Skip to main content

Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Privates dev predicts XBLIG won't survive transition from Xbox 360 to Next Xbox

Calls on Microsoft to admit it's been a failure.

Xbox Live Indie Games won't survive the transition from Xbox 360 to the next Xbox, the developer of Privates and Ben There, Dan That! has predicted.

Dan Marshall, founder of Size Five Games!, called on Microsoft to admit its XBLIG channel has been a "failure" in an interview with Hookshot Inc.

Marshall agreed with Hookshot's suggestion that XBLIG was a "dead end".

"This is my full-time job so I need to make sure I'm making enough money to live off," he told Hookshot Inc.

"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!

"However, I can't see XBLIG surviving to the next Xbox, can you? Microsoft really needs to admit XBLIG has been a failure, and shift to something mid-way between XBLIG and XBLA.

"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."

XBLIG has suffered a torrent of complaints from indie developers in recent months.

Microsoft sparked outrage 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."

The Xbox 360 version of Marshall's Privates, a 2010 sex education game funded by Channel 4, was cancelled because, according to Microsoft, it contravened the Xbox Live guidelines on sexual content of games.

Marshall's next game is Steampunk cybercrime game The Swindle, due out on PC. Marshall plans to send Microsoft a build of the game when it's "more ready" in the hopes of opening talks on an Xbox Live Arcade release.