direct result, Xbox One was $100 more expensive at retail compared to the Playstation 4.

Directly or indirectly related to the sales price, Microsoft took a beating against Sony when it came to sales in the months since both consoles launched. Despite having more exclusive games and content, the Xbox One was unable to beat the Playstation 4. Then came the most anticipated exclusive game for the Xbox One, Titanfall. Despite selling reasonably well as a game, it was unable to push Xbox console sales to a point which made Xbox a clear “winner”.

Here’s Xbox’s Yusuf Mehdi and Phil Spencer with the news:

Maybe that was the turning point for Microsoft officials to think about ways to juice the unit sales. A couple of direct cost cuts were announced on the Xbox Wire blog on May 13:

  • As of June 9, Kinect will not be bundled with the Xbox One, and the sale price of the console-only SKU will be $399 (the bundled price was $499 at launch, although there have been several promotions since then to make effective price lower).
  • Also as of June, Xbox LIVE Gold membership will not be required in order to enjoy all the entertainment apps that are part of the Xbox platform. Until now, in order to use Netflix on the Xbox, you not only paid Netflix for their service, you also had to pay Microsoft an annual fee of $60 in order to “unlock” that and all other entertainment and communication apps. The latter is no longer required to access services like Netflix, Hulu, NFL and utilities such as Skype and OneDrive.

The Kinect hardware will be available as a standalone SKU in the Fall in case someone wants to add it to the Xbox One after purchasing the console.

So, who would pay for the Gold membership if all the entertainment and communication features of the Xbox are now unlocked for everyone? Well, the blog post notes all the benefits of the Gold subscription:

  • Free games with the Games With Gold program: This is a continuation of the program launched for Xbox 360 and will now be applicable to Xbox One games.
  • Exclusive discounts with the Deals With Gold program: Promised savings for Gold members up to 50-75%.
  • Online multiplayer: Like now, if you want to play online multiplayer games you will need Gold.
  • Home Gold: Share the Gold membership with everyone in the household.
  • Smart Match: Algorithmic matching of players to make multiplayer less one-sided.
  • Parties and Party Chat: Enable viewing party and chat alongside parties.
  • Game DVR Cloud Storage: Your game recordings stay in the Microsoft cloud without storage limits. This feature will be a Gold-exclusive.
  • Xbox Fitness: A great “game” that tracks your fitness and provides guidance and follow ups.

Some may argue that the entertainment unlocking was long overdue and I am one of those doing so. I could not understand how Microsoft was able to get away with it, but am happy to see they have changed their ways, regardless of the reason to do so. However, in order to be a true entertainment option for most, the Xbox needs a “lite” version for those who like the entertainment options that Xbox provides and don’t care about the gaming aspects of the console. Could this and the unbundling of the Kinect hardware be a precursor to a potential XTV? Let’s hope so.

As for the Kinect, I don’t understand the move at all. One of the biggest deals for game and app makers with the Kinect bundled is that they are assured of the Kinect being present so there is no fragmentation (well, besides Xbox 360 vs Xbox One but that’s separate). Now with Kinect becoming optional, game makers have to take that extra step to handle Kinect’s presence as well as absence and adjust the interaction models accordingly. With development resources tight, I suspect most developers will go for the lowest common denominator and program with the assumption that Kinect is absent and only add voice and gesture controls as a bonus rather than making them the core interactions. That’s a pity.

It does look like Microsoft has made it a priority, much like their situation in Windows Phone and Windows 8.x tablets, to increase the installed base of the devices before thinking about “the right thing” or “the best thing”. I somewhat understand the point of view. It is no longer the huge tanker that needed years to change course. They hear the feedback, prioritize it internally, and make the changes necessary.

Xbox features with and without Gold membership
Xbox features with and without Gold membership

As a consumer, I am happy that I have a choice of buying the console with or without Kinect and am extremely delighted to have all those apps without an annual fee.

Are you more willing to buy the console now that it is $100 cheaper? Does Kinect with its voice controls appeal to you? Do you use Xbox One to control your cable box? Let me know in the comments!

Temple Run 2 Released for iTunes

The addictive Temple Run 2 was #1 on Apple’s App Store charts just a few hours after its launch. This free game has been released for the iPhone and iPad only so far. The Android version is expected to release on January 24.

Its improved graphics have taken advantage of the retina display available. The new scenery, at some temple in the sky, appears more vivid and spectacular. There is no doubt that this game’s improved visual itself makes the upgrade to version 2 well worth it. Though the background music could do with an improvement.

