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Is Xbox Live Arcade Past its Peak?

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Ron Carmel, co-founder of World Of Goo developer 2D Boy, says that many top level XBLA developers are packing up and heading to PSN or other platforms which offer more open development.

Edge has the story today about the informal poll conducted by Carmel. It’s an interesting read and here’s a few pull quotes:

The picture becomes even bleaker when Carmel looks at other platforms. Overall, development is projected to increase next year on every single platform except for XBLA, Facebook, and ageing systems including DS, PSP, Wii, and non-Android or iOS cellphones.

So why is XBLA on the wane when there is almost universal growth elsewhere? Sixty-nine percent of respondents said that the most important factor in their selection of which platform to develop for was the ease of working with the platform holder itself. Almost half of those – 48 per cent – described their experience of working with Microsoft as “excruciating.”

“XBLA played a pivotal role in the popularisation of independent games,” Carmel writes. “Microsoft proved that indie games can be million-sellers on consoles, and then sat on its laurels for half a decade as more nimble and innovative companies like Valve and Apple took the lead.”

“If things keep going the way they are, and XBLA keeps losing talented developers, I believe the diversity of games available on XBLA will diminish, quality will suffer, and revenue numbers will drop as players start to move away from an unremarkable portfolio of games.”

I’m gonna speculate that Team Meat took part in said poll.

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I found this story interesting as I haven’t noticed any sort of XBLA slowdown at all, but perhaps that’s more of a corporate slant to XBLA and not an indie slant?

Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

5 thoughts to “Is Xbox Live Arcade Past its Peak?”

  1. given that MS policy is that you have to have a publisher is no surprise that indies are not starting the work on XBLA, if they target the PC or even PS3 they have a guarantied release.
    So are big publishers looking for indies and piking the ones that they like more for their slots in XBLA or are they making them in house more, this seems to suggest the latter we will see in 2012 if there is a significant difference in the platform titles.

  2. Yeah, this seems like a really odd statement coming on the tail of the recent really strong Summer of Arcade. Granted, some of those were from big companies like Ubisoft, but still, it doesn’t seem like XBLA is starving for quality content.

    After reading the rest of the Edge article, I’m prepared to call this ‘poll,’ um, shall we say less than scientific? Carmel claims that PSN has a “lead,” but the article doesn’t specify what exactly that lead is in. Games released/being developed? Developers actively working on that platform? Copies sold? Sales dollars? And then there’s the pool of respondents. Was it really a fair cross-section of developers, or just Carmel’s developer buddies? Even assuming a balanced pool, only half the developers chose to respond. Doesn’t the very nature of this poll mean that candidates will self-select for those who are ready, willing and able to lodge complaints against Microsoft, creating a population bias? Would people who did have good experiences with XBLA even want to risk that relationship by participating in this poll?

    And is it really fair to compare XBLA to platforms like the App Store? What’s the penetration rate of Xboxes versus the various iDevices? And even the smallest games on XBLA are going to be bigger, more complex, and more expensive than the legion of $1 apps. They’re very different markets, so how is it useful to make that comparison?

    There isn’t a whole lot of information in the article, so maybe I’m being unfair. (Or just over-analyzing, which I’m quite prone to.) But at first glance it looks to me like this is a classic case of someone starting with a conclusion, and constructing their study to support their preconceived narrative. It’s an interesting topic, and if indie devs are having problems with XBLA, that’s something I, as a gamer, would be interested in. But when the conversation is framed in this kind of bombastic language (i.e., “excrutiating”), it gives the appearance that people are pushing an agenda rather than having a legitimate conversation.

  3. So what is indie anymore anyways? Are we talking indie devs like indie channel because if that’s the case then I can see where they’re coming from. The whole indie channel debacle and all these indie games built on Live going to Steam and making so many more downloads out of the gate makes sense.

    I understand the exclusivity is certainly lacking but isn’t that an across the board type thing too? Companies aren’t making console exclusives any more anyways. I thought this had kind of been explained by itself.

    I don’t see how this has stopped certain dev houses from creating great games that are exclusive (maybe only for a time) to XBLA at all.

    I can understand the whole MS is hard to work with thing and their environment is strict and all but with smartphone penetration and Steam indie service, (along with many other options for indie developers) there’s just less relevance in the Xbox indie channel.

    XBLA still seems to have plenty of developers making smaller not-so-much “indie” style games that wouldn’t see the light of day in retail and that seems to be the focus more than indie games anyways.

    XBLA and PSN are turning into a great spot for studios to try and push a new experience or a game that might not be AAA but could still easily find an audience. As long as those types of games are still being considered and focused on, I still feel that both are plenty important. Indie focus or no.

  4. I would say that, rather than over-analyzing, you’re casting a critical eye over statements of unproven quality. That is always a good thing (except when the statements are mine).

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