NEWS - Monday, January 18, 2010

Arkedo: Xbox Live Indie Games “At A Crossroads”

French developer Arkedo Studio has told us that Microsoft’s Xbox Live Indie Games service has huge potential if the platform holder opts to make it more financially attractive to developers.

Speaking in a recently published interview, Arkedo founder Camille Guermonprez said that the success of the App Store could lead Microsoft to change its approach to its XNA-based amateur games creation platform, which was originally fashioned as a "place where everyone could create games, and learn with others: a kind of free online game university with a big playground".

"I don’t think they want to - or maybe even can - promote specific titles, because their philosophy is that they provide the tools and the environment," said Guermonprez. "It’s free to play, but everyone is responsible for their own behaviour. In this specific area of the Xbox Live environment, the Indie Games section, Microsoft is just an enabler, and does not really wear a publisher hat. That seems to be part of the founding philosophy of the place.

"But things may be changing. I believe the service has been made much more attractive in the last few months, with very high quality games (just sort by popularity, the first 20 are really worth their seven minutes of free demos), but also precisely because Microsoft made some changes like the votes, and the popularity tab.

"There’s still a lot to be done to make the place attractive financially, but I believe that was not the philosophy when they started to build it, so it’s a bit hard to change... But there is a new reality: the App Store changed everything with instant access to thousands of games, and lots of great ones for less than three dollars. It created a very strong - almost unbeatable - ecosystem in less than 18 months. The closest to that on the 360 is not XBLA, which is more and more heading toward big budgets projects for the publishers and $15 entry tickets for the customers, but the Indie Games.

"Microsoft is now at a crossroads, and I have no idea which path they will take. Will they allow some more XNA developers to upgrade to XBLA, as they did with The Dishwasher, amongst other examples? Will they start to promote XNA? Will they upgrade XNA to create more traffic? No idea. The only thing I know is that the potential is huge."

As featured in our extensive overview of Indie Games’ first six months, a number of developers approached the service as a primary business opportunity rather than as a secondary income maker, with mixed results. The managing director of Clover developer Binary Tweed said last year that the company was looking at the platform as an "arena for proving concepts" rather than as a money-making space, noting that the size of the market "is prohibitively small to be financially viable".



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