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We're Indie, we like Microsoft. Too Controversial?
by James Silva on 05/23/13 12:00:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I wrote this post on our blog a few months ago to express how absolutely weird and unfortunate I thought it was that the trending perception of Microsoft and indies had gotten so bad that silly creative decisions of mine were being taken as Microsoft's ever-burgeoning evilness toward indies, or something.  My message was this: we're indie, we make the games we want to make, Microsoft publishes them, and the past five years of this have been great, and it's too bad that that's not super newsworthy, because this whole time it just feels like I must watch, powerless, as Lumbergh keeps taking my red stapler.

Then Xbox One happened, and a longtime fan of ours posted this on my facebook wall:
What's going to happen to Dishwasher and Charlie Murder if they are not doing indie on Xbox?

Questionable grammar aside, I was super glad he posted this, because through no fault of his own he's unwittingly illustrated what happens when these narratives blow up. You know that thing about no self-publishing on Xbox One?  The meaning of that quote was that the partner/publisher relationship is currently the same (i.e. what we, an indie studio, been doing for the last five years) but they're exploring ways to improve it.  Basically "everything's the same, stay tuned for improvements" mutated into "no indies on Xbox One, ever" in a few hours.

Finally, a disclaimer: I do not think there is a vast conspiracy to unjustly villify Microsoft. That would be weird, possibly an indicator of neurosis, even. I just wish I could add my "everything is fine" experience to the mix more often.

And with that, here's the original post:

In Charlie Murder, the whole band gets Windows Phones on the fictional t2f (short for ta2fön) network.  There’s a bunch of stuff you can use your phone for, like email (some of it rote, some of it interesting), camera phone, and squid-themed microblogging site squ.iddl.us.  I thought it was a fun way to give your characters a bit of an info hub, and I’ve been a big fan of Windows Phone ever since my Samsung Focus and its marvelous bulging battery bomb (that’s another story). Also, we have a game on Windows Phone, and we definitely make a buck or two whenever someone buys it, so that’s cool. Yet still, I felt the need to tweet this:

Twits

In the comments in Joystiq’s rad Charlie Murder preview write up, there were a few begrudging Microsoft for what was (erroneously) interpreted as some sort of paid off order from up high to include the phone in the game.  This is obviously entirely untrue; if anyone’s guilty of some sort of slimy promotion, I guess that would be me, as I’d like to get more people interested in a pretty solid other alternative to iPhone (and, again, we’ve got Z0MB1ES on dat ph0ne!!!1)

Win Phone!

But I think this illuminates an underlying issue, namely that of Microsoft’s misunderstood role as indie games publisher, and how that ties to the trending media narrative on Microsoft being “bad for indies.”  Where do we stand on all this?  Read on:

So, Microsoft is publishing Charlie Murder. What does that mean?  Here are a few facts to set the record straight:

  • We have full creative control.  This is our game.  100% of the (non-localized) content in Charlie Murder was made by Michelle and me, or, in a few cases, by a few gaming celebrities who we got some rad cameos from (yes, celebrities).
  • Ska Studios is just Michelle and me. We work in our basement. We have two cats (you knew that).
  • Microsoft gives us localized text from our English text, finds bugs, tells us how to fix bugs when we’re stumped, tells us how close to passing cert we are, and takes us out to dinner when we’re in town.  They provide some great creative and design feedback (personal favorite: “More witches with handguns!”) and technical services that have helped us nail down some obscenely obscure bugs, and they host internal Charlie Murder playtest parties (“sessions”), which is awesome.
  • (We can’t talk about money, but rest assured we didn’t get paid to feature Windows Phone or write this blog. And shame on you for asking, seriously, who just asks people about their finances!?)

