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Boyd: Spotty Results For XBL Indie Games Winter Uprising Promotion
Boyd: Spotty Results For XBL Indie Games Winter Uprising Promotion
December 16, 2010 | By Kyle Orland

December 16, 2010 | By Kyle Orland
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Promotion creator and indie developer Robert Boyd said the Indie Games Winter Uprising event for the Xbox 360's peer-reviewed Indie Games section has seen only mixed success, thanks partly to troubles with Microsoft's submission process for the service.

The Uprising, announced last month, sought higher visibility for 14 XNA-based indie games from notable developers, planned for release on Microsoft's Xbox Live service on a set schedule during the first week in December.

But only eight of the planned games are currently available Xbox Live, a situation Boyd told Edge Online is partly due to technical problems with the submission process.

“The way Xbox Live Indie Games are set up, it’s difficult to release on a specific day,” he said. “You can’t get your game approved and have it come out later at a day of your choosing – once a game is approved it goes up automatically within 48 hours."

"Likewise, if you submit a game for approval and then find that you have to pull it for whatever reason, however small, you have to wait a minimum of seven days before resubmitting.”

Of the Uprising titles release so far, Boyd told Edge that Eyehook's Epic Dungeon has performed the best, with 6,000 sales in 10 days. Other Uprising games have not fared so well, Boyd said, with about 400 sales for Break Limit, and even fewer for titles such as Asteroids Do Concern Me and Ubergridder.

A Gamasutra analysis of Xbox Live Indie Game sales in 2009 found only two titles selling over 100,000 copies, though games that reached the service's top 20 sellers achieved five-to-six-figure grosses for their developers.


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Comments


Adam Bishop
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It's long been argued by XBLIG developers that lack of control over release dates hurts their sales, and I'd be interested to know why Microsoft hasn't yet implemented a system to let developers choose to delay release of their game once it's passed to co-ordinate marketing. It's not like on XBLA where Microsoft wants to ensure that each game gets it's chance to be front and centre, since the number of games coming out on XBLIG varies so greatly at different points in time anyway.

Jamie Mann
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I can see why developers want control over their release schedule, but equally, I can see that being a bad thing on a high-volume service such as XBLIG (while it's nowhere near the App Store's volumes, you still get over 20 games a week on average).



Giving the developers the ability to influence the release date (either directly by picking a date or indirectly by picking a delay) could well result in releases clustering around specific days/dates - e.g. Thanksgiving, Easter, Saturdays, etc. Anyone looking at XBLIG will then be faced with several dozen new titles and is therefore likely to end up playing fewer games and spending less money!



With that said, one possible way forward which at least partially mitigates the above risk would be to offer developers a set of fixed delays - e.g. 2 days, 7 days, 14 days. This would give developers time to do some marketing around their title - and also give them the ability to resubmit the game at least once within the timeframe if a problem is found - e.g.



Day 0: approved with 14-day delay; publicity launched

Day 1: approval withdrawn.

Day 7: (re) approved with 7-day delay

Day 14: published

Adam Bishop
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I don't know how often most people check the XBLIG channel, but I check it about once every week or two. So the volume of new games since the last time I checked is so high anyway that I'm not going to download more than one or two demos anyway. There's no reason the check the channel any more frequently because I have no idea what will be there or when. However, if I saw an article or ad that said "Winter Uprising! 10 Great Games! December 8, 2010!" then I would know to check the channel on or around that day, looking for specific games.

Jamie Mann
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Agreed with both points - I didn't say it was an ideal situation :) Personally, I do (or did) check it daily, but then: I'm still trying to write reviews for every game on the platform. Albeit I've fallen behind of late...



Unfortunately, marketing around a specific day could also cause problems: other XBLIG developers may try to get their game released on the same day, to benefit from the free attention. Which in turn could mean a delay to the approvals (which could cause the actual promo-games to come out late) and/or for the promo-games to be lost amid a flood of avatar-zombie-massage apps.



Hopefully, the relatively low volumes and the existence of the XBLIG community (which isn't present on other high-volume services such as the App Store, Android Market, etc) can minimise the risk of this kind of issue. However, if XBLIG does become more successful, the risk of this sort of problem grows.

Robert Boyd
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I admit that the promotion didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped, but it has been covered by a number of popular websites and overall traffic to the service seems to be slightly up, so it appears that it has been helping attract attention to the XBox Live Indie Games so that's good.



As for sales, while it is disappointing that among the first batch of games, Epic Dungeon was the only one to see a good amount of success, keep in mind that a lot of the games that were the most likely to sell well have either not come out yet or just came out and so lack sales data. Once everything has been released and out for at least a week or two, I'll be sure to do a full blown post-mortem of the promotion and the games in it, with all the sales data I can gather.



In any case, if we decide to do a similar promotion next year, I have a number of ideas of how we can organize things better than we did this time. Live and learn.



In other news, Microsoft has changed the location of XBox Live Indie Games again. Now, instead of being the fourth choice under Games in the XBox Live Marketplace, it's the third choice. This might not seem like much of anything, but keep in mind that this change means that Indie Games are now fully visible on screen the moment someone goes to the Games section instead of being partially off-screen and having to scroll to the right to see them.

Achilles de Flandres
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Robert, please let us know if you plan to call submissions for a Spring Uprising. My game is about 75% complete. Should be finished around Feburary. I'd be excited to be part of a smaller-scale uprising around March (Spring?) if you decide to do another one of these. Thanks.

Robert Boyd
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We're discussing the idea of future uprisings over on the official XBLIG forums (http://forums.create.msdn.com/forums/71.aspx).



Spring has the Dream-Build-Play competition so we probably don't need 2 big XBLIG events then. Summer might be viable, but then there's the issue of whether or not Summer of Arcade would be a help or a hindrance - would it help us by increasing overall traffic to the marketplace or hurt us as everyone's focus is on XBLA?

Jonathan Ghazarian
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I for one think it would help if you're able to organize a spring promotion. I think the winter uprising, even with its hurdles, is putting some attention to xblig, but I think you really need to have some continuous attention for it to really add permanent customers. A promotion for each season I think would be ideal. If you can take submissions well before expected promotions you can also potentially get a better rate of successful launches(I understand that you didn't have much time to organize this particular one).



That all being said, I really hope this promotion proves successful and I know I'm ready to hit the buy button on a few of the demos I've already tried.

Soren Nowak
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I never understood why MS is keeping this out of potential markets. XBLIG simply isn't available here in Denmark. I would love to buy these games.

Jamie Mann
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Welp, I'm doing a wee bit to try and help:

http://www.xboxindiegames.co.uk/search.html?tag_name=xbligwinteru
prising&filter_name=promotions



(haven't had time yet to review the games released so far: I'll try and do at least some this weekend)



As regards low sales: I wouldn't be surprised if it was due to the new UI on both the xbox.com website and the Xbox 360 dashboard: would be purchasers get significantly less information at a single glance than they used to. I've already ranted about the general look and feel; I may do a bit more ranting over the weekend, if I can summon the energy to grab some screenshots ;)

Robert Boyd
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ZP2KX just came out.

http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/Product/ZP2KX-Zombies-Pterodact
yls/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d80258550732



Also peer review on Aphelion episode 2 is coming along nicely so it looks like that'll be out tomorrow.

Rick Kolesar
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FYI I just noticed the Indie Uprising is in the Spotlight Channel on the Xbox 360 guide. Original art and links to all the games. Glad MS is trying to help.


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