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Publishers Pressuring MS To Push Indies From Xbox Live?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the muscling-in dept.

Microsoft 100

R. Dobbs writes "Microsoft has reportedly drastically reduced the amount of indie titles it's going to allow on its Live Arcade service — but no such limits have been placed on material from major publishers. Have the publishers themselves been pushing this agenda? And what will it mean for indies? Quoting: 'More and more indie developers are being created, bucking the trend of working for the blockbuster-sized titles of many publishers and opting to control their own development and keep their IPs. This is likely becoming more and more of a concern to major publishers, who seem — especially in ZeniMax's recent purchase of id Software and EA's combination of Bioware and Mythic, as well as Warner Bros. purchase of Midway's IPs and studios — to be doing everything they can to consolidate their power and lock down all the available resources.' When questioned, Microsoft released a statement saying that they're 'a great supporter of independent game development.'"

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Well (1, Interesting)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#28741967)

Then independend developers will produce for the PC, Wii and PS3.... :-)

Re:Well (4, Insightful)

omeomi (675045) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742073)

Unfortunately, XBox Live games are way easier to produce--using the free XNA toolkit--than Wii or PS3 games. You can make a game for both PC and XBox Live at the same time, with the same codebase...

Re:Well (3, Informative)

bami (1376931) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742373)

You'll need the $100 a year developer subscription if you want to play/test your stuff on the real hardware, or play 'unpublished' games, and it's severely locked down (Much like running homebrew on the PS3).

Still, just the piece of kit an indie developer needs: Cheap development environment, easy distributing to a system with a huge install base.

NO reason to stop pushing Indianapolis 500 games! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28742415)

This is pure lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is true lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is real lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is unadulterated lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is unmolested lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is zesty lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is kah-razy lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is pure lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is true lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is real lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is unadulterated lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is unmolested lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is zesty lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is kah-razy lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is pure lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is true lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is real lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is unadulterated lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is unmolested lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is zesty lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is kah-razy lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is pure lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is true lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is real lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is unadulterated lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is unmolested lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is zesty lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool... This is kah-razy lunacy. Why would anyone stop publishing Indianapolis 500 games? Indie games are, after all, so cool...

Try this instead... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28742481)

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Re:Try this instead... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28743355)

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Yeah, what he said...

Re:Well (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28743365)

Locked down?

It is 99.00 a year to be able to publish content, but there are no restrictions (other than pornography or IP infringement) that will prevent you from putting your title up on the XNA indie site. Microsoft has said they will not make any judgements regarding playability, asthetics, etc.... Basically anyone can write something and have it appear in the XNA indie catalog. You don't get access to all of the XBLA APIs specifically the achievement system) but other than that you're good to go.

Support of indie developers has become a catch phrase that the top three (MS, Sony and Nintendo) have tossed about at conferences like a ping pong ball. Sony has made tons of noise recently that they are courting indie developers - this is largely bull shit. Unless your team has $250K in the bank and a string of commercial titles, you have virtually zero chance of getting a dev kit. I've had less exposure to the Nintendo process but I believe it is similar. Really, the only companies to back up support for indie developers have been Microsoft via XNA and Apple with the iPhone.

As an aside, this highlights a huge problem with blogs as opposed to traditional news media. I've seen the Sony Indie comments all over the place but no one takes any time to dig even a tiny, tiny bit beneth the surface to see what Sony has really done for the indie community.

Re:Well (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743767)

When you consider the iPhone requires a Mac to develop for (minimum cost: $500ish), and that the vast majority of people wanting to develop video games almost certainly run Windows, XNA comes out as quite a bit more affordable.

Re:Well (1)

Nossie (753694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28744233)

rather than a windows license, £100 a year subscription and a PC ?

errr no.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28802399)

Still it's a lot more affordable then the other major alternative. Wii devkit and PS3 devkit are a bit to pricy to the classic hobbyist

Re:Well (1)

cbhacking (979169) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745991)

I thought the subscription was only if you wanted to *publish* the game. Testing it on your own hardware is, I believe, free.

Even if it's not, $100 is a small barrier compared to the cost of a development kit for the other consoles. The PS3 has Linux, yes, but you can't even use the GPU. XNA is much less restricted than that.

Re:Well (1)

parlancex (1322105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749349)

You'll need the $100 a year developer subscription if you want to play/test your stuff on the real hardware, or play 'unpublished' games, and it's severely locked down (Much like running homebrew on the PS3). Still, just the piece of kit an indie developer needs: Cheap development environment, easy distributing to a system with a huge install base.

We're going to complain about $100 / year now? Seriously? We're talking about a cost that is slightly more than half of your World of Warcraft subscription here. If $100/year is going to break you, I'd argue you were never even remotely capable or serious enough to develop even an indie quality game.

Severely locked down like the PS3? Not even close to the same thing. XNA exposes an API for storage, network connectivity, input, and display (with full GPU acceleration). The only thing you can't do is load native libraries written in another language (this would be meaningless anyway, since the CPU instruction-set != x86). Using XNA you can easily create something that rivals the quality of any 1st party commercial ships-on-a-dvd game. Contrast this with the PS3 homebrew in which Sony has gone to great lengths to prevent users from accessing the GPU in any way shape or form minus being able to write to the framebuffer with no hardware acceleration. Ask anyone who has used Linux on the PS3 what that is like. It's so brutally slow for any graphical application as to be almost useless, even web browsing is pretty bad. Yeah, that's totally the same.

