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Microsoft's new Game Hub socializes Web games

Microsoft has three gaming sites. To bring them together, it adds a toolbar that sits on top of every game you're playing and lets you get in touch with friends.

Microsoft's Game Hub
Microsoft's Game Hub adds social features such as game invitations and social-networking updates to casual Web games across three of Microsoft's online-game properties.
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Following the single-focus of social networking found within Games for Windows Live, Xbox Live, and Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has brought the beginnings of a central gaming network to its casual gaming sites.

The company today put out what it's calling the "Microsoft Gaming Hub," which is a system of social-networking features that have been built around each casual game and spread across three of Microsoft's online-gaming properties: Bing Games, MSN Games, and Windows Live Messenger. More than anything, the feature has been created to unify the social-gaming experience on each of those sites.

Included as part of the gaming-hub interface are a friends list, game invitations, high scores, and integrated status updates from places such as Windows Live Messenger and Twitter. These features sit outside of the game, meaning that developers don't have to build those elements into their game's user interface--though that's certainly something that could be the next step for this system.

Microsoft's Gaming Hub works with both Windows Live IDs, as well as your Facebook log-in. Either one is needed to access the social features, but not to play the games. Microsoft says 35 titles can be found on all three of the company's gaming platforms, though all games now appear to have the feature enabled.