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Hypership developer: "XBLIG market isn't growing"

Blames new Xbox 360 dashboard. Moves on from service.

The Xbox Live Indie Game market is not growing, Hypership Out of Control developer Kris Steele has declared.

Why? Because Microsoft effectively "buried" the service with its new Xbox 360 dashboard.

In an impassioned post on his website, Steele totted up first full day and full week trials figures for each of his XBLIG titles to prove his point.

"My first game Nasty was released in the early days of XBLIG," he wrote. "People were still discovering the service and the number of games was not nearly as high as it is now. Abduction Action! and Hypership Out of Control were released at possibly the peak of the service. Lots of good games by good developers were released at this time.

"Shortly after the release of Hypership Out of Control, Microsoft did some dash reorganization. I believe that's why my next two releases Trivia or Die and Volchaos saw 2000+ decreases in first week trials over what Abduction Action! received (I should note that despite the lower first week trials, Trivia or Die is my top selling XBLIG release by a wide margin)."

He added: Hypership Still Out of Control was released with the latest dash changes that have gone even further in burring the service. The Hypership to Hypership Still comparison is likely the most telling here. Both games have similar box art. The in-game artwork for Hypership Still Out of Control has been vastly improved. Hypership Still Out of Control is the better game.

"I would expect similar or slightly better sales numbers if all other factors were equal. The original game was downloaded 374 more times the first day of release and 1506 more times over the first full week. The first full week of Hypership Still Out of Control trial downloads was barely as much as the first day of Hypership Out of Control downloads."

All this has left Steele questioning the XBLIG service. Indeed he says he's "moved on" from it.

"Ultimately I do not believe the XBLIG market is growing," he said. "I believe these numbers show that. I believe the biggest factor is Microsoft's burying of XBLIG.

"Even with Volchaos-like trials, I was not making enough sales to run a profitable game studio. Certainly with Hypership Still Out of Control trial downloads, I have no chance.

"And that's why I've moved on."

Microsoft sparked complaints from many XBLIG developers when it implemented the new Kinect-fuelled Xbox 360 dashboard in December last year, with one calling it an "advertiser's dream".

While indie games do appear in Bing search results - that is, if a gamer knows the name of the game they're looking for Bing will find it - the new Metro user interface has replaced the dedicated XBLIG channel with an Indie Games tile.

And Indie Games are not listed in the New Arrivals section of the Marketplace, nor the Genre listings. Instead, they are found through a tile labelled Game Type.

In response, Microsoft pointed out to Eurogamer that the firm provides a marketplace, free development tools and a peer-review system for developers to create XBLIG titles and launch them affordable on Xbox Live, but stressed that indie developers must put marketing effort into their games in order for them 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.

"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."

"The new Xbox 360 Dashboard update provides improved ways for consumers to find great indie titles, including the ability to search with voice," Microsoft continued. "We've been experimenting with Xbox 360 Dashboard promotions for indies, such as our Halloween 'Shocktober' campaign. And we've been helping the community support their own amazing promotions, including 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."