Over the past month I’ve been quite openly critical of Microsoft’s (lack of) support for XBLIG. The final statement from Microsoft on the ratings manipulation cemented what I already knew, but didn’t wish to believe. George Clingerman summed it up better than I can:
Anyone trying to make a business out of XBLIG is crazy. There’s no sign of any investment from Microsoft to make it a worthwhile business venture and you’ve seen that for years. XBLIG is something you should release your games on if you’re a hobbyist, if you’re a game company and you just want to try an idea out for fun, if you’re trying to build a name for yourself or as just one more extra platform to port your game to after you’ve already gotten it released on other platforms just to help with the diversification of your game portfolio. Until you start seeing quick responses from Microsoft with fixes and changes being prioritized like they matter, with Microsoft promoting the channel and developers and investing in XBLIG as much as you are, don’t base any sort of business plan upon it unless you really like gambling.
I personally think XBLIG is still the bee’s knees, but I’m a hobbyist and it fit my goals perfectly. More than meets the needs actually. If my ratings get jacked, no big deal (and they did get jacked). If Microsoft is late on paying me. No biggie. If Microsoft has a terrible response time, I’m not dependent on their responses. From day one, businesses have struggled to make their needs fit the current system. From peer review, to the inability to schedule their releases, inability to change their price points for sales, inability to have better exposure on the dashboard, inability to have any sort of control over the store their selling in promoting their product. None of it matches. It’s sad because it could, but it just doesn’t.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, because many know what XBLIG could be. Without Microsoft’s support though, XBLIG will remain an obscure body in the S-K system. (Microsoft is Emperor Ming and Flash is dead in the rocket).
So what does this mean for GameMarx and XboxIndies? Not that much really…
XI has been a wonderful snowball that started from a small idea I had for GameMarx. I figured if I made a site to pull in the news feeds from several sites that cover XBLIG it would become a traffic generator for all involved. One thing led to another and I found myself getting Nick Gravelyn’s the site running again. The site currently is doing around 25,000 page views a month and has 100 RSS subscribers – which is awesome when you consider it’s mostly just a database site at the moment!
Everything we’ve talked about doing we still plan on doing. Supporting XI is really 90% all fun stuff – getting to add new features. We don’t have to generate content on a regular basis which is harder than one might think. Dylan and I have long histories building application websites and it’s fun to have a site where you get to pick what comes next.
GM is going to see more changes, but this has more to do with XI than Microsoft issues. Originally we planned to turn GM into a community site, similar to GiantBomb. (If that link doesn’t load it’s because they are on Amazon EC2). Now that we also run XI, it makes more sense to put the community features into XI and let GM be just news and reviews.
We are however reducing the amount of time we put into content generation on GM. I would argue though that we are learning how to spend our time more efficiently and are increasing content output. A prime example is scrapping the weekly show. In less than 1/2 the time it takes to shoot, edit, and produce the weekly show I can create 6-8 “GameMarx Trials” episodes. I’ve also noticed that people spend a good deal of time on GameMarx looking at the game pages. I want to have more GM content per game to take advantage of this. This means our focus is now reviews and trial videos.
We will keep the podcast live, every Friday night at 10 PM EST. I’ve been producing a near-weekly podcast for three years now (not the same podcast, I’ve been involved in creating three). I enjoy it, and look forward to recording every week. I love having the show live on ustream and involving the audience chat into the show. I also like have guests on the show in a revolving chair fashion (if you would like to be on the show sometime, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Part of the reason for reducing the time commitment to GM is to make room for a new project. Not ready to talk about it yet, as CodeStock is right around the corner and will consume most of me between until it’s over. I will say that it is a game, and it will be in XNA for XBLIG. It is being made because we want to make it, and its success isn’t going to be measured in sales.
Okay, maybe I’ll share a little hint – it’s something we’ve already started:
Damn, I should have kept up with all those “XNA 4.0 breaking changes” blog posts…
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