I can’t emphasize that first point enough: Charlie Murder is our game.  Four years ago I started working on what was meant to be an homage to early 90′s coin op brawlers set in a punk rock apocalypse universe, and when our then-producer at Microsoft told me they were interested in publishing it to XBLA, I jumped at the opportunity.  Charlie Murder was my baby until Michelle came along, and now it’s our baby.  Our friends at Microsoft love the game and are hugely supportive of it, but at the end of the day, Michelle and I are the only people who get to work on it.  Not to say we’ve ever really butted heads with them, because, quite franky…

Working with Microsoft is great.  I have heard a few stories that contradict my experience, and I know quite a few people who are happier on platforms other than XBLA, and that’s fine for them.  XBLA is a closed, carefully curated platform with its own set of fairly rigid standards and protocols.  For me, it was just a matter of “do the work, release the game,” and that’s exactly what we did.  Going from a hobbyist PC bedroom developer to having conference calls with Microsoft (admittedly, still from my bedroom) was such a rush that the supposed terrors of having to fill out lots of forms or fix messaging errors were absolutely lost on me.  And shortly afterThe Dishwasher: Dead Samurai launched, I absolutely spent a night at my producer’s cabin in Snoqualmie, drinking IPA and playing around with GarageBand.  Yes, it was fine, it was fun, and it’s unfortunate that “everything’s fine” doesn’t really register as newsworthy, because…

There is currently a “Microsoft is bad for indies” narrative trending in gaming news.  I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy nut, but narratives happen. When one indie says they’re never working with Microsoft again, the gaming public becomes curious as to whether this is an isolated incident, or part of some sort of ugly truth, and pretty soon everyone wants to know if I’ve just been secretly hiding my experience with the ugly truth, or if I’ll be moving to PS4 because of the ugly truth, when in fact this perceived ugly truth is nothing more than 4 or 5 data points.  My experience is and always has been “everything’s fine,” but, again, that’s not exactly newsworthy.  Nothing is more delicious than that ugly truth, which is also unfortunate, because…

Reinforcing the “Microsoft is bad for indies” narrative doesn’t hurt Microsoft, it hurts indies.  I vividly remember reading this IGN article calling XBLIG a failure roughly a year into its life and thinking basically the same thing: telling thousands of readers that Microsoft is failing at indie gaming is telling thousands of potential customers that Microsoft is failing at indie gaming.  And while everyone likes a sale, the ones who really, desperately need the money aren’t the Microsoft people who greenlight the projects, they’re the indie developers who are trying to quit their day jobs, trying to buy a house, trying to raise a baby.  As a consumer, would you think twice about buying a game from a “failed platform?” Would you hesitate at buying an indie game from a company that “screws indies?”  But that’s the current narrative, and while it sucks for Microsoft, it sucks a lot more for indie developers who are publishing on XBLA.

We’re human beings.  We love making games, and we want to keep making games for a really stupidly long time.  We think our publisher is great, but more importantly, we think our games are great.  Hopefully you do too.


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Comments


Tyler Shogren
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Are you still publishing on 360? How long does MS plan to support it?

James Silva
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Charlie Murder is still coming to XBLA, and the goal (which seems pretty reasonable at this point) is to launch well before Xbox One comes out.

We're planning on working on Xbox One once Charlie's done, but there are only two of us so we can't really manage any sort of pipelining, so basically our plan is to finish this one, then start the next thing. I can't speak for MS, but I expect that they'll be shifting pretty heavily to Xbox One, so we'll do that too :).

Tyler Shogren
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Thanks for the reply. Might have to track down a 360 to try your stuff :)

Jim Perry
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Maybe it's just me, but I still find it hard to believe how badly the interwebz screws up every piece of information that comes out. I'm surprised I haven't given myself a concussion facepalming so often. :\

MS consistently screws up PR stuff. Why was everyone still shocked by the reveal? The optimist in me hoped they would have learned by now and at least tried to one-up Sony's reveal, but they managed to make the Xbox One look worse than the Wii U. :(

I'm hoping they redeem theyselves at E3 and get some dev info out at Build (or before).

Camilo R
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Can't say I know how the business side works but I made my first game on a console thanks to XNA, Sony never did anything like that for a console, and dev kits have always been near impossible to get for individuals starting out. I wanted to make a game to experiment with while in college, so I wasn't going to sell it or anything like that and when I looked at consoles, MS was the only one that had something accessible. The support for XNA was phenomenal, starter kits of all types, code snippets, art, video tutorials, etc.. I ended up making a game that worked on my 360, PC and Windows phone and I did it in only 3 weeks time.

Now when I look at companies for something like this (someone starting out without a convincing business pitch yet) I still don't see any company (not even MS now that XNA is dead) doing anything for these people. Sony is doing a good job (still too early to call but they're trying) with their Mobile platform and Vita but there has been no mention of a similar initiative for their PS4. MS killed XNA, and we still don't know what they're doing to do. And Nintendo has to choose you.

