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New Xbox 360 dashboard "an advertiser's dream"

XBLIG devs have their say on Metro UI. MS responds.

Indie developers have had their say on the new Xbox 360 dashboard, with some complaining that it buries Xbox Live Indie Games.

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 some are concerned will disappear as Microsoft rotates its promotions.

Mommy's Best Games (Weapon of Choice, Explosionade) boss Nathan Fouts told Eurogamer he was happy with the new search functionality and "Related" tab, but said the dedicated Indie Games portal is "now more hidden and confusing than ever".

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.

"The image for that (of course) is a woman doing a karate kick dressed in a hoodie in front a brick wall with graffiti," Fouts said. "There's a revolving tile that currently also links you to Indie Games but it's sort of random if someone will see that or even if IG will be listed there next week.

"For me the truly disheartening news is that the 'games' tab on our game console is now several pages away from the start," he continued.

"'Videos' is now before 'games'. For better or worse, the new Metro layout is an advertiser's dream. Every single page main page now has an advertisement on it (you can't scroll away any more), there are dozens of secret little places to feature things, and it's easy to get lost. But simply getting to the main portal for Arcade, Games on Demand or Indie Games, or for that matter my own game library is a chore. I like the 'quick list' but if it would have a simple connection to my complete library, it would be a huge help."

Avatar Battle Bees developer Brett Eveleigh told Eurogamer many developers were losing faith in XBLIG - and the new UI only accelerated the problem.

"Microsoft take a back-seat approach and only really gets involved to take a cut of your sales and make the games slightly harder to find with each new dashboard update," he said.

"Not that anyone wants to go through the pain of retail/arcade style certification but it feels like Microsoft has abandoned the platform in favour of Windows Phone 7. But instead of admitting it they're brushing it under the carpet and hoping it'll go away.

"It's easy to lose faith when you see a dating game that looks like it took 10 minutes to make and uses some stock images of women in low-cut tops sell better than lovingly crafted, quality games that have been made by talented developers."

XBLIG pricing is, according to Eveleigh, another point of concern.

"Indie games can be sold for either 80, 240 or 400 MSP. The problem is that 80 MSP might as well be the only price point, since people just don't buy games that cost more, so developers are forced to under-value their games to get people to even consider them.

"This is of course a trend with indie/downloadable games at the moment as it was recently highlighted about the devaluation of Indie games on PC and we all know about the situation on the App Store but those platforms are at least easy to find/access and have huge amounts of users which goes some way to offsetting the devaluation, this just isn't the case on XBLIG."

A number of XBLIG developers Eurogamer spoke to, including Cthulhu Saves the World developer Robert Boyd, said the new dashboard will probably result in reduced sales.

"It feels to me that Microsoft is trying to promote individual games more but hide the [XBLIG] channel as a whole," he said. "I think this will result in less sales overall but only time will tell."

But what does Microsoft have to say about the new Xbox 360 dashboard and how it affects XBLIG?

A spokesperson pointed out 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," the spokesperson told 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."

"The new Xbox 360 Dashboard update provides improved ways for consumers to find great indie titles, including the ability to search with voice," the spokesperson 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."

Still, Microsoft said it was listening to feedback from developers and is "taking it into consideration for future programs".

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