news\ Feb 17, 2012 at 10:49 am

Indie games 'won't survive' transition from Xbox 360 to Xbox 720


Indie game developers complaining about Microsoft's Xbox Live Indie Game section isn't anything new.  Everytime Microsoft rolls out a new Xbox dashboard or makes changes, indie developers voice their complaints.  "It now takes 12 clicks to find an indie game," is how the typical argument starts.

But it's a well justified fight.

"This is my full-time job so I need to make sure I'm making enough money to live off," Dan Marshall, founder of Size Five Games! told Hookshot Inc in an interview about the "failures" of Microsoft's XBLIG channel.

Marshall, who developed indie games Privates and Ben There, Dan That! has referred to the XBLIG channel as a "dead end".

I used to think quite a lot of it is marketing - loads of indies release their games and kind of lazily assume word of mouth will magically do the rest, but actually it's a complete slog getting people to notice your game, getting sites to talk about it, that sort of thing… let alone getting people to actually fork out real life money for the damned thing.

So I'd kind of put some of the XBLIG failures down to complacency; whether it's on XBLA or XBLIG, if it's getting amazing reviews and loads of coverage it'll still sell, surely? People aren't stupid - if Super Meat Boy had gone on XBLIG after all their buzz it'd still have turned a profit, surely? It's only a different menu!

Marshall even went so far as to predict that XBLIG won't survive with the arrival of the Xbox 720, the rumored next-gen console from Microsoft.

"I can’t see XBLIG surviving to the next Xbox, can you? Microsoft really need to admit XBLIG has been a failure, and shift to something mid-way between XBLIG and XBLA," he explained. "Do indie games right, like Steam do. Set up a store where not *everything* can go on, but there’s low enough barriers to entry that there’s an amazing selection of games and nothing shit. How hard is that? Surely they can afford to hire someone to look at each game, Google it, find out what people are saying and do some actual personal, human-based Quality Control?"

"I think what’s most upsetting about the Xbox “Indie Games” channel is that it’s doing the reputation of the indie games industry a massive disservice," Marshall added.

Microsoft's most recent Xbox 360 dashboard update back in December 2011 sparked outrage from many XBLIG developers.  The new Metro user interface replaced the dedicated XBLIG channel with an Indie Games tile.  Indie games do appear in the Bing search results, provided the user knows the name of the game they are looking for.  But Indie games are not listed in the New Arrivals section of the Marketplace, nor the Genre listings.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has a different take on the situation.  They hold the indie developers responsible for marketing and stressed the developers must put marketing effort into their games to be successful.

"Indie developers have told us they are looking for an easy route to market, which is the biggest hurdle to overcome, and we've provided that for them with Xbox Live Indie Games," Microsoft said to Eurogamer.  "But they've got to take that next step and do marketing after the launch. We encourage indie developers to work together and support each other in marketing efforts, like the Indie Games Winter and Summer Uprising promotions."

Microsoft noted Xbox 360 Dashboard promotions for indie games like the Halloween 'Schoktober' campaign and their help with the recent Summer Uprising.

"Indie games on Xbox 360 are generating a growing revenue stream for developers. In fact, the average revenue for the top 50 indie games is now well over $100,000 per title. When you consider the increasing install base of Xbox 360 consoles (over 960,000 consoles were sold in the US during the week of Black Friday 2011), it's clear that Xbox Live Indie Games is a great opportunity for developers," said Microsoft.

As for Marshall, his next game, The Swindle, is due out on PC-only with plans to submit a build to Microsoft when it's "more ready".

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