Robert Boyd
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Actually Sony did something like that way before Microsoft did.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_Yaroze

XNA was much easier and widespread than Net Yaroze though.

Mike Monroe
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While I don't know how announced it is, but Nintendo is working with Unity to provide free Wii-U licenses for indies. And as far as I know Nintendo didn't have demanding game requirements for entry, other than the office-requirement (which has now been removed).

Christian Nutt
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If you want to read about how the Net Yaroze worked, this Gamasutra feature is great:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/169245/15_years_later_how_s
onys_net_.php

As you can read, for some reason, Sony US didn't promote it nearly as heavily as Europe and Japan did, so the best games for it came from/stayed in Europe and Japan, mostly.

Keith Thomson
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They kind of did that with the PS2 and the PS2 Linux Kit as well. It was a full development environment for the PS2, and even had all but 1 or 2 of the hardware development manuals included as PDF with the kit. (Didn't include ones related to copy protection and the chip used for said protection.)

The PS3 had linux as well, but lacked the development extras that the PS2 linux kit had. You couldn't even access the GPU, so it was useless for games development.

Andreas Heldt
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Sony' Playstation Mobile comes later than XNA, but it works similar. You can make PSVita games with C#.

Axel Cholewa
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Nice read! I didn't really like the reveal, but I also didn't buy the whole bad for indies story. Thanks that you ut another spin on it!

James Silva
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Thanks! My tiny goal is accomplished (not sarcastic--usually people try to convince me that my experience never happened).

Regarding the reveal, yeah, they were obviously aiming for a different audience, but it wouldn't have killed them to show 10-15% more game. E3, I hear!

Rob Graeber
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Yeah you can do the official XBLA route, but how much did that cost you separate from making the game?

And there's nothing wrong with asking about finances unless there's either an obvious business reason not to, or if it's nothing but a front.

James Silva
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We self fund all things development, in that we work out of our basement, pay ourselves salary out of our previous games' revenue (which is still holding up surprisingly well), don't contract or hire, etc. Can't talk much about the publishing side, but our development experience cost-wise is basically more or less what someone would expect from self publishing on PC.

Kris Steele
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The disappointing piece is that there doesn't appear to be anything like XBLIG planned for XBone (not that any of us are surprised about that) while companies like Sony and Nintendo are embarrassing a self-publishing model. Saying no Indies is wrong, but it's not allowing for Indies in the same way the other companies are doing it either.

Chris Rabideau
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You should really read the content of articles you comment on. The only change being made to XBLIG for Xbox One (so far announced, at least) is that all of those games will be included under the same "Games" heading as Arcade and Digital Download games. This is instead of being cordoned off into their own private little sections, which has lead to some customers unable to find games, sometimes even when they know exactly what they're looking for. (Despite the simplicity of just being able to search with your voice if you have Kinect and find exactly what you want pretty easily.) Microsoft has done the opposite of saying no to Indies. As a developer with two games on the Xbox 360's Indie Games marketplace I have a better understanding than many seem to have about this process and I completely agree with James here. Microsoft has made it so amazingly easy and fun to create games for the Xbox 360, that I also feel like it's just crazy how much bad press has come out about this. The only concerns I have about Indie games so far has been with them talking about the end of XNA, but not offering up a new framework that moves indie development forward. I've found it hard to believe that Indie games would continue into the next generation, when you can't even install XNA on Windows 8 at the moment and there are no real built-in frameworks (similar to XNA) found in Visual Studio 2012. My hope is that at E3 (when Microsoft will begin the real discussion about games) we'll hear a lot more about this issue and a new framework will become available.

Mike Monroe
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From what I can tell, the genuine negativity has come from:

- Microsoft dropping the ball on marketing for your game (see Team Meat) when that may have been part of your agreement they would help
- Trying their best to require an exclusive release, which as an indie I think is a terrible idea because it seems traditionally you won't start making your serious money until you release on Steam and other platforms
- Failing cert costs you an insane amount of money. And failing cert for updates can basically leave your game dead in the water (see Fez) unless you want to pay the massive fine.
- Updating in itself is a very long and sticky process (see Monday Night Combat, TF2)
- Their latest dashboard design made it a lot more complicated to get to the indie section, and reduced their visibility


I do like Microsoft, and they sort of helped get the popular indie ball rolling to be honest. I don't think they're villains, just a little slow perhaps. By them not addressing some of these issues it gives a sort of off-putting impression that people can easily feed into.