Re:Well (5, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742285)

Unfortunately, the 360 is FAR easier to develop for. That and PC are almost the only possible choice for the independent developer... unless they want to do iTunes apps, or something. The Wii and PS3 just aren't really approachable except by a select few.

I would LOVE for the Wii to open up a marketplace (something much bigger than its WiiWare category), but I don't think it's something Nintendo would do.

Re:Well (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743743)

What the? I had no problems getting games running on the Wii. Actually properly using the PS3 would be really hard, because of that crazy CPU. Something that the 360 shares partially, by the way.

Sure you can use the same codebase for *WINDOWS* PCs and Xbox 360es (which happen to be what comes out when you put a PS3 and a PC in a blender).
But what about PCs with other OSes. OS X, Linuxes, etc. And mobile phones running Symbian and J2ME (ok, and that shitty BREW).

Those are the real targets of indie developers. Cheap to code for, cheap to design for, not that many good games competing with you... I think you can make much better money there, than going straight against EA & co on the really fat systems. I mean as an indie, you will never work 3 years with 30-100 people on HD graphics, models, maps, etc.

Re:Well (2, Informative)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 5 years ago | (#28744107)

How did you get a Wii dev kit? Or are you just writing a web-based game and saying it runs "on Wii" because it has a browser?

The beauty of the Xbox is that any off-the-shelf PC can be used as a dev kit. (The *actual* dev kits have more features, of course, but the PC can do 90% of the work no problem.)

Re:Well (1)

fernandolbastos (1600963) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745851)

Actually, all you need to do is install the Homebrew Channel and start coding with DevkitPro
http://wiibrew.org/wiki/Main_Page [wiibrew.org]

The problem is that Nintendo doesn't really appreciate that, and they do everything they can to stop it.

Microsoft, however, encourages indie games on the Xbox (till now, anyway), because with XNA they can limit what indie developers can do.

Re:Well (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742453)

Maaybe, by guiding them to other platforms, this is a great way to support independent game developers. Sometimes a kick in the ass can set your free.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28743055)

Sorry... but really? No.

Platforms, plural. PCs and what else? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743351)

Maaybe, by guiding them to other platforms, this is a great way to support independent game developers.

I noticed that you used the plural, meaning you can thinking of at least two other platforms more friendly to indies than XNA. So then, PCs and what else?

Re:Platforms, plural. PCs and what else? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28744199)

Iphone, maybe?

Re:Platforms, plural. PCs and what else? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28747157)

I'll assume that by "iPhone" you mean "iPod Touch too". But the business model for the iPhone SDK, iPhone Developer Agreement, and App Store is a carbon copy of the business model for XNA Game Studio, XNA Creators Club, and Xbox Live Indie Games respectively.

As usual.. (1, Insightful)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 5 years ago | (#28741973)

.... Microsoft's PR statements do not reflect the reality of what is actually occurring.

Re:As usual.. (5, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742117)

As usual a drama is being made out of nothing, with a bit of Microsoft blame added in for the sake of hating Microsoft.

Microsoft will publish whichever games are going to net them most profit, just like any other company would. If large companies have more resources to produce better titles than indies, that sucks for indies, but it's not really Microsoft's problem. They still provide the community games option for titles who want to publish but don't make the cut for a full arcade title.

Microsoft's primary goal is to produce profit, it's secondary goal is providing a good service to it's users. The latter can of course effect the former. But here's the real problem, publish indie games for the sake of publishing indies games purely so indies get a fair share of the market regardless of equality fails in both respects - it means less profit, and a worse selection of games for users if better games by big publishers are pushed back to make way for lower quality games by indies.

With XNA GSE and Community games Microsoft's gone out of it's way more than any other company with involvement in the games industry (with the exception of perhaps Garagegames) to make sure anyone can publish. At the end of the day, indie games that beat big publisher games still get published - Braid being a good example, but Live Arcade being flooded with the crap that comes between Braid and the likes just for the sake of someone's arbitrary assumption that there should be some balanced ratio between big publisher games and indie games is a stupid idea. If anything I'd argue too much gets published to Live Arcade as is, there's simply too much on there to search through now, it's no suprise that competition is getting tougher and the people with more resources and more professional experience are beating the others out then.

Being an indie developer doesn't give you some magical right to be given an artificial advantage in the marketplace. You still have to compete on your merits.

Re:As usual.. (2, Insightful)

Mattsson (105422) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742439)

...if better games by big publishers are pushed back to make way for lower quality games by indies.

The question is; Why would games by big publishers be pushed back by Microsoft also offering games by small publishers?

Re:As usual.. (2, Insightful)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742645)

You can only show so many titles on a screen at once. Every game, every title, and every product has to fight for that space. The closer you are to the front the more likely you are to be seen.

Re:As usual.. (3, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742793)

Because of the afformentioned problem of people being swamped with titles. It becomes impossible to organise if you have thousands and thousands of titles.

When you release 1 or 2 titles a week most people have time to play the trials of each of them. If you release 10 a week, people will no longer have time to play the trials. They may try the trials of one or two games that "sound" good, but turn out to be crap and so don't buy them, whilst simultaneously missing the trials of games that they would in fact have liked that week. If they stick to just releasing the good titles more people will have chance to try the trials of those good titles and will more likely purchase them due to their higher quality.

