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XBLIG Developers Troubled Over Xbox 360 Dashboard Update
XBLIG Developers Troubled Over Xbox 360 Dashboard Update
November 1, 2010 | By Tom Curtis

November 1, 2010 | By Tom Curtis
More: Console/PC

With the release of Microsoft's latest update to the Xbox 360 dashboard come changes that remove Xbox Live Indie Games from the proper games store, provoking some indie developers speak out against the new marketplace.

The Xbox 360 games marketplace is now organized into several categories, one of which is the "Games & Demos" section, which includes Arcade Games, Games on Demand, and Demos. Indie Games have been placed in their own section within a separate "Specialty Shops" category, along with the Avatar Marketplace and Game Room.

Indie developers on the App Hub forum have expressed concerns about this new organization for the Xbox 360 marketplace, fearing it will only make Xbox Live indie titles less visible to consumers.

"I'd like to know the rationale behind it - at least then the community could try and come up with constructive alternatives, rather than being pushed further into obscurity," said user Deej, developer of Clover: A Curious Tale.

Other users expressed frustration that indie titles will no longer even be categorized as games by the service.

"It's a categorical failure (literally) ... I'm hear (sic) to mourn Indie Games being known as 'games', which I suppose we must now rename Indie Specialties," said Weapon of Choice developer Mommy's Best Games.

While the Indie Games section has been separated from the traditional game store, it has received UI adjustments and features the top 50 titles rather than the top 20, putting more titles on display within the Indie Games store.

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Luke Quinn
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I am absolutely disgusted by how Microsoft has treated us indie developers.

We have to pay to publish games to the service on top of fulfilling community obligations like peer reviewing other developers games (something that Microsoft takes care of internally for the Windows Phone 7) and they can't help themselves from getting in our way at every possible opportunity.

With constant list freezes, poor support, badly designed marketplace functionality, and their total unwillingness to afford us such luxuries as developer set release delays (so that we could do some form of marketing) it was already quite clear that Microsoft had grown entirely bored with the community games channel, but now it appears that they are deliberately trying to hide the channel away as if they are ashamed of it.

If they are ashamed of the channel, it's their own fault for creating an environment that fostered cheap crapplications and stupid shock factor games whilst punishing developers that invested any kind of time and creativity into their game.

This, for me, was the straw that broke the camels back and so, as soon as I complete my current xblig project and honor my vow to support it with free additional content for 3 months (It was supposed to be a test to see how xblig customers would respond to regular content updates), RBG entertainment will be reevaluating it's choice of platforms.

I had intended to focus on Windows Phone 7 development and then port the games to the indie games channel afterwards, but I am so very angry with Microsoft's intentional sabotaging of the indie channel that I now have a complete lack of confidence in them to provide a stable platform on which my company can grow.

Jim Perry
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"We have to pay to publish games to the service..."

So you can get games on the PS3 or Wii for free? I didn't know you could even get games on them. I'll have to check that out.

" on top of fulfilling community obligations like peer reviewing other developers games"

Who told you you had to do peer reviews? Yes, the polite thing to do would be to help out other devs, but there's no "obligation".

Luke Quinn
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"So you can get games on the PS3 or Wii for free? I didn't know you could even get games on them. I'll have to check that out."

Ha, I wish- Nintendo was supposed to release a black Wii dev console a while back but didn't for what ever reason; That would have been sweet!

I wasn't saying "Oh, I paid to be on 360 when I could have developed for another console", I was saying that since we are paying around $120 annually to be able to upload a maximum of 10 games (as well as having MS take a modest 30% of sales), MicroSoft could at least do us the favour of not going out of their way to screw us by stuffing us in some obscure menu away from the games section where we belong.

"Who told you you had to do peer reviews?"

Microsoft did.

If nobody reviewed any games at all on the (sigh) 'AppHub', how many games would get released?

Would Microsoft step in and approve games for sale if everyone stopped reviewing xbligs?

Roy Triesscheijn
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I think Jim Perry does make a point here. At least Microsoft gives us the opportunity to make games for the Xbox360.

Someone guessed that MS makes about $1.000.000, that makes us a tiny group, hell I don't even think MS can break even on the XNA dev team for that. Also in the new dashboard we where right next to XBLA games, very clearly visible, it's possible that many XBLA publishes didn't like these changes (distracts users from their games) and MS makes easily 100x the amount it makes on XBLIGs on XBLA games, so that might be why whe where 'thrown out'.