Matthew Mouras
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Don't forget the discontinuation of support for XNA!

Amir Sharar
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That last point has been fixed as of an update around a year ago. Indie games are just as visible as even retail games. More importantly, Indie games index well on 360 Bing searches (which is the most valuable tool for any Indie looking to release on the 360).

I agree with the notion that while they've been market leader in this regard for a little, and I would credit Apple and Google for taking over and making a lot of MS's practices look antiquated.

Brian Provinciano
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This post is irresponsible.

You can speak all you want about your experience and how you feel it was good, but you have absolutely no right to make claims in regards to other indies. Your theory that the negativity feeds off itself is not the case. I'd heard many, many horror stories about XBLA prior my experience, but was optimistic and expected things would go fine for me. I went in all smiles. I used to defend Microsoft when people would rag on them. I bought a 360 long before a PS3. Working with them first hand is what changed my opinion.

Speak about YOUR experience as much as you like, but do not attempt undermine the experiences of others.

You have no frame of reference. You've never worked for another studio. You've never worked on any other platform. You've never worked with any other publisher. You've never self published. You should compare the contract terms you signed to those of every other platform. Then you might start asking questions.

Those benefits you speak of are provided by any other publisher, many provided by other platforms which allow self-publishing for free. All of those benefits are "services" which Microsoft bills you for.

Adam Bishop
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James said "I have heard a few stories that contradict my experience, and I know quite a few people who are happier on platforms other than XBLA, and that’s fine for them."

That does not sound to me like someone who is claiming to speak for all independent developers on XBLA.

Dave Bellinger
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@Adam Bishop

Honestly, I read that more as diffusive and belittling those experiences in order to validate his own. Not saying that was the intention, but that's what came across.

James Silva
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@Dave Bellinger

It definitely wasn't my intention to belittle the experiences of others, or disparage other indies, or suggest that if your experience wasn't my experience, you're incorrect, and I'm sorry if it came across that way. The only goal of this article was to pass on my experience.

Steve Melton
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@Brian

Maybe it's irresponsible, but I'd argue that the general group that makes such an uproar is equally so. Making such heavy handed comments against a major industry competitor looks bad to both future publishers and the media in general. In any other industry bridges would have burned to the ground at this point, and in general it could make companies apprehensive about publishing future indie content. The way James handled it was, for lack of a better phrase "PR friendly" while still pushing the point. I wish those with bad experiences would do the same, but all reports paint horns and a pitchfork on the big companies, and it doesn't help anyone, nor make any changes in policy.

Robert Boyd
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This article is no more irresponsible than other indie developers sharing their negative experiences with Microsoft.

Diego Leao
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@Brian The value of your answer was diminished by your tone. Take a deep breath, man :D

James just wanted to remember us that MS is still "doable". However, what James really _is_ missing, is that the previous elitist scheme (of a few "game slots" a year) is not good at all. It needs _change_.

In light of what the other two major players are doing, it _does_ mean MS is _exclusively_ maintaining its "walled garden".

No self publishing does also means cutting Indies out - last I've heard being Indie generally (not always) means NOT having a publisher. Yeah, some great Indies managed to "get in", but they are very few.

James is awesome, but he is in a confortable position in the current MS system (his merit!) and therefore not impacted by this "legacy treatment" for "Indies", so yeah, I get why some people will flame on his arguments. Silva fails to see the ecosystem as a whole and focus his argument around a very narrow view that will have no impact on most Indies.

But you are wrong to just point fingers, generalize his words, and overall "take it personally".

Jarod Smiley
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Cool story bro...I'm glad you are having success and enjoying yourself at MS. But this is the internet, things always get blown out of proportion, and it will never stop probably. I personally have read/heard/experienced enough distasteful decisions and PR nonsense from MS to really not be bothered with the company anymore. I support platforms that 1) seem to be the most consumer friendly, and two, who believe in the medium enough to focus its energy on innovating it. The One seems the furthest away from that frame of mine atm...