Flooding the market certainly wont help them improve profitability and again, it certainly wont help the user experience. If people start seeing a ton of crap on Live Arcade, they may even stop bothering to look at it at all.

Again, Microsoft have the community games section for low quality stuff, they don't mix it with the main arcade for exactly these reasons - they don't want the lower quality of "everyone can publish" bringing their main arcade section into disrepute so sensibly give it a section of its own.

Re:As usual.. (1)

whereiswaldo (459052) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743033)

I agree with you and the PP and GPP. Last time I looked the indie section on XBox Live was chock full of crap. Like really bad stuff that appeared to be a "hello world" DirectX game. When they raise the bar, I won't cry for those crappy games that are lost. They can always re-publish for the PC as Shareware.

I wish there were more high quality, small budget games like Age of Booty. I've played that game more than any other over the past several months!

Shared-screen multiplayer on PCs? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743375)

They can always re-publish for the PC as Shareware.

How well does the PC shareware model work for shared-screen multiplayer games, which really need a 25" or larger screen? Monitors that come with PCs are smaller than that, and I'd wager that most PC gamers don't know that they can connect a PC to an HDTV or buy an adapter to connect a PC to an SDTV.

Re:Shared-screen multiplayer on PCs? (1)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 5 years ago | (#28747481)

I'd wager that most PC gamers don't know that they can connect a PC to an HDTV

Well, i think plugging a HDMI cable into the graphics card, and the other end into the TV is about as complicated as pressing next-next-finish.

Re:Shared-screen multiplayer on PCs? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28747569)

Well, i think plugging a HDMI cable into the graphics card, and the other end into the TV

And get no audio over the HDMI cable because the graphics card is not also a sound card. And on a lot of graphics cards, the HDMI connector isn't HDMI but DVI, and unless you have a lot of experience with PC video, you don't know that they're signal-compatible with just a pin adapter. But in most cases that I've seen, the PC doesn't have a graphics card at all, just a graphics chip on the motherboard with a DE15 VGA connector. That would be fine, but the end user doesn't know that there is a port on the back of an HDTV that can take signals from a PC.

Or the end user might have only an SDTV.

Re:Shared-screen multiplayer on PCs? (1)

Mattsson (105422) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749421)

Or the end user might have only an SDTV.

...which works just as great for PC's as it does for consoles if your PC has a S-Video port. =)

PCs without an S-Video port outnumber those with (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28750171)

Or the end user might have only an SDTV.

...which works just as great for PC's as it does for consoles if your PC has a S-Video port.

I've seen more PCs without an S-Video port than with one. On the other hand, every game console I've owned has come with a composite cable and had an S-Video cable available. Most people don't know about the $40 adapter to turn VGA into S-Video [sewelldirect.com] because brick-and-mortar stores tend not to carry it.

Re:As usual.. (1)

atraintocry (1183485) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749693)

Sounds like letting the users rate the games would be the answer to that. Microsoft doing it automatically creates a conflict of interest. The indies are paying just like everyone else.

Re:As usual.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28742501)

Get over yourself. MS will make money on everything sold, that can host a gazzilion titles if they want. Or are you saying their store front end is so shit it can't cope with a decent library?

Re:As usual.. (2, Insightful)

Miseph (979059) | more than 5 years ago | (#28744829)

No, he's saying that the people looking at the store can't possibly follow thousands of titles assaulting their eyeballs at once. They didn't actually get rid of the indie games section, they just aren't bending over backwards to promote shitty indie titles over major publishers' that sell better. I'm sure they have no problem with hyping the really good indie titles, I'd even suspect that they stand to make more money per unit on indie titles and would make a killing if one of them became a blockbuster smash hit, but 99.9% of the indie titles out there are amateurish dreck.

Keep in mind that they're actually selling two products here: games to the consumer, and game sales to the publisher. They need the latter to get the former, and they can't get it if they are unable to demonstrate an ability to promote... if they start pushing a bunch of crap that won't sell, that's a lot of bad data points.

Re:As usual.. (1)

arose (644256) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742899)

worse selection of games for users if better games by big publishers are pushed back to make way for lower quality games by indies.

You'd think the best way to do it would be to look at the games without the assumption that games pushed by big publishers are better quality...

Re:As usual.. (1)

timmans (1288762) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743397)

Microsoft will publish whichever games are going to net them most profit, just like any other company would.

You could also say the same about computer OSes... But similarly Microsoft used their muscle to force Dell, HP etc to only ship PCs with Windows. Maybe Microsoft is getting some of their own medicine back.

Re:As usual.. (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743479)

Microsoft's primary goal is to produce profit, it's secondary goal is providing a good service to it's users. The latter can of course effect the former. But here's the real problem, publish indie games for the sake of publishing indies games purely so indies get a fair share of the market regardless of equality fails in both respects - it means less profit, and a worse selection of games for users if better games by big publishers are pushed back to make way for lower quality games by indies.

Their primary goal should be providing a good service because, as you pointed out, it will lead to profit.

As far as flooding the market with junk indie titles. Fair enough, that can cause problems but the same can be said about the publisher's titles and in fact you can argue that the amount of crap being produced by publishers now is causing problems.

Of course MS can do what Nintendo did in the past and put some tough limits on publishers in an attempt to keep quality higher but then publishers will complain.