There are a couple of new touches as well. Users can still pick an avatar, the same ones as in version 1, but now you have to buy most of them. You can move to the next level only on meeting your achievements in a particular order in the game (this is time consuming). The monkeys have disappeared and are replaced by one monster ape. Also, you can stretch your run after you make a slip. This is done by finding or purchasing gems through the game, which no doubt will make it more addictive than ever. Personally, I advise all you fellow Temple Run addicts to watch your app store credit. By encouraging you to buy a lifeline in the middle of a game, it is like the capitalists are catching your wallet at your most vulnerable moment.

The best thing about this version of temple run is that it still stays true to its original game. You don’t have to learn anything new. Just keep running and navigate the obstacle course. It is easy enough to learn, but once you get the hang of it, this game is very hard to give up. The popular social angle is that you can compare your score with your friends.

Twitter has been awash with angry Android fans over the delayed release. The developers at Imangi Studio is a small team though, and seem keen to keep it that way. Their focus seems to be on their blockbuster game and taking advantage of hardware upgrades by mobile device manufacturers. Overall, this game is more challenging than its previous version.

“How far can you run?!,”

Images from

Microsoft Minesweeper Arrives on Windows RT

When we first saw Windows RT devices like the Surface with Windows RT in the market, we noticed that Microsoft’s own games like Microsoft Minesweeper, Microsoft Solitaire and Microsoft Mahjong were not available for the ARM-based OS. It was a strange situation because the games, even though classic, are excellent to play on Windows 8, and there is no “third party” to blame. Those games are from Microsoft Studios, available on Windows 8 but not on Windows RT.

However, the first of the three, Microsoft Minesweeper is now available on Windows RT. I took it for a spin and here are some of my observations.

Live tile updates with some bits about highest score:

Microsoft Minesweeper Live Tile
Microsoft Minesweeper Live Tile


There are different levels, and also some daily challenges and an adventure mode


Microsoft Minesweeper Game Levels
Microsoft Minesweeper Game Levels

Oh, there are some ads too!


Microsoft Minesweeper Ad
Microsoft Minesweeper Ad

Daily challenges are mini-games


Microsoft Minesweeper Daily Challenges
Microsoft Minesweeper Daily Challenges


The more you win, the more Achievement, Medals and Badges you collect


Microsoft Minesweeper Rewards
Microsoft Minesweeper Rewards

There are monthly rewards, so you can go back to previous days’ challenges to get more rewards

Microsoft Minesweeper Monthly Challenge Calendar
Microsoft Minesweeper Monthly Challenge Calendar

The game is touch-friendly, but the performance is absolutely horrible. No wonder this game was not released on Windows RT on day one. Clearly, the code needed to be optimized, and it seems it is not there yet. I noticed very long refresh times for example, when I went to see the entire month’s challenge calendar view.

Besides the performance, which I am hoping gets tuned via updates quickly, the game is fun and the daily challenges keep the interest alive in this “classic” game.

It is interesting to note that those daily challenges are “sponsor-supported” and in one case I was even made to watch a 30-second commercial before I started the challenge. Some feathers were recently ruffled by ads in the Bing apps like News, Finance, etc. and I am sure this will only add to the ruffling of those feathers :-)

Have you tried this game? What do you think?

Review: Badly Drawn Faces

The other day I ran out of coins playing my favorite game, Scramble with Friends, so I decided to run to the App store and take a look at all the new apps out there. I ran across one that immediately caught my eye. The app is called Badly Drawn Faces and is developed by Sporcle. When I read the description, “Sharpy is a narwhal. Narwhals can’t draw. No one ever let Sharpy know that.”, I knew this game was the kind of silly I was looking for. Below, you can see a screenshot of Sharpy and his relatively bad rendition of Frankenstein.

Sharpy the Narwhal
Screenshot of Badly Drawn Faces

The game is extremely simple to get started with and to learn. There are many levels that they refer to as “Pads”. Below, you can see a screenshot of one of the pads. A lot of the pads are locked until you guess a certain number of faces, and then they will begin to unlock as you go.


The premise of the game is very simple. You are presented with a graph paper sheet upon which Sharpy will commence to draw a famous face. If you figure out who the famous face is before he is finished drawing, you can hit the guess button and type in the answer for extra points. Below, you can see the face with the guess button beneath it.