But as I said, it's good to have other perspectives, and this was mentioned before in Game Informer and other websites how one negative indy comment is just more exciting and gets more clicks than a positive one. I'm glad to read something positive for once. But if you guys are only on one, unfortunately, I'll never be able to see what you guys are made of.

Please branch out if you ever have free time once your projects are done '-)

James Silva
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Thanks for the feedback!

Lance McKee
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Thanks for the great article James! A few years ago I had the opportunity to work on an XBLA title published by Microsoft and I also was amazed at how great they were to work with. I've done a couple XBLIG as well and those have gone very smoothly.

Robert Lever
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Nice to see what the other half think. Thanks for being rational.

John Paduch
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Nevermind, removed. Not worth ranting against one of MS's rare, pet indie devs.

James Silva
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And you removed it in iterations, too! I kept hitting F5 and noticing the reply that included the word 'pet' kept getting shorter.

Mike Griffin
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I've heard some displeasure from small devs who worked on XBLIG games, and have since moved on to OUYA development. They felt somewhat lost on XBLIG among tons of generic titles, card games, etc. And the message they kept interpreting from Microsoft (through their practices) was that XBLIG acted as a resource pool from which Microsoft could cherry-pick hits for co-publishing and 'promotion' to full XBLA titles, and as for the rest of you -- well, good luck.

But I suppose part of their angst was perhaps based on not being cherry-picked for promotion, or not having the visibility they had hoped for.

It isn't like XBLA is the golden ticket without compromise, either. We recall the ugliness of Polytron dealing with updates for FEZ on XBLA, and not being able to afford the upkeep.

I suppose every indie marketplace is bound to have tales of great success or turbulent failures, and everything in between.

It does help when the platform holder goes above and beyond to publicly extend an olive branch to independents, and the absence of that message at the Xbone reveal was fairly worrying to some. But it doesn't necessarily indicate a muting of the indie ecosystem Microsoft has cultivated for the past 7 years on XBLA. It would be a dumb move to throw that away.

James Silva
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Well, thanks in part to the recent influx in Minecraft clones, XBLIG is now ridiculously successful compared to platforms like Ouya and PSM (mobile), which I think are the main others in the Hobbyists Self Publishing on Consoles category. That's definitely something, but boy is it overlooked...

Jacob Germany
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@James The Ouya hasn't been released yet. You can hardly cite XBLIG's success as greater or lesser than a platform that does not yet exist.

Josh Griffiths
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You're obviously suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

Abraham Tatester
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+1 for humor, not necessarily truth!

Johnathon Swift
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That narrative seems to stem from Sony making their big announcement about allowing anyone to be registered to publish on the PS4, and Steam's weird greenlight thing continuing. In comparison Microsoft said nothing, so the obvious narrative to latch onto was "Microsoft not as good as others". Narratives are what sells news after all.

While I suppose, from the standpoint of an individual developer already in with Microsoft and that finds their system to be "just fine" that's not really a narrative that rings true; it's still a narrative with some truth too it. The thought of just being able to make whatever game I want, and suddenly have it show up on the PS4 and Steam with what is assumed to be zero conference calls or forms or etc. is still more appealing to me, and I suspect to many, than being part of Microsoft's heavily "curated" platform.

So while the narrative might have blown up into hyperbole, it doesn't mean there wasn't a logical starting place for it. "Microsoft not as good for indie's as other platforms" doesn't mean Microsoft is necessarily BAD for indies, but if things like Sony's promises and Greenlight come to fruition in the right way, it does actually mean exactly what it says.

Kujel s
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Letting developers self publish isn't that big a deal (anymore) unless you have solved the discovery problem, that is the true big deal. Whom ever solves this problem will make a killing and help out all game developers in the process.

Paul Laroquod
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"Letting developers self publish isn't that big a deal (anymore) unless you have solved the discovery problem, that is the true big deal. Whom ever solves this problem will make a killing and help out all game developers in the process."

Never gonna happen, because unlike rights & privileges issues like who can self-publish on a platform, the 'discovery problem' is a fundamental mathemtical constraint. There are far more games designed than any one person can play by many orders of magnitude. Any general solution to attracting attention in this crowded field will inevitably be adopted by all the other competitors, once again levelling the field. This will happen regardless of the distribution model.

