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Microsoft: High XBLA Dev Standards 'Beneficial To Our Customers'
Microsoft: High XBLA Dev Standards 'Beneficial To Our Customers' Exclusive
September 13, 2011 | By Staff

September 13, 2011 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Indie, Exclusive, Business/Marketing

As part of Gamasutra's latest feature, Xbox Live Arcade portfolio director Chris Charla defended the platform's high entry barriers for developers, noting that it means customers always know the quality of games available on the service is high.

Charla explained that the barriers for the digital gaming service, while higher than other digital platforms such as Steam, won't be changing any time soon.

"With XBLA, we've consciously developed a curated portfolio," he explained. "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."

He continued, "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," he concluded.

Indie game developers interviewed by Gamasutra said using platforms such as Valve Software's Steam digital distribution service and web-based platforms are becoming more appealing, as the XBLA standard for quality, production and cost continues to rise.

When asked whether Microsoft should be worried about indie developers switching allegiance to another platform such as Steam, Charla suggested that many indies would rather use the Xbox 360 as their platform of choice.

"We think the Xbox 360 and XBLA is a fantastic, proven platform for developers," he explained. "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," he said.

The full feature, which includes interviews with various indie developers, is now live on Gamasutra.

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Christopher Greenhill
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I'm not following that line of thought. It great to have quality control but what does having a publisher have to do with whether or not a game is any good or fun?

Sean Lander
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It probably follows the line of thought of "if someone else is willing to stick money into it, it's probably good enough for us to sell." similar to how having a book publisher usually means someone has said "that's a good product" and then had people proofread and edit before it is shipped. That said, there is still the XBLIG people can use if they don't have the funds or clout to get in XBLA, and as Mr. Charla states, indie devs can attempt to work with MS Studios to get their game approved as well.

This definitely isn't as nice as using a platform like Steam to get your game out there, but pretty much anything's better than forking up the thousands necessary to go through cert then print disks.

Justin Kwok
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You still need to get through Cert to be on XBLA. Not XBLIG though. XBLIG has an "Evil List" that's enforced by peers but it's not as strict. As someone who's done both XBLA and XBLIG, I have to say that you really cannot make any money on XBLIG. I think with more quality control, XBLIG could be great but it's impossible to wade through all the crap (massage apps, low quality twin stick shooters) to get to the good stuff.

William Johnson
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I wonder what the PSN guidelines are.

Adding barriers to entry is a catch-22. On one hand, it can "raise" the quality of a product. On the downside it can lead to stagnation where only tested products are developed.

I think I'd prefer open over close, myself. I love experimental titles over tried-and-true any day. But I do see advantages in adding a few barriers.

Nicholas Lovell
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"We want the most innovative games on XBLA", but we allow anyone onto the platform unless their game has been rubberstamped by a risk averse publisher.

"Innovation" and "control" rarely go hand in hand.

Dave Long
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Well said - there's no Shatter or Everyday Shooter (both excellent, high-quality games on PC and PSN) on XBLA because MS can't cope with a lack of control. Whether a game has a publisher or not is no measure of quality (Superman 64 had a publisher - does that mean it's good enough for XBLA? ;))

james sadler
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The publisher acts like a filter for all the games flooding the market. Anyone who's developed a high quality XBLIG or iOS title can attest to the difficulty of publishing a game that they spent many hours working on to then have to weed through all the shovelware games that plague those markets. I have no problem with a platform maker deciding that they will only promote and feature games that they themselves or a third party are willing to put their stamp on. At least they've given people the option of XBLIG along side XBLA. If an experimental game really makes waves on XBLIG it will get noticed and someone will publish it, but if only a few hundred think it is cool why should anyone invest the money to publish it? If one is only in this industry to make cool games then XBLIG or iOS should be fine but some people use it to feed their families so having this filter is a very useful to help give their hard work a spotlight. If a publisher wont touch one's hard work perhaps they should ask themselves why not and what could they do to get some notice. If the platform isn't working for them maybe it is time to move onto another one where the user base might be more inclined to their type of game. It sucks to work your @$$ off on a game that you are sure will get notice and have people change their minds or get washed beneath the Angry Birds clone but that is just the way the industry is right now. We all think our games should be number 1's but there are just too many number 80's floating around out there and not everyone can be number 1.