Xbox IndieGate – Microsoft Responds, Too Little, Too Late

Microsoft broke the month long silence on the Xbox Live Indie Games rating scandal today with this announcement:

We’ve heard your feedback and have made some changes to the ratings system on Starting today, only users with Xbox LIVE Gold subscriptions will be allowed to rate content on the website. By implementing this change, we believe our customers will experience more consistent ratings and a significantly reduced potential for abuse across the entire Xbox catalog. We have also investigated rolling back suspect votes, however, we determined it will not be possible to do this.

In addition, we are investigating users who may have violated their user agreement during this series of events. Violating user agreements may result in actions up to and including banning from Xbox LIVE, removal of currently posted games, and loss of ability to post games in the future.

This, quite frankly, is typical the half-assed support Microsoft shows Xbox Live Indie Games.   No, I’m not happy.

Matthew Doucette of Xona Games wrote in the forums today:

Score Rush: #171
Decimation X3: #163
From about top 20 rankings (from when the rating manipulation started).

And now, Microsoft’s response is “we don’t want to fix anything – suck it up Matt.”  Now, I don’t have any games on XBLIG (I pulled IncaBlocks after using it to prove just how bad the security hole was), but instead of developers in the list of affected games attacking each other, they should consider class action against Microsoft.   I pointed out how one developer has lost at least $3,600 last time I wrote on this matter – there is a real loss associated with Microsoft’s neglect.

I call shenanigans on the claim it’s not possible to fix the damage.  Microsoft has a record of every user’s vote.  I know this because when I log into it remembers my votes.  Removing votes from fake live accounts is not challenge.  Depending on the amount of fake account voting involved, other votes can be matched against simple web access logs to look for patterns in browser, IP, timeframe, etc.   Microsoft has a tool for writing SQL against IIS logs.

The ratings will not fix themselves over time.  Microsoft has yet to fix voting games from your game library.  Gamers have to go back and find the game in the Marketplace to rate them.  There is no requirement to download and/or play a game before rating it.

Instead of discussion new features and growing XBLIG, developers have spent the last year fighting to keep what they have.  Broken Top Downloads/Bestselling/New Releases lists, getting buried in Specialty Shops, and stopping voting abuse have all required huge vocal efforts from the community.

Someone send a dictionary to “Team-XNA” so they can look up “democratize“.  Any developer interested in the stats I’ve posted, you can download a spreadsheet here.

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