In fact, it's endemic to the very nature of competition. The way to get a distribution edge is to come up with an innovative distribution strategy *before* your competitors do. Once they copy you and adopt it, you will have to innovate, once again, for your next set of releases. You're a bit more insulated if your 'edge' is based somehow on the nicheness of your product and therefore less universally applicable, but this just proves my point: there is no turnkey solution to the 'discovery problem' because it isn't really a problem, there are tons of ways to discover new things, more than ever before, and you can usually submit your game to ALL of them. But it's simply the nature of competition for limited resources that some will get them and some will not and this will never change; therefore, any 'universal' solution to getting noticed is doomed to fail for most game devs.

This will be true from now until the year 3000 and beyond. It is probably true on millions of other inhabited planets with sentient life.

Andrew Quesenberry
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Oddly enough, this makes me less likely to target the Xbox One. Not because I think I'll get mishandled by Microsoft, but because he's right. The media and player narrative surrounding the Xbox One is so negative that it's far less risky to target iOS, Android, and PC. I won't hesitate to port a successful game to Xbox One, but I don't think I'll target it from the outset anymore. It is unfortunate that Microsoft has become such a punching bag right now.

Lihim Sidhe
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"Going from a hobbyist PC bedroom developer to having conference calls with Microsoft (admittedly, still from my bedroom) was such a rush that the supposed terrors of having to fill out lots of forms or fix messaging errors were absolutely lost on me."

That's most likely why you have a good relationship with Microsoft - you're attitude is outstanding. I'm sure every dev would just love to work on their game until completion, send it off to Microsoft, and the next day they just put it up on LIVE and the $ starts rolling in. It's just not that simple. Plus Microsoft helped you fix obscure errors in your game? That's awesome.

I'm a HUGE Dishwasher fan and it was a bombastic surprise seeing your face pop up when I came to this site. :)

James Silva
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Thanks! The Dishwasher's been part of my life for eight years now; he will return :)

For me, winning Dream Build Play felt like my one shot at making a living of this, so any obstacle in the way of finishing it became either a triviality or a case of do or die.

Amir Sharar
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Like any other company MS has some good and some bad practices that affect consumers and in this case Indie developers.

I'd argue that they started out strong allowing smaller developers a chance to release console games via XBLA in 2005 (8 years ago) and XBLIG in 2008 (5 years ago). Since then, many things have changed and the competition (mainly Apple) have changed the game entirely.

8 years in the tech world is a lifetime, and it's no secret that MS has to change its now significantly outdated practices if it wants to compete.

While I agree that the media has been overwhelmingly negative and are now creeping outside the scope of rationality, as a consumer and developer I actually hope that's what it takes to get Microsoft to adapt. If it's not corporate smarts from within the company that will do it, maybe outside pressure will.

The problem I have is that some of our immaturity as an industry is being given a spotlight here.

Sony had the practice of charging publishers 16 cents per GB in bandwidth for free and paid DLC on the PS3, costs incurred from consumers downloading DLC to their consoles. While remaining wildly unpopular it wasn't overblown by the media because most of these unhappy people realized that it would be unprofessional to make a big deal out of it, and any complaint made was done anonymously. Maybe it was their years of experience that told them that complaining directly to the media would inspire less change than by complaining directly to Sony (which even then didn't induce immediate change).

It's a bit different now. With no need to remain professional, people will rant and rave and the media will pick up on it, along with the vocal fanboys from whatever contingent. It will feed upon itself (as it has) and an uneducated and ignorant perspective will be adopted by the masses. If you don't believe me, look at how XBLIG was treated by the media and fanboys and how that became the general perception.

Kujel s
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I always enjoy reading your comments on articles Amir, you have a level head and see things much clearer then most commenters on the internet. I'd hate to see you ever leave this community.

PS your profile pic is awesome (and this is coming from someone who isn't really a bat man fan).

Amir Sharar
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Kujel s: Thanks! Though I have to say I edit my posts 2 or 3 times before I submit, in order to hold up to the Gamasutra community commenting standards that I've noted before joining. I'm a bit less formal on Twitter, for example. If there's anything good about my comments, I'd say it's a reflection of the community here! :)

Jack Mahogany
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Is it bad that I secretly hope Microsoft pulls something out at E3 and is like "Yeah, we got rid of XNA...because we have something even BETTER!" and "XNA One" is released?

