In earlier news, you may have read that Xbox Live Indie Games is a failure. That article covers why the service is a failure from the consumer’s point of view. Let me explain why XBLIG is a failure for developers as well.
The original concept was great. Through the Xbox Creators Club, any developer could publish on a major gaming console for only $99 a year, using a standard Windows PC and a standard Xbox 360 console. As long as your game passed a basic peer-review process to ensure that there were no bugs or forbidden content, you could publish whatever you wanted to develop. This is in contrast to the standard method for getting a game published on a major console, which generally involves becoming a licensed developer, purchasing a special development console for a few thousand dollars, and hoping that whatever you develop gets accepted by a publisher and finds its way into the marketplace.
XBLIG sounds great, right? Only $99, full creative control, and almost guaranteed acceptance. But, a lot has changed since then.
The service has been flooded with poor-quality games from back-patting developers who are unwilling to give a reasonable amount of effort in the peer-review process, not to mention on their own games. With a flood of bad games for $1, quality games have trouble selling unless they meet the same price point. Poor sales combined with Microsoft’s lack of real support for the service have caused many developers to have little interest in developing for XBLIG.
What do I mean by “lack of support”? Here, watch this video:
And, this is only discussing recent events. Microsoft has a long history of trying to hide the XBLIG section on the 360 dashboard, and generally failing to promote the service. As mentioned in the video and in my previous commentary, Microsoft could have sounded much more impressive during their E3 press conference if they had said they had helped publish “over 3000 games” rather than “over 400 games”—but, they apparently want to hide their involvement with XBLIG enough that they don’t even want to use the numbers to sound better.
Granted, including thousands of $1, $3, and $5 games with poor sales would make the “one billion dollars in sales” line sound less impressive…but it could also be argued that this is a failure on Microsoft’s part to attract quality developers and allow them to make money from their games. Had Microsoft not limited the maximum price to $5 and had they properly promoted the service, the company would have only seen more income. Again, as I mentioned at the end of my video, Desura is having success as a publishing service for indie PC games of all prices, sizes, and quality levels. There’s no reason why XBLIG couldn’t have been doing the same since 2008.
In the end, the Xbox One is scheduled for release later this month, and people have already stopped caring about the 360. Developers have reported their worst earnings ever this quarter, and it only looks like it’s going to get worse. If you need some cheering up after hearing all this depressing commentary, though, here’s a video of a ferret digging in some pebbles: