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Microsoft: Relocated Indie Games Store Will Attract 'Many People'
Microsoft: Relocated Indie Games Store Will Attract 'Many People'
November 2, 2010 | By Tom Curtis

November 2, 2010 | By Tom Curtis
More: Console/PC

Microsoft has issued a response to the recent backlash against the relocation of the Xbox Live Indie Games store, stating the updated store provides "new ways for people to browse and sort indie games."

"Microsoft continues to support the efforts of independent game developers," a Microsoft spokesperson told Eurogamer.

With the launch of the latest update to the Xbox 360 dashboard, the Indie Games store was separated from other games on the marketplace and moved into a "Specialty Shops" section, along with the Avatar Marketplace and Game Room.

Indie developers expressed dismay at the change, arguing the update limits the visibility of indie games on Xbox Live, and will in turn harm sales.

Microsoft claims the Specialty Shops section will draw many users to the Indie Games section, thanks in part to its proximity to the Avatar Marketplace.

"We wanted to give Xbox Live Indie Games that full marketplace experience and felt this was the best place to do it, alongside other popular channels like the Avatar Marketplace," said Microsoft.

"In fact, since the launch of Avatars, Xbox Live members have made more than 290 million customizations to their Avatar's clothing, so we expect many people to regularly visit the Specialty Shops section," the statement continued.

Microsoft also asserts the new store features allow users to more easily sort and browse the games already available on the Indie Games store.

The new Indie Games store features the top 50 titles, up from the top 20 in the previous dashboard update, and also includes new ways to sort games, including top-rated and top-selling lists. Microsoft argues these features will make it easier for users to find new indie titles.

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Mike Bergenstjerna
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I'd be interested to hear how removing Indie Games from the primary GAMES Marketplace is "support", or how the complete lack of MS management presence from the AppHub website (be that for XBLIG OR WP7 development or process issues) is "support".

The consensus is that the top 10% of Indie Games were starting to erode the market share of the less successful XBLA titles. A number of XBLA partners complained about the prominence of XBLIG on the initial dash beta and MS caved in. This dispite making an estimated $100,000 from a single XBLIG last year.

We've had no assurances, no indication of strategic direction, no indication of the expected demographic who'll be coming to our new sales seeing this as "supporting" indie devs is a bit hard to be honest. And the talk in the WP7 dev community is hardly more positive. Something's got to change, and despite our protestations that the release criteria for XBLIGs is too louche Microsoft show no signs of grasping the nettle and saving one of the few genuinely visionary projects they've embarked on in the last 5 years. Shame.

John McMahon
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Considering not all Indie Games titles are games, that some are in fact app-like. Then that erodes the definition of games doesn't it? So a "Specialty" spot includes all Indie titles instead of fragmenting the whole. Of course, better organization of titles like what's a game and what isn't would be better.

Eduardo Jimenez
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The "consensus" doesn't mean it's true. The consensus in 1491 was that the Earth was flat and huge abyss engulfed the ships that adventure to its limits. If you want to be taken seriously I think that you should get your facts straight and state them along with your opinions. Otherwise they are just that, opinions, not a really reliable source of knowledge.

IMO, that sentence doesn't sound too credible, but just plausible. Last time I read about something like that the top 20 games of the XBLI games amounted for a total of $3-4M. That's considerably less than what a good single XBLA game can do. I don't think that's going to affect MS so much, now is it?.

Anyway, don't take my word for it since I can't remember where I read it nor whether the source was reliable or not.

Adam Bishop
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The figure "290 million customizations" seems disengenuous. Have they really sold nearly 300 million items, an average of 6.5 per console sold? Or is he actually saying that people have edited their avatars that many times, which seems more likely and is not even remotely the same thing. If MS is selling that many avatar items, then maybe putting indie games right beside them really will increase exposure. But I find it hard to believe people really are buying that many avatar items.

Duncan Blair
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I think that the number of avatar customizations there have been is mostly irrelevant anyway. Do many people who are looking to change their avatar or buy avatar clothing actually access the store through this route? I would imagine most go to their gamercard (right up the front of the dashboard on the "my xbox" section) and then select "customize avatar". That's certainly the way I've always done it, and if most others do too, then XBLIG being popped next to the Avatar Marketplace won't really bring through many of those customers.

Henry Shilling
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I don't see the XBLIG as being removed from the games marketplace, the specialty stores are part of the games marketplace, if anything I really think that this will garner more traffic.

Bryson Whiteman
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HAHAHA!! Epic Damage Control by Microsoft.

"We wanted to give Xbox Live Indie Games that FULL marketplace experience"

Better than no response, I suppose.

Marcus Miller
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Let's make EVERYONE happy. Just make the Indie game accessible through both the specialty shops market place and the Games market place. Now if only all of life's problems were this easy to solve...

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(!):

- From Apple: Put the games in the front of the store - Indies must be supported full force, they have a small marketing budgets. It is good for the consumer and also for MS. And if you want to give Indies more visibility do like @Marcus Miller said, put it in both categories, don't just move it around.

- From Apple: Pay close attention to you classification methods: you have to mix your methods for classifying games, don't use just the download number, or the number of "stars"! If enough bad games are getting the highlights, you are failing.

- From Apple: Feature HIGH QUALITY Indie games as much as Arcade games, in channels with high trafic - Apple promotes games and apps from "John Does" as well as "Capcoms" based only on QUALITY, not studio history or how much money they spent to make the damn project. The best games will atract people to the channel, and allow them to know about the other products.

- From yourself: Understand that we (Indies) need many YEARS to learn the tools, and that our first games are going to be horrible. The first games on every platform are usually very rough (take "Just Cause 1" and compare it to its sequence): if that happens to million dollar projects, expect Indies to be much, much worse. And, because Indies doesn't normally work full time on the project, it will take years to learn the tools. If there is a "Xbox 720", keep the API almost intact and you are going to have great apps.

