Microsoft Does Not Handle Indies Very Well

Back when Microsoft announced the XBox Live Indie Games service, it was welcomed as a bastion for indie developers wanting to make a name for themselves in the console game world. A massive flood of games resulted over the years. Over that same course of time, Microsoft has not been able to figure out just what to do with these games. This is apparent from the often controversial placements of the Indie Game section in pretty much every Dash update.

The latest move has not been met with any less controversy. Indie devs have taken to the developer forums to complain that it takes gamers 17 button presses to get to the top download lists. This is made all the more infuriating when compared to the Arcade and Games on Demand sections that require only 8 button presses. For those still not convinced at how bad this latest update is, here is forum user Factory Eight’s break down of the steps:

For those who haven’t seen it yet, here’s the breakdown of how to access the channel, and what you see:

  1. Boot up the console
  2. Sign in
  3. Right Bumper three times to Games
  4. D-Pad down to Games Marketplace
  5. Right bumper once to Games
  6. Wait a few seconds for the rolling advert to change to Indie Games to see DBP winners and the Kotaku list (not the general XBLIG list), OR
  7. D-Pad down once and right three times to Game Type
  8. D-Pad right twice to Indie Games

Ben Kane from Going Loud Studios put together a nice list of many of the wins and losses of the update stating:

While I think there are some great wins for indie game discoverability (Bing, related games, picks), the usability of the indie games section has taken a big hit. There’s nothing to browse anymore. There’s no reason to visit. There’s no sense of there even being a place to visit at all, even if you do manage to find it.

Frankly, I’m surprised and impressed at what we got. I think that what we lost is overwhelming though.

This is pretty sad. I think what is really happening is that Microsoft never expected this to take off the way it did. Now it is a real threat to the big guns in the Arcade section. While indie developers are clamoring for more equal footing with Arcade developers, Microsoft is unwilling to follow through as it would theoretically “lower the quality bar” of arcade games, thus lower revenues. So they are stuck treating indie games as a step child. It sucks.

Some of these concerns could be done away with by implementing simple changes such as allowing for better search and sorting functionality within the indie games section. They could add a few new promotional channels  to it as well. These are just some suggestions, but the primary complaint by indie developers is that Microsoft needs to stop screwing over indie developers with every dash update.

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