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Thoughts on Xbox Live Indie Games Price Changes
Date 7/24/2009    Tags XNA, XBLIG, Rant    (0)

The XNA developer community it abuzz today after yesterday's (last night's) announcement of the new pricing structure for XBox Live Indie Games (henceforth known as XBLIG).

  • 80 points ($1)
  • 240 points ($2.50-ish)
  • 400 points ($5)
There are two obvious changes here... new is the 80 point price point and gone is the 800 price point (for new games, old games already at 800 can stay there).

First let's address the new price point, 80 points. These types of games are directly on par with the pricing of many iPhone apps. That platform has a serious issue with a race to the bottom as consumers expect the world of apps/games but don't want to pay for them. Many developers (rightly so) are worried that this sort of mentality could take hold for XBLIGs too which could kill any chance of profitability on the service and subsequently drive serious developers to other platforms. The biggest reason I can see that this won't happen is that the Xbox 360 is a serious gaming machine and consumers have grown accustomed to purchasing $60+ games for it without so much as batting an eye, while iPhone users are often searching for something neat to show their friends or something simple to pass time, neither which is worth that much to them. It's a different thought process and a different user base.

Some have suggested economic reasons could be why Microsoft introduced the 80 point price point (and also axed 800 point games). I'm going to dismiss this idea though... $1 and $2.50 are both cheap enough already. If you're bad enough off that you cannot afford a $1 game, you probably can't afford a $2.50 game either.

I think the 80 price point is more of an admission by Microsoft that many of the current XLIGs simply aren't worth $2.50. Many of the apps and simple games are fine as an impulse buy and to pass some time, but really aren't very good or long lasting. By offering a $1 price point, these games will now seem a little more worthwhile. I have to assume that Microsoft saw several of these type of games simply not selling at their prior price of 200 points and (realizing that the games weren't going to get any better) opted to make them more attractive to consumers by allowing them to be priced closer to what they are really worth.

A potential pitfall of this new lower price point is that developers will put even less effort and less polish into their games. Yeah, that might happen... but if you look at sales numbers, you can see that the better, more polished games are far and away outselling those half-assed attempts. Savvy developers will eventually figure this out (I hope) and unsavvy developers will abandon the service for greener pastures. I think the upcoming rating system will go a long way to prevent this as well.

The other big change is the removal of the 800 point games. With one exception that I know of, 800 point games simply didn't sell on the XBLIGs service at all (maybe because few games were justifiably good enough to see at that point, even award winning games like Carnival and Weapon of Choice only sold for 400 points). This price point also matched the lower end of the XBLA games and realistically XBLIGs are rarely of the same level of quality/workmanship as those games on XBLA that are developed by larger teams (professional developers or larger Indie developers). Few XBLIG developers targeted the market (especially after many sales horror stories) so I don't see this as something that will affect too many people or be all that missed. Maybe some day if the quality of games on XBLIGs goes up, 800 points will make a triumphant return.

My biggest reason for wanting 800 point games to say is that they make the 400 point games seem cheaper by comparison (which is the price point<

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