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Devs Finally Finding Success With Xbox Indie Games

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the slowly-and-surly dept.

XBox (Games) 65

McBacon writes with this excerpt from Wired.co.uk: "Often dismissed as a failed venture, the Xbox Indie Games programme has earned successful man-and-his-dog developers tens of thousands of pounds from sales of their homebrew games. Wired explores the success stories of this hidden marketplace. ... now, more than a year since its launch, the Xbox Indie Games are seeing something of a revival. Microsoft has made huge strides to improve the service, games are beginning to be taken more seriously and success stories are becoming more and more common. Especially for [James] Silva, a New York-based developer, who became an impromptu Indie celebrity after his game The Dishwasher won Microsoft's Dream-Build-Play competition. He says he's 'absolutely thrilled' to have seen I Maed a Gam3 w1th Zomb1es!!!1 — his latest game — become a cult hit, for gamers to flock to it in record numbers and to have sold over 200,000 copies."

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So... what's the news? (3, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about 4 years ago | (#31519638)

ONE person managed to make money with XBox market place. Well, that's ... super. But news? Happens every day in other ventures. There's always been the suddenly-successful indie band amidst all the hyped stars, or the odd "Blair Witch" low budget movie that for some odd reason was successful.

OTOH, there are thousands making music and movies, and now games, who spend hours after hours, knowing that they will, at best, do it for their own entertainment and maybe, just maybe, get a warm meal out of it.

Re:So... what's the news? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31519904)

Disclaimer: James is an acquaintance of mine from a brief time spent at SUNY Albany, so I may be a bit prejudiced. Hopefully he sees this and can reply on his own; most likely he's far too busy with an actual life.

His success is due to insane amounts of effort. I would say that anyone could do it, but in all honesty, most can't. His early games were models of non-programmer programming -- they did what they needed to, not elegantly, not provably, but damn, they worked. (I've seen some of the old sources)

When I say "insane amounts of effort," I mean of Sisyphean magnitude. *Every single asset* in his (old?) games is under his copyright control: as in, he played all the music, he drew all the sprites, he wrote all the code. The only part that isn't his is internationalization, and there is good reason for that.

This extends to his own bone system (and 3D modeling software thereupon) for a game that I don't even remember being released.

Now, I'd wager he's a pretty mean coder as he's a CS professor at SUNY's flagship IT school. He still does insane amounts of work -- I don't think he sleeps, or eats -- but he's probably a lot more productive coding now.

So yeah, James is the man, but I don't know how well his success will translate to other "indies."

PS -- "I Maed a Gam3 w1th Zomb1es!!!1" is a classic, but if you really want to see awesome, go find a copy of his game "Survival Crisis Z" and play the arcade mode.

And Jim, you're (still) the f'in man, keep it up.

Re:So... what's the news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31520046)

I Maed a Gam3 w1th Zomb1es!!!1 was successful because it's a fun dual-stick shooter with catchy music that costs a dollar.

Re:So... what's the news? (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | about 4 years ago | (#31522392)

I think it's important to note the pricing. Being worth the cost of entry is important towards being an impulse buy. Of course, it also makes it much harder to end up with profit afterward (a lot of that $1 goes to Microsoft), but that balance is very important.

Of course, we will pay $60 for 8-10 hours worth of fun for other games, why wouldn't we pay $2 for 5 hours worth of indie-game fun?

Re:So... what's the news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31521320)

He sounds a lot like a guy who used to be my coworker and roommate. This was back in the transitory period between DOS and Windows 95. He hated Windows 95 so much, that he wrote his own operating system in pure assembly language (he also refused to use any "sloppy" high level languages like C or C++). His OS had sort of a reverse Windows interface in that it was a fullscreen commandline that resembled DOS, but allowed for individual programs to pop up graphical windows on top of it. He wrote all of his own applications and even a few games. Everyone told him he was insane. He proved us wrong.

Another guy that I used to work with is Jonathan Blow. As you might know, he's the indie developer who hit it big with Braid. In many ways he also reminded me of the homebrew OS guy. Both were slightly odd personalities but highly intelligent and obsessively dedicated to their work.