MS shouldn't limit either. But, have an unfiltered section on the market place and then a "best of" sort of area where the crap is filtered out for those that don't want to sift through it. That's enough. Otherwise, hopefully the others will have the sense to cater to the indie developers.

Re:As usual.. (0, Flamebait)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 5 years ago | (#28744193)

As usual, Microsoft provides a grass-rooted explanation that makes Microsoft look completely innocent.

Re:As usual.. (1)

parlancex (1322105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749397)

I'm the first person to spout off about what Microsoft has done with XNA and why this is an amazing opportunity for indie developers and a much better commitment to indie development than either Nintendo or Sony has. However, I really don't think this is as much about keeping quality levels of visible titles high than providing appeasement for larger publishers who are creating content for the Xbox Live service. There are many ways to regulate the quality of user created content, the Slashdot moderation system is an obvious of a system that works pretty well without enforcing any direct limitations on who can contribute and how much they can contribute.

It can't be one without the other (1)

orta (786013) | more than 5 years ago | (#28741987)

I've only been buying Xbox arcade / Wiiware games on my consoles for the past 2-3 months, they seem to be the most interesting. Perhaps the trend is turning on itself as it takes so much time to make a larger game nowadays.

Re:It can't be one without the other (1)

omeomi (675045) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742089)

I've only been buying Xbox arcade / Wiiware games on my consoles for the past 2-3 months, they seem to be the most interesting. Perhaps the trend is turning on itself as it takes so much time to make a larger game nowadays.

I have to agree with that. Especially with the PS3, where there aren't as many games, the ones you can buy online are much more imaginative, and pretty darn cheap. Echochrome is a favorite of mine.

It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742007)

Umm, guys? Indie titles get crapped on because they're small, not because of some conspiracy. Large businesses simply don't want to expend the resources and time to make things available for the "little guys", because the net return is so much lower. I mean, hey -- if I can corner 90% of the market by setting up my distribution platform to, say, seven businesses, why should I make that same effort fifty or a hundred times more just to get that extra 10%? I think, if I were in that position, I'd just move on to the next thing and save my money. And yes, it's all electronic. That doesn't make it zero-cost; There's administrative costs to everything and those costs don't go up in a linear fashion as you add more members.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (5, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742075)

xbl has done a pretty good job of streamlining the indie-game process [microsoft.com] . They've made it simple enough that allowing indie-devs to publish games equates to almost NO EXTRA WORK on the part of MS. Which is smart.

Of course there are admin costs, but dev fees and sales quite handily make up for that. The fact is, putting a limit on the number of indie games is an active act, requiring work. The end result can only have lead to lower indie sales.

I agree with you that some people look for the conspiracy everywhere, but in this case MS took an action that would lead to less indie sales. I can only think that was in response to some external stimuli (major game publishers).

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742327)

Of course there are admin costs, but dev fees and sales quite handily make up for that.

Citation needed.

The fact is, putting a limit on the number of indie games is an active act, requiring work.

Perhaps in order to keep the marketplace interface as uncluttered as possible, they limited the number of titles. Of course, Microsoft has never designed an interface that became too cluttered with only a limited number of items... See also: the Desktop. I'm just suggesting that Microsoft may be making decisions based on sound business practices rather than quack theory of "big evil corp versus small good guys". Remember that the interface needs to be intuitive and usable to a 12 year old.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28742441)

you ignorant bitch,
  microsoft never designed the desktop it was present in Lisa

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (1)

DMalic (1118167) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742639)

Big evil corp vs small good guys is a perspective issue and is perfectly compatible with sound business decisions.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (2, Insightful)

Locutus (9039) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742369)

if just half the people who call various explanations for Microsofts actions _conspiracy theories_ read just a small number of the various court documents showing their pattern of extremely aggressive business methods, we'd see a large drop in that phrase being used. Taking a shot at what motivates Microsoft can be done with no background on how they've operated in the business for over 20 years or with a great understanding of how they work and what motivates them. Most of the time, peolple who pull out the 'that's just a conspiracy theory' are just plain ignorant to most of what's happened at the hands of Microsoft's business methods.
 

In business, I've heard of the 80-20 rule to maximize profits in tough times or when you're looking to sell a business. The theory goes, most businesses make 80% of their profits from 20% of their customers so massive short term savings can be obtained by only spending resources on those 20%. It's short term because in those other 80% providing only 20% of the profits are a few customers who will replace some in the 20% as customers fail and customers grow up. Microsoft is showing signs of cutting expenses in this economy when they have never done that in the past. Are they reducing Indies on their platform because it'll save expenses? Could be but I doubt it given how automated it has been said it is and there is some income from that sector. But maybe it just looks automated and really there are dozens and dozens of Microsoft employees at terminals banging away on the keyboards to keep it looking like it's automated? ;-) Maybe they've got to reduce staff further so the Indies must go too. lol
 

LoB
 

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (5, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742547)

I feel like you've missed the mark substantially. The problem isn't with the idea that these are conspiracy theories, but with the idea that a conspiracy theory is automatically flawed. In reality, any time two people get together to bone at least one other person out of something, it's a conspiracy.

Don't attack the idea that Microsoft's plans for world domination are conspiracy theories; that is precisely what they are. However, they are also well-founded.

