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Xbox Live Indie Games Launches New Pricing Structure
Xbox Live Indie Games Launches New Pricing Structure
July 24, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

July 24, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander
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    16 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie



Alongside Microsoft's ongoing transition of Xbox Live Community games into Xbox Live Indie Games, there's a new pricing structure for titles on the service that will see some games priced as low as $1.

The company's dropping the old pricing, which included choices for hobbyist developers to price their games at 800 Microsoft Points ($10), 400 MSP ($5), and 200 MSP ($2.50) for a tiered system that offers three different price points: 400 Microsoft Points ($5), 240 MSP ($3) and 80 MSP ($1; dollar values approximate).

According to Microsoft, only games 50 MB in size and smaller can be sold for 80 MSP on the Xbox 360 via this method. Games currently priced at the current-lowest 200 MSP point will be moved to the 80 MSP point unless the developer selects another price, which they're free to do at will.

Games priced at 800 MSP stay that way unless the developer updates the game -- at which point they'll be required to choose a new price from the tiered system, the company says. With the change, it is still not possible to release full games for free.

The new price system rolls out alongside various other updates to the Creators' Club: developers in Japan and Germany can now submit indie games, and all developers can now submit their games to the Japanese, German, Singapore and Swedish Xbox Live Marketplaces.

A new "reputation" system awards developers points and levels based on their activity in Creators' Club, and Premium creators can now give out tokens that act as vouchers for their games. Customers who have downloaded titles can now receive automatic prompts when updates are available.


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Comments


John Petersen
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You want them to pay for a free update from the developer? Loosen the honda.

Mike Smith
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I guess the 800 point titles were not selling. We're seeing a similar thing in the iPhone app store where everything is being driven down to the .99 mark.



The updates notification is nice.



Expanding to other countries is nice.



Good moves overall. The best one being the name change to Indie Games.

E Zachary Knight
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Why drop the 800 price point when adding an 80 price point? Seems odd to think that no developer should be allowed to price their game that high.



I am not familiar with the overall quality of XNA games but you would think that if a developer thinks their game is worth 800 points, they should be able to price it that way.

Joseph Amper
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Cool --

Amir Sharar
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One 800pt game was selling quite well, but perhaps there weren't enough of them to warrant the price's existence. Over 350 games total and only 4 are currently at 800 pts.



That said, it's only been 8 months since launch, some big titles could still be in production and were looking at this price point.

Christian Nutt
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Wonder what Nathan Fouts (Mommy's Best Games) thinks --

http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=23009

Chad Wagner
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It strikes me that the best method of pricing games on the service, at present is this: Start low (when people can see your game on the short list), then progressively increase the price. That way you maximize the sales when your game is being pitched -- and the significantly smaller group that looks for your game later will pay a slight premium (as they should for waiting so long). People who find your old game based on a positive review are more likely to be willing to pay the slightly higher price. I can't see how the old model of "start high, decrease price steadily" will make as much in the current environment.

Derek Bentham
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If a quality IP worth 800 was being made for Indie Games, I do think that MS would make an exception, and allow the game to be sold for 800. I'd imagine you just have to make a deal with them "behind the scenes".

Maybe this could help games that are truly worth 800... they, in the end, may be featured as "premium" Indie Games. Also, a lot of people say that it's hard to find the good stuff. This may be a solution.

Giuseppe Navarria
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imo that's a very WRONG move, it will lead at more crapware like the one that's already flooding the services, who wants to develop a quality indie game like aquaria, world of goo, Noitu love 2 and put it at $5 when on PC the standard price for such titles is $20? It just makes no sense.

With this move Microsoft doomed the XNA indie games service to host only showelware or games that costs a bunch of weeks of development

Giuseppe Navarria
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the way to go for the service was a system to reject low quality stuff, yes i really mean rejecting the game from the service. As it was flooded by xna tutorials recompiled with photoshopped textures (there are three games that are in fact the same game, the XNA Racer sample with different textures).

So basically would be nice to see a sort of quality assurance process, not something like XBLA, but at least something that assure other developers that the service is not flooded with the "hello world!" of some brat trying to make some free bucks uploading a modified tutorial.

Stuff like that makes customers run out of the service, as you have a list of names, if they start to try 34 games, discovering that are all likely the same crap (like a car racing without opponents because it was just a tutorial) they'll not crawl more inside the list of hundreds titles to find your single good game, they just log to XBLA instead.



Basically at the moment, every flash game portal offers game of higher quality (in average) than this XNA service, for free.



The move to even lower the prices is a white flag from microsoft, that is just thinking a method about making some bucks out the showelware, as it promotes this kind of acting and not developers that wants to sell something that costs more than a week of development

Robert Fearon
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Giuseppe, I think you're sorta misunderstanding precisely what the service is about.



It's not meant as a premium service for uber quality developers. It's meant as somewhere anyone who pays the fee and abides by the T&C's can get their work running on a console. To add a QA element beyond what's already in place essentially kills that idea stone dead and it becomes "just another portal" and frankly, that's pretty redundant compared to what XBLIG is.



If people want to go off and release a tutorial game reskinned, let them! If you're a professional developer with both eyes on the money I'd have thought by now it was made abundantly clear that you should be aiming for XBLA, not XBLIG.