Anyway, I do hope we get back in the games list, because it is a bit of an insult.

On the bright side, the games developed for WP7 are prominently visible, XNA can also be used for PC development (even some XNA games on steam now) and MS has released a 4th iteration of XNA Game Studio that is free for everyone to use, only releasing on the Xbox/Wp7 cost money.

sukru tikves
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I agree. MS probably looked at the sales statistics of XBLA and XBLIG titles, and decided to reduce the visibility of $1 options, while they're trying to push the $15 as the new standard (even basic remakes come at that price now, I miss good old days when we used to pay $10 for most of them).

For example I MADE A GAME WITH ZOMBIES is a much better twin stick shooter than Geometry Wars - at least in my opinion - and sells for 1/4 of the price.

Rey Samonte
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It is a shame considering MS has provided great tools and a great opportunities for indie developers to create games with. There are some great games with lots of hard work and heart put into them. Unfortunately, the visibility of such games gets buried with the number of shovelware that gets released. Not to mention how the Top 20 lists are compiled it's so easy for the little gems to get lost.

As much as I love working with XNA, it's this very reason that keeps me looking to other platforms to develop on. If MS was willing to put the time and energy to allow XNA developers to make WP7 games in order to compete with the Apple's App Store, then they should put the same amount of effort in supporting these smaller developers.

But before I react to this, I'll wait and see how it all plays out. I'll have to download the update once I get home to get a good idea of what exactly this is all about.

Benjamin Quintero
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wow.. i picked the worst time ever to try XBLIG. I wonder if the next update will move Indie Games into someplace even more obscure, System Settings perhaps?

Peter Kojesta
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This is very disheartening. I've spent the last year , along with 3 team mates, working on a very quality game for XBLIG, only to have it hidden away in some corner?

Please note that while "indie devs" may not have serious sway in many regards, these developers do permeate the overall game development community, and even larger companies.

Establishing a culture of resentment from what is a large and determined group of people seems like a bad business decision in my book. While I've always been a great supporter of Microsoft's efforts in the indie game space, I can assure you I am a little more than turned off by this move.

It's hard enough to get games noticed as is, this doesn't help. Or maybe that was the intent?

Andrew Dice
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This one leaves me rather baffled, if only because the independent gaming scene is getting stronger every year, and the 360 is hardly the only game in town for development. I mean, the IGF has 400 entrants this year, up from 300 last year; most of these are PC games. XNA isn't even an exclusive framework to the 360, so why is Microsoft trying to obscure (and this possibly alienate) independent development on its premier console platform?

If anything the XBLIG service should be nearly front-and-center, just behind the main "games and demos" category or inside it. This is a segment that can only get bigger still; keeping it from the obvious place to look for it will only drive more indies away from the 360 and onto platforms like the PC where there are distribution platforms waiting with open arms.

Chad Wagner
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This is another notice for developers to remember when they target a closed platform/distribution channel they are completely at the mercy of the owner. Reference Apple's App Store approval minefield, and Facebook's multimillion dollar policy changes, etc.

It's a tantalizing promise - a neat little opportunity to publish for very little money and reach a large targeted audience. The unregulated channels (e.g. the missed Manifesto Games) just can't successfully compete right now. Maybe Mr. Costikyan can try again when the indie developer discontent reaches a boil?

Remember, the Xbox Live distribution chanel is not unlimited - and the target they are trying to sell to is a relatively small storage area on each user's system...the last thing they want is people not buying a premium title because their drive is full of cheap Indie games. How would the big XBLA publishers feel about that scenario? So first you get serious size limitations, restrictive price structures, then reduced awareness. I think Indie Games was originally conceived to goose the major publishers in to supporting digital distribution - since they were slow to adopt. "Mission accomplished, now Indie Games go away."

But I'm still going to release on it. :)

sean lindskog
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Words of wisdom.

Jed Hubic
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What is Microsoft doing? They make it harder to access the Indie marketplace, and to top it off XNA 4.0 doesn't even seem to target PC development anymore. It seems like they're pushing to get people using XNA primarily for Windows Phone 7. Let's hope this doesn't backfire as it's hard to convince starting developers like myself to go with Windows Phone 7 out the gate as opposed to something like the much as I want to be a Microsoft fanboy they make it very hard...