It would not surprise me at all if Microsoft were deliberately throttling game submissions to serve first-string developers. The most successful indie developers will have the opportunity to be sucked up into the system that pays Microsoft a fat licensing fee for every title sold. Microsoft isn't in business to help indie gaming, they're in business to make a profit. The indie games available on Live are only there so long as they support the bottom line in some way.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28742781)

Or it's a method of reducing the amount of crap that is sold in the marketplace. It's giving indie developers incentive to make better quality games. They're setting a bar for games that are published, otherwise you'd have an overdose of mediocre games that just clutter the field. Have you seen some of the indie games? Are just not that good, and probably don't sell anything. Why would they?

Don't get me wrong, indie devs can produce some great games, but just because they're indie, doesn't make them automatically good...

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (2, Informative)

omeomi (675045) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742109)

Large businesses simply don't want to expend the resources and time to make things available for the "little guys", because the net return is so much lower.

Actually, as much of a PITA as Microsoft is, they've actually made the XNA toolkit available for free to indie developers who want to publish XBox Live games. It's comparatively easy to use, based on C#, and lets you produce a game for the PC and XBox Live at the same time. All you really have to do is set up the controls for both systems.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (2, Informative)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742387)

Actually, as much of a PITA as Microsoft is, they've actually made the XNA toolkit available for free to indie developers who want to publish XBox Live games. It's comparatively easy to use, based on C#, and lets you produce a game for the PC and XBox Live at the same time. All you really have to do is set up the controls for both systems.

Actually, they let you produce a game for PC, Xbox Live and Zune Devices. There is no major distribution for the Zune yet but the codebase is there. I would hope that they add this in when they merge the Zune Marketplace and Xbox Market place when the Zune HD comes out.

Only time will tell.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742513)

Actually, as much of a PITA as Microsoft is, they've actually made the XNA toolkit available for free to indie developers who want to publish XBox Live games.

You still need a premium XNA Creators Club subscription to even be able to test the game on your console. Rather than require a one time payment, it's a reoccurring yearly fee.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (1)

rabbit994 (686936) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742633)

It's a whole 99 dollars a year and easily affordable for any indie developer. They probably have overhead costs with marketplace they would like to recover.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28744415)

It's a whole 99 dollars a year and easily affordable for any indie developer.

This indie developer says otherwise.

When you have to consider the cost of an xbox 360, the xbox gold subscription and then another subscription on top. It's not very cheap in my opinion unless you happen to already own the first two already. This is ignoring the fact that the express development tools aren't really that great to begin with and you'll end up needing a different version of visual studio just so you can get access to a few APIs.

I investigated the costs involved and determined that due to my limited income that this was too expensive to develop for the 360. I strongly disagree with your "easily affordable for any indie developer" comment.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (2, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742111)

In the absence of a shred of evidence, what makes the original article assume there is either a Cost factor or a Conspiracy involved?

With people not having a lot of money to spend on games these days perhaps the indies had to go get jobs.

Maybe Microsoft is trying to keep the platform from going the way of the Apple App store, with 200 flashlight Apps and 50 Fart Apps.

Quality control is a good thing.

Reading the article gives me a sense of a certain amount of beer-crying going on.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (1)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742713)

Quality control? How come you assume that everything that a independent studio produces must be some sort of "fart app" or "flashlight app" while at the same time assuming that everything a big studio produces is somehow a quality product? I mean, I can't figure out how exactly do you improve quality by raising barriers to entry. In fact, the only thing that you achieve by putting in those barriers is degrading competition and putting the market in the supply side, which never does anything for quality, nor the consumer.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28742201)

This is all about control of their market share.

This is no different than the strong arm tactics of the recording, video, comics, and book publication industries.

It is all about the control of information, the protection of their market share, and the funneling of new and innovated ideas and concepts through these corporations, hence losing your IP rights to them in order to do business with them.

This is a disturbing trend began with the signing of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act back in 1998. This situation will only get worse.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28742219)

Large businesses simply don't want to expend the resources and time to make things available for the "little guys", because the net return is so much lower.

But it was already available. What they're doing now is cutting it off. What does MS care, as long as they're getting money for it? They should be happy even, since they reduced the cut the developer makes off their downloadable games.

conspiracy? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742265)

Well, perhaps not a conscious collaborative conspiracy, but the result is the same. THe big guys tend to cold shoulder the independents and want them out of the way, or out of their hair.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 5 years ago | (#28744359)

I mean, hey -- if I can corner 90% of the market by setting up my distribution platform to, say, seven businesses, why should I make that same effort fifty or a hundred times more just to get that extra 10%?

In reality, after you have set up your distribution platform, the cost of adding a new business is almost nothing; if you've done things The Right Way, it's just a matter of adding a database entry with the address to post the check to.

And yes, it's all electronic. That doesn't make it zero-cost; There's administrative costs to everything and those costs don't go up in a linear fashion as you add more members.

True. They usually go up logarithmically, where the cost per title becomes less and less as the amount of titles increases. This is because the initial investment in the distribution channel, billing mechanisms, accounting and so on have already been paid, so it's simply a matter of hiring more people as needed - the phenomenom known as "the economy of scale".

All of this should be pretty obvious, since services like Live couldn't exist otherwise; if adding nth customer (player) costed as much or more as the 1st, no online store could possibly make a profit.

Re:It's a CONSPIRACY! Or... not. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28746787)

You just need to do this, all you have to do is that, it's only a small matter of the other.

Funny how those words always crop up when it's somebody else doing it.

