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The New Dash Effect on XBLIG Part Deux
Date 2/6/2012    Tags XBLIG    (2)

Sunday afternoon I posted the article The New Dash Effect on XBLIG to this blog and sent out a couple Tweets mentioning it. I figured it would get moderate developer interest and was mostly written in response to several other developers openly wondering about the state of XBLIG since the new Xbox 360 Dashboard went live a couple months ago. Monday morning I discovered that not only picked up the story but also got comments from Microsoft on the matter copied in old comments from Microsoft. The story blew up on Twitter and pretty soon other game news outlets like OXM chimed in too. I’m not sure anything I’ve ever written before has spread that fast that quickly. New media is powerful.

I wasn’t given the chance to respond to Microsoft’s replies on this issue (EDIT: their old responses, that weren't actually to my story but to a similar related complaint), but given that this is my blog, I will now (EDIT: in a manner as if they were just made now).

Microsoft says:
Indie developers have told us they are looking for an easy route to market, which is the biggest hurdle to overcome, and we've provided that for them with Xbox Live Indie Games. But they've got to take that next step and do marketing after the launch. We encourage indie developers to work together and support each other in marketing efforts, like the Indie Games Winter and Summer Uprising promotions.

At this point I really wonder if Microsoft even read my post or if this is a canned PR response. Or a brilliant deflection of the original issue. No one is disputing the ease one with which one can get a game on XBLIG (which is both a blessing and a curse) or the fact that developers should market their games pre and post release. The entire point of my previous blog post was to show the decline in gamers downloading games each time Microsoft has further buried the games marketplace (XBLIG especially though not specifically). Simply saying that we need to market our games more ignores the fact that Microsoft has twice now made the channel less visible and more difficult to market.

Tell anyone with an iPhone that you have a game for sale on the AppStore and they know exactly where it is. Why? Because it’s right there on the homepage of your phone in plain sight. Tell someone with an Xbox 360 you sell a game on XBLIG and you usually have to do two things. First you have to explain what XBLIG is and second you have to detail an approximately seven step process of how to get to XBLIG. Anyone that has ever done any basic usability development or design knows the more hoops you force customers to jump through, the fewer customers will reach the end.

Microsoft also specifically mentions the Winter and Summer Uprising events in response to my posting which I find incredibly ironic, as if they are telling me this is what I should be doing. I guess they don’t realize that I had a game in the Winter Uprising and that I was the co-coordinator of the Summer Uprising event. Both events got a ton of promotion from the press and very little of that promotion translated into increased sales for the games involved (with one exception, which I will touch in soon). Gamers were genuinely interested in the titles in the promotion but my personal belief is that we lost them because it wasn’t easy to go from reading about the games on their PC to finding the games on their Xbox.

Microsoft says:
The new Xbox 360 Dashboard update provides improved ways for consumers to find great indie titles, including the ability to search with voice. We've been experimenting with Xbox 360 Dashboard promotions for indies, such as our Halloween 'Shocktober' campaign. And we've been helping the community support their own amazing promotions, including the recent Summer Uprising.

These dash promotions like Shocktober and the ones done for the Uprisings are the only effective promotion I’ve seen on XBLIG and the fact they work only furthers my argument that XBLIG is too buried. Games in these promotions saw increased sales when links to them were placed on the FIRST page on the Dash. Hmmm… less hoops, more sales. Novel idea, right?

Microsoft says:
Indie games on Xbox 360 are generating a growing revenue stream for developers. In fact, the average revenue for the top 50 indie games is now well over $100,000 per title. When you consider the increasing install base of Xbox 360 consoles (over 960,000 consoles were sold in the US during the week of Black Friday 2011), it's clear that Xbox Live Indie Games is a great opportunity for developers."

XBLIG is a great opportunity to learn game development but don’t kid yourself that it’s a great opportunity to make any real money (unless you’re making Minecraft clones). $100,000 per title sounds great until you really break that down. First off, we know that FortressCraft has sold $2,000,000 of a possible $5,000,000 (50 titles multiplied by $100,000 each). This past week FortressCraft is the fourth bestselling game on the service (behind three other Minecraft clones). I think it’s pretty safe to assume that those other Minecraft clones are also well above or approaching $100,000 in sales.

Removing FortressCraft from the equation, that $100,000 per title number drops quickly down to $61,000 per title. I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1 has made at least $140,000 in sales as of March of last year. The Impossible Game has made more. Other games like Avatar Drop, Avatar Paintball, and Avatar Golf have certainly made a ton too. Toss out those other Minecraft clones with tons of sales from the equation. You’re really looking at 10-20 games that have done really well and a bunch of others that aren’t even close to $100,000. But saying that doesn’t sound nearly as positive. It’s like saying the top 50 PC Indie games will all make $1 million dollars and neglecting to mention that Minecraft will take up $33 million of that.

But I guess in the end, it’s a lot easier to spin the facts to make the service look rosy than to actually make the changes needed to make it a worthwhile place to develop games before. And it’s a lot easier to dodge the hard questions than it is to justify why you’re making it harder for gamers to find games on a game console.

Going back to the Winter Uprising and Summer Uprising events, two events created to showcase the best that can be done with XBLIG. 24 developers in total were involved. Care to guess how many of those developers still develop games for XBLIG? I’ll give you a hint, I can count them all on one hand and still have a finger or two to spare.

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