I hold people like that responsible for my motivation for creating my own game, which is going on 4 years of (solo) development at this point but looking better by the day. People like these are good examples of what you can accomplish if you simply spend your time doing it.

all your base (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31521418)

The only part that isn't his is internationalization, and there is good reason for that.

All your base are belong to us?

Re:So... what's the news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31521822)

Let me get this straight - is James the man or not?

Re:So... what's the news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31522490)

Oh yeah he is... who else is gonna write me in as the scientist that unleashes the zombie plague? (orig. SCZ plot)

Don't forget the oldies (Zombie Smashers X/2) -- first games I saw with syringes as weapons, and epic gameplay to boot.

Also, how come nobody mentions that the gameplay and the music are inexorably linked in "I Maed a Gam3?" There's not many (that I know of) to pull it off so smoothly. To boot, he wrote one of the authoritative books on using XNA/C# to write a (XBLA) game, using the Dishwasher source as an example.

And he willingly stays in a ****hole town in central NY: that's gotta be some civic karma points right there.

Re:So... what's the news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31545330)

Full disclosure: I've also had the distinct pleasure of beta-testing some of James' work in the past, and can back up the assertion that his success is due to tremendous skill and liberal amounts of kung fu (that is, hard work.) To anyone who hasn't yet had the pleasure, please explore SkaSoftware.com to find plenty of his older work available for download-- you won't regret it.

The funny thing is that as soon as I saw this headline in my reader, I knew that James would be mentioned.

Kanpai, old buddy.

Marketing (1)

jpmorgan (517966) | about 4 years ago | (#31519974)

As much as I hate to admit it, this is where marketing comes in. All you have to do is look at the crapfests that come from the major publishers and still pull in megasales to realize that marketing is far more important than anything intrinsic to the product itself. It's true of everything: movies, books, music, even games.

Indie products almost never have the kind of commercial success they deserve (excepting the rare cult hit) because they don't have the money to buy their way into the enormous media machines and get the exposure needed for commercial success. What pays for the all the wonderful free content available today? All the overpriced products you DO buy. They're mediocre because all the money and effort goes into massive advertising campaigns, which in turns pays for the free content you enjoy. Like Slashdot.

Re:Marketing (2, Interesting)

Eraesr (1629799) | about 4 years ago | (#31520106)

As far as marketing goes, I never understood why the indie market place is a closed off part of XBox Live. I mean, isn't part of success directly related to the potential number of customers? If you first have to pay $100 a year subscription to be able to download games (for which you have to pay again), not many people will be interested in it. Especially not when most people already pay $60 a year for an XBox Live Gold subscription.

Re:Marketing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31520972)

You don't have to have a gold subscription to download games. You only need one to play online. And they've put in an indie game spotlight in the games marketplace so they're starting to get them some exposure.

Re:Marketing (2, Informative)

mlk (18543) | about 4 years ago | (#31522976)

you first have to pay $100 a year subscription to be able to download games ...Especially not when most people already pay $60 a year for an XBox Live Gold subscription

The $100 on top of Live Gold is to develop games on the 360.
All you need to download an Indy game to a 360 is a 360, a free Xbox account and broadband connection.

Re:So... what's the news? (5, Informative)

Xest (935314) | about 4 years ago | (#31520058)

Where did you get the idea it's one person? Did you only really the summary but still manage to miss the fact it said "Devs" as in plural?

A handful of people have made over £100,000 out of this in about a year, tons have made tens of thousands. Your assumption that it's a single person is simply wrong. People are making money on things they would struggle to otherwise be able to make money from, often because it means putting a lot of time, effort and money into support, distribution and marketing- all problems that XBL Indie games basically solves for you to a decent extent (although additional marketing never hurts).

What stands out with XBox Indie Games is that it's probably one of the easiest ways to build a game and publish it. Nothing matches the combination of Visual Studio .NET, C#, and XNA in terms of ease and speed of game development whilst retaining the ability to build solid, professional grade games.

You do need an XNA subscription to publish, but you only need a 4 month one to publish to the Xbox 360, and that's hardly going to break the bank at $49. You can still release on Windows for free. Once that's done, the whole process of submission for peer review, eventual publishing if in a fit state for release and payment is so well automated and simple. The subscription gives you the opportunity to play through other games people have released as part of the peer review process too.