Independents have lost (4, Funny)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742115)

The only thing they can do now is

buy a spaceship, recruit a crew and do random jobs about the galaxy. Get attacked by criminals and savages, harbor known fugitives.

But they'll still be flying.

I knew it (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28742155)

MS are the reason Firefly was canceled.

Re:Independents have lost (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28742405)

Is it just me or the mods getting more and more dense? Of all the websites for a Firefly joke to not be appreciated.

Re:Independents have lost (2, Informative)

Winckle (870180) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742427)

The problem is if I mod him funny and then he gets modded down and that process repeats it costs him a bunch of karma because funny doesn't give him anything, but off topic counts -1.

Re:Independents have lost (1)

Arivia (783328) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742527)

Gee, I can't imagine why Firefly was modded off-topic in a story about Xbox Live distribution...*rolleyes*

Re: have lost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28742643)

It's about Independents.

It's funny. Laugh.

Sh1T! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28742133)

Perhaps they should redesign the shop a bit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28742137)

I don't juse my xbox much(or pay for a gold subscription). I mostly play xbl games because they are mostly the types of games you can play for half an hour or so.
But as I don't follow what's going on in the xbox world, I rarely discover new xbl games. And the navigation are slow and difficult to find out how it is organized. Sometimes it takes 30-60 seconds for it to display all the information for an XBL game and by then I have lost interest and just go on playing the games I have purchased earlier on.
So I say they should redesign it so browsing gets faster and they can accommodate more titles. Seems like the way it is now they have to limit the amount of titles to make sure people gets to see them.

What do you expect? (1)

seekret (1552571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742139)

I think short of a widespread boycott there's nothing that can be done to stop this. Microsoft makes so much money off the constant remakes of games like Call of Duty and Madden that they aren't going to change anything. I'm willing to bet the amount of people who own an xbox with the xbox live service just to play those two games outnumbers (by a lot) the amount of people who will show any kind of pressure on this decision. The real victory for indie developers will be to release games on platforms that don't discriminate, like the computer for instance.

I would like to see some investigation into the claims that the publishers are pressuring Microsoft to do this, not that I doubt it's happening, I just think it would make for a good public hanging.

Marketing a sofa multiplayer game for the PC? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743545)

The real victory for indie developers will be to release games on platforms that don't discriminate, like the computer for instance.

Say I design a video game for multiple players that is not FPS or RTS. It's designed such that there is no disadvantage for a player if other players can see his view of the playfield. One way to do this is to place the view far enough out that the entire relevant portion of the arena is visible, like in Final Fight or Bomberman or Smash Bros. or ball sport sims. Another way is to make the players cooperate against the game, like in Rock Band or the "Grand Prix" mode of Mario Kart. So the most efficient way to do this is to have four players sitting on a sofa, holding gamepads, and looking at one big monitor.

In theory, the PC can implement such a design. Input would be through USB gamepads connected to the PC through a USB hub like the one that comes with the Rock Band set. On the output side, HDTVs can display VGA or DVI signals from a PC, and a $40 adapter [sewelldirect.com] converts VGA signals into composite or S-Video for an SDTV. Examples of such games include the Serious Sam series and the Lego $MOVIE series. But in practice, SDTV rules two-thirds of U.S. living rooms (source [engadgethd.com] ), and most people don't know that these adapters exist because major chains such as Walmart* and Best Buy don't carry them. So what would be a good way to market a console-style multiplayer game for the PC?

Re:Marketing a sofa multiplayer game for the PC? (2, Insightful)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743771)

So what would be a good way to market a console-style multiplayer game for the PC?

You don't. You market it for a console, you could even use xbl. If it's good enough it'll be published, if not it won't. Remember that you don't have an automatic right to be published (just ask the millions of unpublished authors out there).

"Just port it to a console"? Read the article. (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28747219)

You don't. You market it for a console

But the article is about the growing difficulty of qualifying to do just that. Once I have a nearly complete video game designed for a PC, how do I make my company big enough to convince the major console makers to allow my company to port the game to a console?

If it's good enough it'll be published, if not it won't.

Try telling that to Bob [kotaku.com] .

M$ needs stricter rules (0, Troll)

LordoftheChmod (1600803) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742161)

Well, Microsoft needs to limit the amount of crap that gets put out there. I mean look at some of these games (http://www.karnnage.com/info.php for exemple). No gameplay, commodore 64 graphics, cmon....

Re:M$ needs stricter rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28742331)

I agree. There is a lot of crap being posted in the community games section, at about 10-15 games a week, compared to 1-2 XBL games. Quite a few games that just rip off well known games too, ex. Peggle, or they take the MS test games and slap some different colours on it. The kicker is the best sellers are usually the rumble massage games... there are about 8 different versions now LOL!

Re:M$ needs stricter rules (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742399)

Well, Microsoft needs to limit the amount of crap that gets put out there. I mean look at some of these games (http://www.karnnage.com/info.php for exemple). No gameplay, commodore 64 graphics, cmon....

That actually looks like a game I'd enjoy playing. Graphics aren't everything and I don't really see how you can comment on game play based off what is shown on that website.

Re:M$ needs stricter rules (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743791)

That game isn't on Xbox Live Arcade, it's on the XNA Community site. The Community site has absolutely NO filters for content, quality, etc... by design. There are shitty games on it, in other words. Games with poor graphics, games that don't work.