- From Apple: Make it part of your main strategy - I always hear that the XNA team is small, and I have also heard the same thing in the past about the whole gamming division at MS. The difference now is that MS have placed games in the center of their whole company strategy, and now the gamming division is huge. If you do like Apple, and put major brains and money at XNA games, it will pay off. Apple have proved that there is a million dollar market for small games, but you have to do your job right.

- From Apple: Be consistent with your gamming strategy - Game engine developers, small developer, they all need to know that the your gamming channel is going to be alive in the future, so they can spend the next three years working on their projects. MS is clearly not happy about Indie games, and doesn't promise anything about it. It could vanish tomorrow for all we know. Yesterday I though my project was going to be shown in a hidden gamming hub. Now it is hidden on a specialties hub. I like what @Benjamin_Quintero said: "I wonder if the next update will move Indie Games into someplace even more obscure, System Settings perhaps".

- From Sony: create a better name for the Channel - "Indie" doesn't mean anything, but the name "Minis" actually help people understand what that channel offers (mini-games, or games with small scope, probably cheap). "Specialties" is the worst name possible.

I just checked the new dashboard. In game marketplace, there are five sections: "Games & Demos", "Add-Ons & Extras", "Titles A-Z", "Specialty Shops" and "Featured". The more important one, "Games & Demos", when highlighted shows only three "squares": "Arcade Games", "Games on Demand" and "Demos". Is it hard to put one more little square with the title "Mini Games"? It is not like it is going to become crammed with options!

UPDATE: Microsoft usually features a little square called "Avatar Games". Indie games with avatars are now easily available in this section, points for MS. I also found that Indie games was not as buried as I first thought when I first read this article, because they got their own "square" in Specialty Shops -> There is a nice image and it is shown really near the front of the store. They have something to get people's atention: the "Avatar Marketplace", right on it's left. Most of my sugestions still stands nonetheless.

Sebastian Bender
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The Avatar Marketplace may be a store many people are looking at and so they may find the XBLIG marketplace, but that's not the point!

XBLIG's are games, and as games, they should be listed under the right category. It's not about visibility but accessibility! If I'm looking for games as a customer, I will not go to a "Specialty Store" when there is a section called "Games and Demos". Even worse, if I'm searching for games in the "Games & Demos" section, I will not find any XBLIGs. So I may have heard about a game, search for it and won't find it.

As a compromise, Microsoft could list the XBLIG last in the Games section and make all search results display only after all other results from the "bigger" marketplaces. This would please XBLIG devs who want people to just find their games, whilst Microsoft could still promote the higher budget titles which of course is reasonable and deserves to be respected.

Please, cast your vote on Microsoft Connect about this issue to support the indie devs. rom-games-category

Matthew Mouras
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Thanks for the link Sebastian. This was a misstep for Microsoft in my opinion.

Arne Gleason
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I think sticking Indie under Specialty was most likely a decision made by one or two folks who thought it made sense at the time (as in, not part of some managed effort marginalize the Indie stuff.) That said, I don't think it was a brilliant decision.

Dan Felder
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The truth is that Indie Games often get overshadowed by the super-glitzy-heavy-budget major titles. Separating out the indie titles to stand on their own might actually be a very helpful move. It invites less comparison to the massive budget titles. That said, I'm not sure this is the best way to do it - but the folks at Microsoft have access to a lot more data than I do.

More than anything, it feels like feature-tweak, a division of feature creep similar to the travesty that is the ever-mutating Microsoft Office. They keep shuffling around the toolbars until you can't find anything anymore - in an effort to demonstrate that things have changed in the new version. I think that's at the root here, and the justification came later.

Eduardo Jimenez
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I believe too many people is talking a bit too much a bit too early, TBH. I personally don't like the new location of the indie games, and I think it may harm the service. Anyway I will refrain from saying it until it's clear: a couple of months from now we will have sale numbers from developers that will either prove or not that theory. In the meantime I wouldn't be so harsh with MS.

As much as MS could improve the service (I don't disagree with most of the points made here) we should be thankful to them that they have provided us with a system to develop games for a console (which no other developer has done) for a minimal price (~65 pounds last year, I still have to renew my subscription this year) and with better develop and debug tools than any other platform I've seen (never worked with the iPhone but I believe MS will have better tools).

In spite of everything else, I believe the main harm for the XBLI service is the main nature of it. There are no quality filters to get there and that means there are lots of crappy games with very low standards (and some ridiculous "apps"). It's not that the developers didn't have the "time" to learn the tools, it's they lack the skills to do a lot better. I hope the top-50 games will help filter a bit more the crap from what it's worth but anyway, it's a crowded service full of undeserving games. It's not different from the app-store but I think the customers of Xbox will expect better than customers from the app-store, even if it's the same guy paying just 1$ for a game I'm convinced they'll expect more from a XBox game than an iPhone game.

Diego Leao
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@Eduardo_Jimenez I believe you are right in the last paragraph, but wrong in the first and second. The moment Indie games are removed from being found at the games section we, developers, must take a stand. It messes with full years of work, we must be consulted before this kind of changes. We are hard at work and someone just moves our ground without notice?

It's like receiving a full scholarship at an University and after one or two years of study, be notified that it is not an University anymore, it had been "renamed" to "Technical Study Group". It doesn't matter if you entered for free, it messes with everything you worked for, it takes away the part of your life you devoted to that goal.

I'll take a wild guess and say that you are not an XNA developer, or at least haven't been involved in a long project in it, that is why you don't get that part of the problem.

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