You will quickly find out that the most important thing in this game is collecting fish. You get one fish for every face you get correct. However, if you get stuck on a face, it will cost you 3 fish to get a hint from Sharpy. You also have the option of posting the picture to Facebook and Twitter so your friends can help you guess the picture.

I am giving this app 4 stars because it really is a lot of fun. If you’re looking for a simple game to pass the time, then this is the app for you. It runs like a charm on my iPad 2. I have played it pretty much non-stop for a couple of days and I am not even close to running out of levels. I believe this is one of those games you need to put in your arsenal for those days when you need mindless entertainment. Although, I have to admit I have learned a few things about people I didn’t know by playing it. Oh, did I mention it is free!

You can download Badly Drawn Faces at the following link

Do You Know Your Bacon Number?

If you lived through the mid 90s, you more than likely heard of, if not played, a popular game called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. You probably remember him for his famous role in the movie “Footloose”. In 1994, a group of college students got the idea to invent a game that sought to connect Kevin Bacon to any actor in 6 degrees or less. I remember some people were wicked serious about this game. As a matter of fact, the game ended becoming a board game. Now, it has made its mark on the web as Google has actually programmed Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon into its search engine.

Kevin Bacon

Playing the game on Google is very simple. In the search bar, type in “Bacon Number” and then an actor or actresses name. Below, you can see where I chose Prince and you can see that his “Bacon Number” is 3.

Prince's Bacon Number

Notice that there are 3 lines listed showing how Prince is associated with Kevin Bacon. I will go ahead and apologize to you in advance, as if you needed another time waster in your life. Unfortunately, this one can be pretty addictive.

The Guardian had a nice piece about Bacon and his attitude about the game. He thought it was negative at first. He thought it was some new way to poke fun at him, but apparently he ended up meeting the students that invented the game and even wrote the intro to their book. Kevin actually turned this whole thing into something very positive. He started a charitable website called It is a social networking site that connects people to charities and even lets them start their own charitable campaigns. Kevin makes a personal statement on the “about” page of his website.

I want to thank those partners — and especially, I want to thank you, for making a difference in this small world.

All the best,

Take a moment to play the game on Google, then swing over to the Six Degrees website and see if there is a cause near and dear to your heart.

HTML5 Based Classic Snake Game

If you are someone from the early era of mobile adopters, you might be familiar with the classic Snake game which came preloaded on mobiles starting in 1998.

Snake HTML5 Game

I remember spending hours and hours playing the game on the cellphone beating records and scores alike. In the years that followed, there were several iterations and enhancements of the games and the mobile gaming market exploded with the introduction of games like and others. However, the classic version still remains favorite of many users.

If you are nostalgic about playing the Snake game on your mobile and don’t have it on your latest smartphone, you can relive those old days by playing a version of the game online.

The classic version of the Snake game has been recreated in HTML5 using JavaScript and CSS. The game is not only fun, but also goes on to show the power of the next generation of HTML. If you are someone who is looking to relive those old memories, you can also  play the Snake game online.

Have you played the Snake game on your mobile? If so, do let me know your thoughts on what you thought of the game back in the days.

Also See: Microsoft Releases HTML5 Version of Cut the Rope for Free

Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut with Expanded Ending Releasing Next Week

Bioware has revealed more details about Extended Cut, which is its next free DLC for Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect 3 was pulverized by fans for providing an ending that was ambiguous, unsatisfactory, and linear. The choices that the player made over the course of the three games seemed to have little impact on the ending that primarily relied on Deus ex Machina. Extended Cut attempts to fix several of the problems highlighted with the original ending.


Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut will be a 1.9 GB DLC that will expand upon the events at the end of Mass Effect 3 through additional dialogues and cut-scenes. Bioware promises that it will deliver the sense of closure that players have been seeking. It will reveal what the future holds, and show the impact that the player’s decisions had on that future.

The Extended Cut DLC will be released on June 26 for PlayStation 3 customers in North America. Gamers in rest of the world, including PC and Xbox 360 gamers, will get it on July 4. In order to experience the new content present in the Extended Cut, players will have to load a save game from before the attack on the Cerberus Base and play through to the end of the game.

Google Launches ‘Play With Collectibles’ Promotion, Offers Exclusive Merchandise Inside Select Android Games for a Limited Time

Google loves showering Android users with regular promotional offers that range from offering several Play Store games at just 10 cents to new albums in Play Music at amazingly low prices.