I could be completely 100% wrong though (and probably am).

Rick Kolesar
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To be fair, the whole new Game Marketplace layout is a mess (not just the placement of the Indie Channel entrance).

Emmanuel Henne
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With such a response from here alone, I wonder who designed this stuff ? What about KISS ? Why fix something that needs no fixin' ?

John McMahon
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Has anyone realized that some Indie "Games" are very much app-like? The "game" that makes your controller vibrate? That's it? I think with the content that gets through the Indie channel specialty is better suited.

However, if they could split it, so the Indie titles that ARE games are in a game section and the rest elsewhere that would be better organization.

sam darley
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Since the Indie Games developers do contribute financially to Microsoft, it would be in MS' interest to help the channel flourish, rather than lock it away. I had to root around to find it last night, and could straight away see what complaints would be incoming.

Adam Bishop
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As someone who has released a game through the XBLIG channel, I find this to be quite insulting. Microsoft has clearly chosen to position the service as a place for cheap apps rather than well-made, compelling games. The fact that the default App Hub install includes something like 10-12 Windows phone applications with no choice not to install them makes it pretty clear that they view XNA as a cell phone app program and not an indie games program (which is probably why the name was changed).

As a consumer, this means that I'm probably not going to browse the XBLIG channel anymore. Typically I'd enter the games section about once a week, see what demos, XBLA, and XBLIG had been released recently, and download anything that looked interesting. Now that I have to enter a seperate area of the dashboard to find XBLIG? I'm probably not going to bother.

Sean Doherty
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I'm a game developer who has recently released a game called Starchon to the XBLIG Marketplace. Based on this experience, I can definitely say that we require assistance from Microsoft to make the XBLIG marketplace a success. Hiding XBLIG in the depths of the new dashboard is NOT the right kind of assistance.

Jonathan Escobedo
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Dang, my friends and I are considering making a game, but based on what everyone is saying about this new update, I'm probably not going to go with XBLIG. What's the point if I run the risk of losing customers and not getting noticed?

Victor Reynolds
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I found the indie games is hidden, but not as bad as some of you say IMO.

Also, I can understand the frustration, but from what I have been reading on gaming blogs...most consumers see the indie games as "crap" and "nothing worth paying even a dollar for" so MS is probably listening to them, and not indie developers.

Samuel Batista
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Can't argue with you that MOST Indie Games are shameless attempts at money making, but there are incredible gems of quality and innovation there, and MS should at least provide some visibility to those awesome games.

Ex: Inferno, Crossfire, Solar, Beat Hazard, I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1

Ordered by preference.

Samuel Batista
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This is nothing but a shady strategy to migrate developers to create games for the Windows Phone 7, since Games have always been a strong marketing point for the device. I really hope that if Indie Games become successful on the Phone (or on Xbox) they will provide more visibility (by putting the best titles on the storefront of Games Marketplace) to reward the creators of innovative and awesome games. That's a lot of wishing, and MS isn't known to be particularly responsive to the cries of developers.

David Clair
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After speaking with several of my 360 playing friends...(before the update), only two out of the ten i asked even knew what the indie games section was and only one (besides myself) even downloaded a demo.. let alone a full game.

Actually i think this move might be good, let me explain:

By placing Indie games in the same "tab?" as Game room and Avatar items.. you now are getting exposure to two groups of people who are comfortable with downloading small apps/items at low prices..

I suppose time will tell if its a good move or not..

Rick Kolesar
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If you are counting on most of your customers buying your indie game based on the dashboard (old or new one), then prepare to be disappointing. Microsoft has a hard enough time getting people to navigate through the dashboard to buy other items. You have to promote yourself; there is plenty of indie game blogs, Facebook, Twitter.

Now, I'm not defending MS at all and I really think they need to do more to help the indie channel. Hopefully by combining them with the WP7 apps they will get more exposure and a larger internal push from MS so that more marketing money goes toward XBLIG.

Ryan Christensen
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This is the reason why the App Store and web games are attracting indies more than consoles. They second class citizen and lack of understanding to what makes a good game (not the budget always).