The theory is that you write your game (or a prototype of it), put it up on the Community site for a very low cost (not 400 pts like those guys) and get feedback on how well it plays, how popular it is, etc. Microsoft will supposedly cherry-pick the best of the Community site to include on actual Xbox Live Arcade.

It's not a perfect system, but it's loads better than anything the Wii or PS3 have.

Re:M$ needs stricter rules (1)

HitoGuy (1324613) | more than 5 years ago | (#28751111)

That sounds a lot like the AUR in Archlinux. Anyone and their dog can upload packages, but only the good or popular ones actually get anywhere other than [unsupported]. Whereas if a TU likes it, it could go into [community] and have a better shot at getting downloaded. Eventually, if the package is really really REALLY good... it can get fully supported maintainership with the devs and go into [extra].

easier to persuade a company with much to lose (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742227)

maybe Indies are gathering too much momentum for both Microsoft and the larger publishers. You can squeeze more from a watermelon than you can kiwi. But I would think that Indies would be a great benefit to the platform since they're more susceptible to exclusive deals and probably cheaper too. But maybe Indies are, because of the smaller software effort more likely to be cross platform? From Microsoft's many years of evaluating Linux and open source, they probably know it's easier to work with large corporations than small teams of developers. FYI, the word _work_ is used in a very general way since we are talking about Microsoft and working with someone even includes enacting business methods to eliminate that partner or their product.
 

LoB
 

Just like the music industry (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742257)

They don't like independents.

Thank you everyone who made this possible (5, Insightful)

pizzach (1011925) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742741)

Looks like game developers have finally grown big enough to start considering building their own RIAA/MPAA. I just want to say thanks to the people who only buy games that they have heard of through commercials of or only buy sequels. I also want to thank the graphics whores who only support games that a mega company could afford to make. Without you guys, none of this would be possible. (This also counts for presidential elections etc...)

Re:Thank you everyone who made this possible (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28742957)

Where is the +1 Sad but true mod?

The ESA (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743565)

Looks like game developers have finally grown big enough to start considering building their own RIAA/MPAA.

They've had one for fifteen years [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Thank you everyone who made this possible (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743961)

At first I thought you mean the Indie Game Devs had started their own **AA. That's what this article is, you know... All the Indies getting together and bitching.

You're welcome (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745147)

You're welcome. I always purchase games that I find entertaining. I can't remember the commercial I saw for Braid and I'm sure it's a sequel to something.

---

Most indie games get rejected because they aren't good enough to warrant the attention of very many people. And if your indie game looks bad it has nothing to do with your budget except that you were too cheap to pay the salary of an artist or two. I've seen great looking games in 2D and 3D produced by one or two artists.

Of course. (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743189)

There don't need to be any specific rational reasons behind this. It's simply a matter of species recognition.

Giant corporate behemoths are into slave labor. Their bodies are larger than any group of moral people within it, and so the cost/benefit analysis cancer is much more able to grow in yucky ways. (Is it cheaper to do something awful and pay the occasional price of a lost law suit than it is to not do it?)

Indy companies are much more likely to exist for the express purpose of serving its human masters and not the other way around. So when a large, psychotic company detects another similar species out there in the shared environment doing things differently, it sees it as a criticism of, and indeed. a threat to it's own chosen mode of behavior. Therefore, this Other is labeled "Enemy".

It's kind of like how two geeks of differing opinions will attempt to annihilate one another on instinct. Which version of "True" will become dominant in the world? Blood will flow over this.

-FL

Most Indie Titles Suck (3, Insightful)

popo (107611) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743725)

Before you mod this as flamebait, please read this whole post:
.
As an indie developer myself, I've been somewhat appalled by the utter lack of quality among indie games. We live in a world where there are hundreds of thousands of beautifully designed "indie" websites, but when it comes to indie games, we're apparently supposed to pretend that professional-quality design is something that requires lots of money. We're asked to somehow equate "indie" with "unprofessional".
.
This is not only bullsh*t, but it's a disaster for everyone.
.
The problem with indie games on X-Box Live is that Microsoft has utterly failed at creating a Darwinian process of user reviews, and user promotion. Because users can't rate games (or vote to have them removed), we end up with an enormous amount of "noise" on X-Box Live. Users are confronted with dozens of truly sub-par, poorly designed games, and given no way to filter the best of the best.

This lack of promotion/filtration disincentivizes both indie and commercial game developers alike, because they end up with something akin to the AppStore-Problem -- which is a glut of too many sub-standard titles.

We don't need more restrictions on indie developers. What we need is quality control, and it needs to be done by (and for) the community.

Re:Most Indie Titles Suck (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28744317)

I agree with this, and it is not like its a new issue to video games at all.

Crappy indie games from the Atari era killed the entire video game industry in America before. At least now we have better communication to get a check on the crappy games rather immediately.

Re:Most Indie Titles Suck (4, Interesting)

Sc4Freak (1479423) | more than 5 years ago | (#28745879)

I'm a developer who has had a game published on Xbox Live Community Games.

Although this isn't so much of a problem for XBLA, I think it is completely true that there are far too many low-quality titles flooding Xbox Live Community Games. The modicum of good games are being swamped by a flood of ill-designed, terribly-executed, low-quality games (and in many cases, "games"). The review process for publishing Xbox Live Community Games is designed to weed out technical issues; it's actually forbidden for a reviewer to reject a game submission because "he didn't like it". The reason for this is because the review process is done by fellow developers, and allowing subjective judgements in the review process introduces a conflict of interest.