This time, Google has quietly launched another promotional Play Store offer for Android gamers, Play With Collectibles, where it is offering exclusive in-game merchandise in select Android games for a limited period of time. The bonus items range from a legendary spaceship in Panic Flight to an Android themed t-shirt in Stardom: The A-List. The bonus in-game collectible items are either available for free in some of the games or at dirt-cheap rates.


Play With Collectibles offer is open to everyone. However, I found no traces of this promotion on the Play Store website and application in countries other than the USA. As usual, Google seems to be more interested in targeting Android users residing in the US than other countries.

National sentiments aside, the promotion will run for a week starting from today, i.e., 16th June and will end on 22nd of this month. Overall, there are 25 games that have been included in this promotion, which are listed as follows:

  1. Monster Park
  3. The Sims™ FreePlay
  4. Crime City
  6. Tap Dragon Park
  7. Hanging With Friends
  9. Tiny Zoo Friends
  10. Dino Life
  11. Pet Shop Story™
  12. Aqua Story
  13. Tiny Village
  14. World War™
  15. Fantasy Town
  16. Dream Zoo
  18. Panic Flight
  19. Tiny Farm®
  20. Tap Zoo
  21. Samurai vs Zombies Defense!
  22. Bakery Story™
  23. ZombieSmash
  24. Brightwood Adventures FREE
  25. Dream Heights

Android gaming freaks, grab em all! – Play With Collectibles

[Source: DroidGamers]

New Humble Indie Bundle is Awesome

I am sure a bunch of you must be experiencing Bundle Fatigue (or, the reproachfully mundane approach at the fungus-like outbreak of indie bundles. We mean fungus in the absolutely nice and positively delicious mushroomy way, but yes it tends to get annoying after a while) but this one is, as one oft quoted cricket commentator says, a stunner!


The mother of all indie bundles, the Humble Indie Bundle has delivered an excellent package, as always, with four excellent games for pay whatever you want and one bonus game for paying above average. Trust me, you will be paying above average because the bonus game is Bastion. The same hauntingly beautiful hack n’ slash that stole our hearts away a year or so ago.

What are the other games, you ask? Well, my good man, the bundle includes super spooky survival horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent, followed by the brilliant mind boggler Psychonauts that will ruin 3D platformers forever for you (because I am yet to play one that tops this one’s experience). Following that is another charming and shadowy 2D platformer Limbo that has you playing a lost boy on a physics-y quest. Finally we have the iOS-to-Steam musical album/journey/game? Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (a mouthful, but definitely one of the most magnificent experiences in modern calculation devices)

Where do I get these DRM-free, you ask? Why, right where it’s usually found:

P.S. The bundle is worth its weight in gold because of the enchanting soundtracks of each game (especially Bastion and Sworcery) that comes free with every purchase of the bundle. Excited? Yes, yes we are.

Words with Friends Cheats: Find Best High Scoring Words

Words with Friends is one of the best game available on app store which is very similar to the traditional Scrabble game. Words with Friends allows users to play the game with multiple friends online. I have been playing this game for a while and love it. The game also has apps for both iOS and allowing you to play the game on the go as well.

Considering that the game is played online there is a lot of chances for people to look up the dictionary to find words and score high points. So how do you score high points in Words with Friends? Well there are several ways to do it and I’ll list a few of them here.

Word Solver for Words With Friends

The first option to find words out of the alphabets on your board in Words With Friends is Word Solver. This website provides you options to solve Scrabble words using various dictionaries including; Scrabble Tournament Word List, English Scrabble Dictionary, Words with Friends Dictionary and French Scrabble Dictionary among others.

Word Solver Results

All you have to do is enter the words on your board in the textbox provided and click on the "Find words!" button and it will automatically display the words you can create using your board. Another similar alternative for finding words is Lexical Word Finder.

The above websites can be used to create words from alphabets on your board. However, what if you want to add to already existing words created on the table? Well, there is a cheat for that too.


More Words is a excellent website which would help  you in many ways with solving words in "Words for Friends" and Scrabble in general. It is basically a word search engine which provides you with definitions, anagrams and more. More Words also provides users with an option to create words by adding letters to it and also search for larger words containing a particular word and words starting with or ending with your search.

So if you are looking to cheat in Scrabble or Words with Friends online, look no farther than More Words since it can provide you with the best help you can do with.

While there are many more websites that can help you with finding words for your Scrabble or Words with Friends game. I think the above mentioned websites should be more than sufficient.

P.S. I didn’t want to be a spoilsport and take the fun out of the game. However, considering that players can play at their own pace and have the internet to look up words this isn’t technically cheating Smile or is it?