The Changing Indie Landscape: Steam Beats Xbox?
September 13, 2011 Page 3 of 3
Edery apparently agrees with Boyd and Blow in his enthusiasm for Steam, "not only because it is a well-built and well-managed platform, but because Valve has consistently exhibited developer-friendly tendencies," he says. He believes that may stem from the fact that Valve is still first and foremost an independent developer itself.
While Edery was reluctant to recommend platforms that indies ought to focus on, he was quick to point out that his own studio, Spry Fox, currently has seven games in development – five are web-based free-to-play games and two are mobile free-to-play games.
"We have no console games and no games of any kind that require an up-front payment," he says. "That should tell you what we think is worth focusing on."
But Chris Charla, XBLA portfolio director at Microsoft Game Studios, defends XBLA's higher barriers for developers and doesn't see them changing any time soon.
"With XBLA, we've consciously developed a curated portfolio," he explains. "You need a Publisher License Agreement to release games on the service and, practically speaking, that means that developers either need to go through a third-party publisher or Microsoft Studios.
"The net result is that our customers know that every XBLA game is measured to the same bar – that the quality of games that indies like Signal Studios [Toy Soldiers] or Haunted Temple Studios [Skulls of the Shogun] bring us continues to get better and better, so the bar is always getting higher to get on the platform. I think that's ultimately beneficial to our customers. We want the best, most innovative, coolest games on XBLA."
Charla adds that, as a publisher, Microsoft Studios works very closely with XBLA's developers "to ensure that the certification process is transparent and straightforward. Obviously our developers sometimes have suggestions about how we can improve. We have always and will continue to foster a very open relationship with them. We love getting feedback. We always want to do a better job, and we're always working to improve our processes."
Asked about changes in the current digital landscape and whether indies are shifting their allegiance from one platform to another, Charla says he believes developers look at two main criteria when evaluating platforms – what platform is appropriate for the game and how can they reach the maximum number of potential players.
"Based on that, we think the Xbox 360 and XBLA is a fantastic, proven platform for developers," he says. "XBLA has a really vibrant ecosystem that supports a ton of game types, and it's great to see so many developers having a hit – or multiple hits – on XBLA.
"If you look at what we're now doing with motion control, such as with Fruit Ninja Kinect, it's just an amazing platform for a hugely broad audience and it has the potential for a really broad range of games. There's just so much room left to innovate on Xbox 360 and XBLA, it's very exciting to see what developers are experimenting with and what they're showing us."
Meanwhile, Zeboyd's Boyd says he intends to test the waters on additional platforms, and admits to being excited about being in talks with people who will help him port over Cthulhu to smartphones.
Fuzbi's Edery recommends that approach: "From a practical standpoint, there is no need to put all your eggs in one basket," he says. "I really want to emphasize that there is no holy grail of platforms. No perfect portal will meet all your needs for years to come. Life just isn't that easy."
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