Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Microsoft Vs. Indies

Microsoft has rolled out a new Xbox 360 dashboard, mostly to support Kinect and to look spiffier. But they've also made changes beyond the cosmetic, and in the process have ignited a firestorm among indie game developers. It seems Microsoft has moved the indie games out of the game store (where they have been, and you'd logically expect to find games). Now indie games are stuffed into the Specialty Shops, right next to the Avatar Clothing store. Seems eminently logical, doesn't it? But for some reason indie game developers aren't feeling the love.

Some developers feel that Microsoft was just stringing them along, allowing indie games as a way to get major publishers to support digital distribution. Now that they've got the major publishers trying it out, there's no need to clutter things up by allowing little tiny developers to use up space. Microsoft points out that hey, now they're showing the top 50 titles and not just the top 20 titles. Yeah, counter indie game developers, if anyone can even find the Indie Game store when it's not even with the rest of the games.

Developers who have been working on games for Xbox Live  and were getting near to release are especially angry, now that it looks like their games won't get much exposure. Many were hoping that they could move their games to Windows Phone 7, hoping for some strong connection between the two platforms. That may still happen, but Microsoft hasn't really said much about that.

I think Microsoft is making a mistake by sidelining the independent games. While the new dashboard is a little spiffier, it still makes it hard to find games. Much like iTunes and the Android Market and PSN and WiiWare... they all try different interfaces, and nobody's found a really good one yet. So it's up to the developer/publisher to try and get customers to come to the game. Not optimal, especially when you have tens of thousands of games to compete with on some platforms.

This incident also illustrates the dangers of dealing with a distribution channel. Sometimes the big dog scratches (like Apple or Microsoft) and the fleas get thrown off. Then again, if you didn't deal with a big distributor, you'd be left in the trackless wilderness of the Internet hoping for customers to stumble across your little game. Which brings us right back to marketing...

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