The State of Indie Gaming
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# The State of Indie Gaming

April 30, 2008 Page 4 of 6

Xbox 360

The Xbox console was the first console to bring to market the modern version of downloadable games for a platform other than PC (the first "downloadable" system was actually the PlayCable for the Intellivision console). The Xbox Live Arcade business model is pretty similar to the try-and-buy systems found on PC portals.

However, the system has a lot of features that most PC portals don't have with their download offerings:

• Most trials have been set up as feature-based, instead of time based. Players can play all they want of that limited version of the game. I believe this form of trial is more effective than time-based trials, as it's a better enticement.
• Achievements. Their success has been talked a lot, so I won't waste bytes on it. Needless to say it's a must to think your game design around them.
• Matchmaking support through Xbox Live.

There have been a lot of bad vibes towards XBLA recently, with issues in terms of getting your game in there (tough) to the fact that there are a lot of remakes. It's true -- getting your game on XBLA is today the hardest of all the platforms mentioned in this article, but the rewards can be the highest. Yes, there are a lot of remakes, but in the past few months games as N+ and Rez HD have done really well in the service, so that means that there is an audience for non-mainstream games.

Take this with a grain of salt, but one way of tracking an approximate of how XBLA games are doing is to follow the XBLA ranking at VGChartz. There has been a lot of discussion on the accuracy of VGChartz (in fact, there is a good thread here, and an analysis on how VGC compares to NPD here), and the way that XBLA sales is calculated can be off as well (it's explained in the comments thread of this article).

If the sales trends are right, though, that means that on one hand, good innovative games are being successful on XBLA. But on the other hand, the shelf-life of every new title is getting significantly reduced from previous years.

So is XBLA a good opportunity? It depends on your budget and your revenue share. Let's assume that you plan to sell your title at $9.99 and you plan to invest$200,000 in making it.

 Revenue Share Sales Revenue 70% 28,601 200,006.79 55% 36,401 200,005.29 35% 57,201 200,003.29

I'm not going to get in the controversy if Microsoft deserves 30% or 65% for every game they sell. I'm just pointing out that you will need to sell twice the amount of games if you get 35% instead of 70% of revenue. And if the VGChartz numbers are close, that means that N+ is making a profit (as they stated they spent $214,000 in their postmortem). Triggerheart Exelica is almost there. Metanet Entertainment and Slick Entertainment's N+ But on the other hand Rocketmen: Axis of Evil, and Commander: Attack of the Genos may have a tough time breaking even. You can't throw anything at XBLA anymore, so be careful and study the trends. And what's working in XBLA? It's a platform that definitely appeals to more traditional gamers than the PC platform. But the games that are most successful have one thing in common: they require a far smaller time commitment than most retail games. One bit of advice, though: unless the number of titles released per week reduces, spend less than$200,000 making an XBLA game.

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