A lot of people would like it if XBLIG sucked less

Posted by Alex Jordan on

So apparently, Mommy's Best Games - one of the best and most noteworthy indie studios working in Xbox Live Indie Games - has decided to hold off on releasing their new game, Explosionade, because the XBLIG Top Downloads tab in the Marketplace is broken.

Kobun's indie page covered it here, and Indienerds covered it here. Basically, the short version is that the database that does sales tracking for XBLIG is unreliable, updating every few days or not at all rather than every 24 hours on the dot. For developers interested in checking their daily sales, it's obnoxious. But this database also powers the Top Downloads section of the XBLIG Marketplace, giving additional valuable attention to popular XBLIG titles.

Y'see, Microsoft does an utterly piss-poor job of advertising good XBLIG titles. There's a myriad of reasons why that is, including the fact that Microsoft earns more revenue from Xbox Live Arcade titles and doesn't want super cheap XBLIG offerings to compete with the pricier Arcade options. Left to hang, XBLIG developers must create their own advertising. One way is to prevail upon the various gaming blogs and indie sites out there and hope your game is good enough to get featured and talked about. Another is to have actually made a good game to begin with, and have it appear in the Top Downloads section (or IGN Picks, or what have you) by virtue of your hard-earned popularity. So when the XBLIG database is broken, and the Top Download section isn't updating, developers lose one of their lamentably-few options to juice their sales.

Those of us that have released mediocre games (/raises hand) know what that leaves the developer with. Absent access to the Top Downloads list or much in the way of web publicity, your game lingers on the New Arrivals tab for a few days (by virtue of being, um, new) before even newer releases push it off. Your sales are high while it's on there and visible, but once it drops off, sales decline by as much as 95%.

In fact, Kobun described exactly this when he featured my Around The World post mortem.

I understand why ATW languished - it was small and mediocre to above-average - and it didn't get sales legs beyond being on the New Arrival page. But to consign even more talented developers to the same outcome is gruesome. Microsoft should get their shit together and make the XBLIG market a more rewarding place, or else you might see more developers bitch and whine (at best) or leave the market entirely (at worst).