That is fine, Apple's secret sauce was indies, if they want to let them keep that so be it. People thought Apple was controlling, look at the dictorial console makers. You'd think they would get that if there are lots of people making games for your devices, you sell more of them and sell more copies of all games, but oh well.

Amir Sharar
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Having not finished my game yet I don't feel qualified to speak as a developer for the service, but as a "soon-to-be developer" for the service... ;)

First off, it seems like it has come from pressure from publishers, which is completely normal and should have been expected. Not saying it is "right", but saying that it is par for the course.

Half the part of being "indie" (whether it's music, film, or games) is being able to promote. We can't expect someone else to do the promotional work for you. Sure, someone may pass by the theatre and see the title of our movie and might check it out. Someone might be at the record store and decide to check out the "local" section and pick out our album. But these shouldn't be the bulk of my initial sales...statistically it's a low exposure. Yes, sometimes someone else can do the promotion work for us (just like grassroots promotion where one of those people tells all their friends they have to have it), but we can't expect that, we can only hope for that.

The theatre, the record store, and the digital marketplace has to deal with large studios, labels, and publishers and have to work in a way to keep them and Indie producers happy. Most theatres do not feature Indie movies. Most music stores do no feature Indie music. Most consoles do not feature Indie games.

With all that being said this is definitely a regression in many ways, but it had to be done to keep publishers happy.

The current setup has some key improvements. Being able to sort by genre, and then "top rated" or "top downloaded" by genre is key for window shoppers to be able to find great games. It is very much like the Apple App Store and it lets people see what's hot at the moment.

The game description page is generally better. It starts off with a screenshot of the game, that first screenshot is allowed to be a promotional picture as long as it accurately depicts the game. That is a great opportunity to "hook" potential buyers. I say "generally" as the game description lands on the second page in a hard to read fashion. The description should be on the first page, and easier to read. Secondly, the "extra content" tab is unnecessary for XBLIG games.

The games lists are easier to browse through and game covers are more visible from the get-go.

Once users are able to get there, the browsing experience is generally a better one. Easier to find games you would be interested and easier to find good quality titles.

It's just that Indie devs have to explain users how to buy their games, but let's face it, with the Indie Games service this is how it always has been. I've seen many trailers for Indie games and NONE of them show users how to download their games. I see so many simple mistakes and missed opportunities that I sometimes can't feel sorry for some who are complaining about this.

Diego Leao
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People like me invested more than one year making a high quality game only to have it hidden. Thank god I use Unity for most of my projects, but I can only image how much of a hit this is for "XNA only" Indie devs. Today Apple, not MS, is the one that managed to create the YouTube of games.

Things that MS should learn from Apple, Sony and itself(!):

[ EDIT: I have moved my response to this article:
e_Games_Store_Will_Attract_Many_People.php ]

Jason Doucette
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The largest issue for Indie Games is that its front page (the default list upon viewing) is the last 20 (now 50) submission -- whatever they happen to be. To consider how this is bad, think about if did this with their front page. Almost certainly 95% or more of the links would be pure crap, and why would readers ever come back? With Indie Games, this is what we've done for the last 2 years. Is it any surprise that the real gamers are not frequenting the Indie Games tab? Of course the best sellers are going to be the one-off apps, since those consumers are the only people returning. So Microsoft moved us to where those consumers would like us to be -- in an apps section. To fix this, we need Microsoft to understand what has happened. The Indie Games front page has to be like's -- fresh and good content (not just fresh, and not just good). We need to show our best fact to the public, like every other information portal does. Why show just the average? Show our best side -- and I don't mean the top rated games, because fresh content is just as important. Think If we did this, then the gamers would return. If we promoted the best games, we'd be known for our games, not our apps, and then traffic would show we belong in the Games & Demos tab.

-- Jason Doucette / Xona Games

Rick Kolesar
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Looks like Microsoft was listening and have fixed things...

"Microsoft has reconsidered this move, and as of now, you can find the Indie Games channel in the higher profile Games & Demos section of the Marketplace, which is right next to the Xbox Live Arcade, Games on Demand, and Demos channels."

Jake Birkett
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The new position is better, but it's on the end of the Games & Demos list so it's actually off the screen. You have to scroll to see it. Not exactly great.