Ian Bolland
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Great article, indie games are becoming increasingly important, and I'll be very surprised if Microsoft doesn't unveil something similar to replace XBLIG and their previous support for hobby developers. Like them or not Microsoft has always been a company that seems (to me) to understand developers, perhaps better than it understands its other customers, mainly because it is a company made of software developers.

Paul Laroquod
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"I vividly remember reading this IGN article calling XBLIG a failure roughly a year into its life and thinking basically the same thing: telling thousands of readers that Microsoft is failing at indie gaming is telling thousands of potential customers that Microsoft is failing at indie gaming."

I found this point in the article a little intellectually dishonest, as if anyone should change their opinion of Xbone *because* it will have negative consequences on Microsoft's image. That's clearly putting the cart before the horse. You should probably not have included this paragraph at all, or at best shortened into a single sentence prefaced 'Full Disclosure' because essentially what you are saying with your final point in this article is that you have a conflict of interest which causes you to evaluate opinions in light of whether they tarnish the image of your distributor, and that we should all live in the same conflicted reality distortion field based on the idea that Microsoft must not fail.

It shouldn't be a surprise that those who don't distribute via Microsoft don't live in that distortion field and thus don't believe that indie gaming's fortunes rise and fall with those of Microsoft.

James Silva
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I probably should have left out anything about XBLIG; it's an entirely different discussion and serves only to dilute my main message (I originally wrote this a few months ago, I'm like 2-3 times better of a writer now).

I obviously don't think I live in a conflicted reality distortion field, but that seems like the kind of thing someone living in a conflicted reality distortion field would say.

Stephanie Kyrin
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Thank you for your opinion, it was an interesting read. It's a shame that it's attracted so much defensive negativity from some other devs though.

The mentor for our starting indie company has also warned us against anything to do with Microsoft and XBox, though to be honest I've not looked into it too much myself. I do remember Braid doing well on it's XBLA release.

Luke Quinn
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I actually expected more of a response to such wild claims as "M$ is not all that bad...", but James has a pretty good reputation in the XBLI community (at least he did when I left) for being a nice guy.
The reason I expected more of a response though is that XBLIG's bad rep is pretty well earned.
As your mentor had probably seen, the total lack of discover-ability coupled with crippling demo restrictions, completely unpredictable release mechanism, and a general disinterest from M$ made the platform an unreasonably risky venture.
I'm grateful for M$ giving me the chance to make a freakin' console game, which was awesome, but only wish they had bothered to follow through to fulfil its potential.

James Silva
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I haven't released on XBLIG in years, but as far as I know, you've been able to set the release day for awhile. Honestly, my biggest complaint with the service now (and it probably won't get changed) is a super minimal detail: it's the splash screen that precedes every game. If developers could substitute their own art while retaining the text, that could go a long way toward eliminating the "Kid's Table" feel of it.

I still think XBLIG is an amazing platform that deserves way more credit than it gets. Console development for $50, no dev kit required, no developer approval process? That's outstanding. But it's also an entirely separate discussion!

Stephen Jolly
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James,
Wonderful piece on what people are perceiving to be an end. To sum up what you said, Keep Calm and Program On.

Marvin Papin
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1) dishwasher was just a promotional campaign to attract indies. Just check the making of they did with MS.

2) there are also indies who you did not hear spoken about cause they fell (even partially) like pohlm studio and their award winner Hasta La Muerte.

3) the publishing problem, said above can be resolved. A system of trusted dev where if they have already a game published, MS should be less "over looking" with just a short quality check and efficiency price/quality check. For new indies, playing the full game once + some verifications with some security to be sure there's no problem (if there are "dangerous" content, you are blacklisted and have to give back accountables (not sure about expression:)). Anyway, in some cases MS certif is just awfully an enormous problem, mainly for indies.

Jason Estell
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I think a large part of the failure of indie games on xbox was the people and the games. There are just too many people tying to just make a buck and don't care about making a good game, and in some scenarios they don't even make games, when someone takes 4 pictures into a xna and posts it in the market place its just horrible. If an indie game is good enough I think it has no problem standing right up into arcade markets and other places, but flood a market with crap and people get lost in the sea of $#!& without a paddle, they get a bad taste in their mouth and hurts the others who are actually trying to make good games.


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