Craig Stern
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If that is what the service is supposed to be, then calling it "Indie Games" is an insult to indie game developers. Not all indies are hobbyists. Some indies take their game development very seriously--they are professionals who want to sell their games directly to the public without involving publishers. There are a limited number of spots available on XBox Live Arcade each year. Why hobble developers who want to release quality products worth more than a few dollars on the Indie Games service? Is Microsoft worried about having *too many* good games available for their system?

Robert Fearon
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"If that is what the service is supposed to be, then calling it "Indie Games" is an insult to indie game developers."



No it's not.



"Some indies take their game development very seriously--they are professionals who want to sell their games directly to the public without involving publishers."



Good for them. They're not excluded. They just have to abide by a price limitation for the time being.



If they don't want to do that, being professionals they'll be fully aware that there's many more routes they can take that don't involve XBLIG. I'd say if your business model is dependent on an unproven, untested before service that's still in its infancy and you're absolutely relying on that service for a high budget ROI then well, perhaps you need to think a bit harder about your business plan!



"Why hobble developers who want to release quality products worth more than a few dollars on the Indie Games service?"



Because what the service needs right now, more than anything else is for the public to come to it. There may not be amazing amounts of top bonnet stuff there right now but there's more than enough entertainment to be found and I've had plenty of fun with some of the titles both reviewing and purchasing them. Unfortunately, despite being "cheap" by all monetary terms, in comparison with XBLA titles they look pretty expensive for what they are.



So you need to lose the top tier pricing, add lower pricing and get the customers through the door. Once the customers are through the door, *then* you can start upping the price again.



MS got it a bit skewiff first time, so this rebrand is about the only chance they're going to have to shift it back round. From what I've observed on forums (anecdotal != data, natch) it's going to work. More "bums on seats", more potential sales. Bingo.



"Is Microsoft worried about having *too many* good games available for their system? "



No.

Louis Paquin
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I still fail to see why just allowing developers to set the price they want would be a bad thing. It's not like Steam et. al. - or anyone else - really does this byzantine "tiered" pricing structure.

Craig Stern
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So if the problem is that there aren't enough games worth $10 on there, it seems like there are two solutions:



1) force everybody charge less for the same low-caliber stuff, or

2) attract developers willing the create more high-quality products worth the money.



Tack 1 might attract more players in the short term, but without prices that make it feasible to offer higher quality products there, I don't see how Microsoft is going to be able to raise prices without undoing all the progress they made by lowering them.

Robert Fearon
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Actually, I think what's more of a problem is some developers perception of what the service is and should be which often comes at the expense of hobbyists. In all fairness, those wanting to make a living out of creating premium titles have many, many outlets to do so - including one that already exists on the 360 in the shape of XBLA. Most of the complaining around the price structures appear to come from people who want a professional bias to the service. Or to coin a phrase I'm fond off, they want it to be "XBLA Lite".



The stated intention of XBLIG was and always has been that it's a place for hobbyists to play in yet that's led to certain segments of the "indie scene" decrying those who do have a twunt around in that sort of environment as second class citizens. That's pretty disgusting y'know?



Now, part of this is definitely Microsoft's fault with their original pricing structure (or forcing pricing at all). It put the focus on these games being directly in competition with XBLA and that shouldn't have been the case. But hey, untried, untested before, learn by your mistakes. Moving the pricing structure downwards draws the important distinction that this is somewhere people can have a bit of a muck about in without having to deal with that comparison without the frankly unfair bias towards "professional" indie developers.



The $10 price tag becomes a bone of contention for the public precisely because it puts the service in competition with XBLA titles. It's not saying Indie games are "only worth $5", it's not saying "you shouldn't create something that's not worth more than $5" - it's the clearest message Microsoft can send out that this is an ENTIRELY different service with an ENTIRELY different purpose.



The fact that there's people with one eye on the gold is inevitable, but if those folks with one eye on the gold had their way then all XBLIG would be is a second tier of XBLA for those who want to avoid the costs of going through cert. That'd be a sad thing to happen, really, because it'd destroy everything XBLIG has set out to achieve.



In order to truly achieve what it should, XBLIG doesn't need "more high quality titles on par with the PC space". That's what XBLA is for. What it needs is more people punting up risky, silly, experimental stuff that you can't get elsewhere. Using the toybox that MS have got to have a bit of fun, try out concepts, get the public interested in some of the mad, crazy stuff we can do without publisher interference. If that takes a price drop to force that through then so be it. That's actually what's wanted by the public as a rule.



And y'know, as the service matures and once the customer base is in place, then MS can do what they did with XBLA and start introducing more pricing structures. But EXACTLY like they did with XBLA from the offset, they need to start low, make it abundantly clear what the service is and then once people are paying attention proper, then they can start punting the prices up.



That said, there's still plenty of money to be found in the service. Treat it like a budget label, like the ones we used to have before the nineties threw it all away, make good quality budget games and y'know, folks like good and cheap stuff and at a lower price will be more forgiving of shortcuts or flaws.



Stop looking to ways to pull out top dollar from a service that was designed as a playground that anyone with 45 can see their games on there and more to the point, if you're one of those that look down on those people, ask yourself what you've got against people being allowed to create regardless of their skills or ability. I don't want that world where only high budget "quality" stuff exists. I want the wild and creative west that MS wanted to push into peoples living rooms. Don't you?


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