As developers, we've time and time again asked Microsoft to introduce a user rating system, where the users of the service (and ultimately, our customers) will be able to give games ratings and allow for user recommendations. This should give power back to the users to weed out the bad games and allow the real gems of the service to shine.

As far as I can tell, Microsoft decided to actually listen to us. About a month and a half ago they announced [xna.com] that user ratings are coming to Xbox Live. From what I've heard, these features should be arriving in the coming months - so maybe once that happens things will get a little better.

Re:Most Indie Titles Suck (1)

atraintocry (1183485) | more than 5 years ago | (#28749739)

It's such an obvious thing. I'm surprised to hear that they haven't already implemented it in all this time. Not having a 360, I had assumed that XNA was some sort of indie game nirvana. I'm disappointed to hear that the good games get buried but I'm glad to have gotten some straight talk on the subject.

For the record I think Microsoft deciding which indie games to bless with XBLA status also creates a conflict of interest, since a cheaper download-only game could potentially cannibalize sales of a more expensive disc-based game.

But it's a software platform, not a court room, so the conflict of interest isn't necessarily a problem, but it means the users see less value out of their system.

Having the top-rated games more or less automatically make it to XBLA would be amazing. I'd buy a 360 for that (not that I won't ever buy a 360, I'm just typically a little behind on the game hardware and haven't yet).

Re:Most Indie Titles Suck (1)

PaganRitual (551879) | more than 5 years ago | (#28751809)

I still don't understand how a user rating system will remove subjectivity from other developers. The stories I've heard from the submission process so far has involved people making similar games trying to get games rejected by picking on the tiniest little thing. Surely having to at least come up with a reasoning behind a rejecting is a bit more transparent than generic user ratings with no explanation behind them? I don't like the content of a book on amazon. After logging in, a single click later, and I've affected the rating for that book in the negative, with no responsibility and no requirement to back up my one-star rating. If I'm forced to give a short reason as to why I gave it one star, that can then be itself reviewed by other people, surely the process is stronger and safer for it.

Either that or I'm completely missing the point here.

Re:Most Indie Titles Suck (1)

Perky_Goth (594327) | more than 5 years ago | (#28756939)

As opposed to most AAA titles? Seriously?

Game Flood (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#28743951)

If XBLA published every Indie game that applied for it, there would be a flood of really, really crappy games and you could barely find the good ones. If MS is artificially limiting the number of games, it's because it wants to keep the offerings in the 'good-to-great' range and not offer junk just to make some quick cash.

Try this: Name 3 Indie games that was turned away from XBLA that was or would have been successes. If they are being turned away in droves, naming 3 of them should not be that hard.

Re:Game Flood (2, Insightful)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 5 years ago | (#28744545)

... and having a voting column to show how many users play which games how often and/or what they've rated each game would be hard why?

Sort the games into categories like "new this week" or "popular this week" and "most popular of all time" and you won't have a problem.

GameStreamer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28743993)

Luckily there are new guys out there like GameStreamer.com who are supporting the indie community. They have the first open catalog and they're doing it smart, unlike Microsoft. They realize you can do it like iTunes and have EVERY game on there and just sort based on quality and reviews.. no reason you can't have them all. MS Has the money, no clue what they're doing.

I made a TINYURL of this post to spread the word to the indie community: http://www.tinyurl.com/ms-hates-indies .

Indie??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28746963)

Is M$ descriminating against people from india?
Or do they not like indie music?

A little oversensationalize, huh? (1)

ProppaT (557551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28747095)

I think the bigger problem with Xbox Live right now are the insane number of just unspeakably bad trash that gets put up there. I don't know if it's still up there, but there used to be a game actually called "Don't Buy This Game" or something to that extint. I think the zinger was, if you did, it basically said "I told you so." There was no game there really. It was 400 points and whether on accident or intentionally I'm sure someone bought it. This is an extreme example, but Microsoft was not monitoring submittals for this kinda garbage. It got to the point where at least I would never visit the indie game section.

And now? Well, if there's 35 slots that's a good thing, it means the cream of the crop will rise. I honestly couldn't name you over 10 of the "indie" games on Live worth buying. Basically, this means that MS can actually push the indie games section and encourage people to visit it instead of slightly burying it like they have now. Giving indie developers an outlet on a console is a great thing, but all the craps been pulling everyone down. I only see this as a positive. And, if there's a resurgence of great talent and great games that start to spill in from the indie community, I'm sure MS will change their stance...but for now, this limit is doing exactly what it should, it's going to discourage people from spending 2 days programming "Poop II: Revenge of the Turds" and hoping someone actually buys it.

I'm not an xbox360 developer but... (1)

rgviza (1303161) | more than 5 years ago | (#28759739)

Would it be possible to publish your game as a dvd image to be downloaded and burned to DVD?

Sorry for my ignorance. I'm not an xbox360 hacker and don't know squat about it.

-Viz

WTF is an Indie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28775025)

Is this some more of that insider bubbleworld gamer lingo that really, really, really annoys the rest of the ( non-gamer ) world? And does nothing to enhance the image of hard core gamers? And makes me click to another article? And kills my sympathy for the plight of the Indies?

All aside, I really hope the Indies are ok. They are nice people. I always hoped to visit Indie O Nesia some day.

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