Xbox Live Indy Games as a business model

Posted by Alex Jordan on


Gamasutra has an interesting article up about the (very relative) success of people who market on Xbox Live Indy Games (XBLIG).

News flash: you won't make enough revenue to sustain a professional development team on XBLIG!

The article is slightly defensive in tone despite being supportive of XBLIG, and I can see why. Similar digital distribution platforms like the iPhone App Store and Steam are much more popular and can earn developers much more revenue. But given the varieties of platforms and markets that other digital distribution methods serve, it shouldn't be surprising that XBLIG developers must play to a niche in order to stand out.

Looking at the list of successful games, I'm heartened. The guys that did well made alot of money. And although that revenue, as previously stated, wouldn't sustain a whole studio... wait, why do we want to sustain a whole studio? XBLIG is for hobbyists, and hobbyists will almost always be working by themselves. If they want to pursue their delusions of grandeur, most other non-XBLIG distribution methods, like the ones considered above, will support a small studio and reach a larger audience. But for a hobbyist working on nights and weekends? Who among them wouldn't want to make north of $100,000 on something like A GAM3 W1TH ZOMB1ES?

This serves as a cautionary tale for me. As someone who cut their teeth working on total conversions and mods for Half-Life and Half-Life 2, where feature creep and ambitious design led to projects lasting half a decade or more... XBLIG should not be my platform of choice for a huge game. It will not reward ambition in the traditional sense. The indy scene equivalent of Modern Warfare 2, i.e. a hyper-polished gamer's game, probably won't sell on XBLIG. Instead, small is good. Quirky is good. Personality is good. It's an important lesson for me, since my notepads are overflowing with ambitious game ideas. I should take solace in the fact that I can save time and turn my back on those ideas (for now!) and focus on something that will not only take less time, but probably find more success on my platform of choice.