Will Microsoft’s changes to Xbox Live Indie Games save the service?

When the Xbox Live Indie Games (XLIG) program launched in November 2008, it was described as the “YouTube for games” by XNA group general manager, Chris

Indie developers claim Microsoft "hid" the Xbox Live Indie Games option in the latest dashboard. Photo: David Wriglesworth

Previously known as Xbox Live Community Games, the program allows independent
developers to create, upload and sell their downloadable titles to Xbox Live users.

As of January 2012, the service contained over 2,250 games. The most popular titles
at this time were “Total Miner: Forge,” “CastleMiner Z” and “CastleMiner” – all of
which are clones of PC sandbox-builder, “Minecraft.”

Other games that have benefited from the service includes Ska Studio’s “I MAED A
GAM3 W1TH ZOMBIES 1N IT!!!1” and Barkers Crest Studio’s range of virtual Avatar
titles including “Avatar Golf” and “The Avatar Legends.” Both studios have gained
substantial profit from their XLIG titles.

Also announced at the start of 2012 were a number of changes Microsoft had made
to the Xbox Live Indie Games service. This included increasing the maximum file
size limit to 500MB (from 150MB); raising the price of bigger XLIG files and allowing
developers to create ten titles, up from eight. The changes were implemented to
upkeep the ever-growing service.

Nevertheless, Microsoft has come under criticism for losing interest in the service.
One Xbox Live Indie Games developer, David Johnston, told EDGE magazine
that “there’s a general feeling in the community that Microsoft would rather be
finished with indie games,” despite the recent changes.

His main reasoning for suggesting this was that a number of developers had seen
a drastic sales drop between October and November 2011. This coincides with the
release of the new Xbox 360 dashboard, which made accessing Xbox Live Indie
Games more difficult.

On top of that, developers can make more money elsewhere. Developers can
distribute their titles for the PC where they would earn 100% of the profits, unlike on
the XLIG service where developers receive 70% of the sales, with Microsoft retaining
30%. While this is acceptable for a part-time developer who creates games in his
bedroom, it’s by no means a sustainable form of income.

However, not all the blame can be shifted on to Microsoft as another reason for the
decline in indie game sales is down to the popularity of iOS gaming. Titles such
as “Angry Birds,” “Cut the Rope” and “Fruit Ninja” can be purchased for 69p each,
almost £3 less than an Xbox Live Indie Game title.

It’s difficult to see a future for Xbox Live Indie Games, especially with iOS gaming
dominating the casual market. Nonetheless, the success of a number of titles proves that it can be beneficial. Despite Microsoft improving the service for developers, will this be enough to give it another much needed boost? Only time will tell.

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