Mod Parent Up (1)

twoallbeefpatties (615632) | about 4 years ago | (#31521924)

You know, of course there's only going to be a few people who really hit it big in indie games. Just like there's only going to be a few people who really hit it big in indie movies. Just like there's only going to be a few people who really hit it big in indie music. Just like there are rarely television shows on off-brand cable networks that get the same kind of viewership that sitcoms get on network channels.

And yet, despite all of that, the FX Network picked up a pilot for a low-budget sitcom called It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and while it'll never get the viewers that Seinfeld had, it's gotten a cult audience. And occasionally a small-budget movie will win an Oscar for acting or something, and that'll drive enough people to see it to earn a profit on it. And if a local band sells 10,000 copies of their album, they're considered a success, even though big artists go platinum at 100 times that.

And so you're going to have an indie games network that's going to have a lot of trash on it that doesn't make a lot of money, but buried in there are going to be several simple games that sell 10K copies and earn their creators some spending money. That's how indie media usually works. Nothing wrong with that. (And nothing wrong with I Maed a Game With Zombies, either. That friggin' song gets stuck in my head a lot.)

Re:So... what's the news? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 4 years ago | (#31529132)

I thinking the same thing. I have an issue of Edge magazine from last year with numerous people complaining about making little to no money. There is just so much stuff to choose from and most of it's shit. It's always going to be hard for most people to earn some money even if there are some raking in loads of cash.

Hmm... (1)

NScott1989 (1767498) | about 4 years ago | (#31519644)

And how long have PS3 Dev's been prospering off the excellent indie games on PSN?

Re:Hmm... (5, Informative)

Osty (16825) | about 4 years ago | (#31519774)

And how long have PS3 Dev's been prospering off the excellent indie games on PSN?

You can't compare PSN to XBLIG. Don't confuse Indie Games (XBLIG) with Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA). PSN is Sony's equivalent to XBLA, which dev kit investment, certification, timed deployments, etc. Those are for bigger studios that can invest in full development. Indie Games are free for anybody to write (costs $100/year to put it on Xbox, though), are peer-reviewed rather than certified by Microsoft, and are posted as they clear the peer review queue rather than being limited to one or two at a time.

For comparison, The Dishwasher and I Made a Game With Zombies In It were both written by the same guy, but The Dishwasher is an XBLA game (grand prize for winning Dream-Build-Play several years ago) and Zombies is an Indie game.

Sony and Nintendo have no comparable program to Microsoft's XLBIG, where hobby developers can write games with very little up-front costs and get them published on the console.

Not officially (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31519970)

Sony and Nintendo have no comparable program to Microsoft's XLBIG, where hobby developers can write games with very little up-front costs and get them published on the console.

But the Wii does have the unofficial Homebrew Channel: www.wiibrew.org

Re:Not officially (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31521384)

If it requires hacking to get the games installed it isn't the same thing. That is like saying the iPhone allows you to run any app, you just have to jailbreak it first.

Re:Hmm... (2, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | about 4 years ago | (#31520086)

It's a stupid comparison. XBox Live Arcade is the equivalent of the PSN's games as you still need to go through Sony/Microsoft's certification and review process to get published, the barrier to entry is much, much higher. XBox Live Arcade has been making a small fortune for developers there pretty much since the console's release.

This is talking about XBox Live Indie Games which is completely different- it's a place where developers can publish with no barrier to entry other than a $49 4 month subscription (or $99 for a year) and peer review as to whether your game actually works and doesn't crash.

We're talking about people being able to spend no more than a week developing a game, $49 to publish it on XBox Live Indie games, and still earning over £100,000. That's quite a contrast to having to spend months- possibly making it a full time job, and thousands of pounds and then still having to wait in line at the whim of Microsoft/Sony to publish.

not a "fair" comparison (2, Informative)

rgraneru (1748928) | about 4 years ago | (#31519678)

The X-box equivalent for PSN is Xbox Live Arcade. Does Sony have a Xbox Indie Games equivalent? Comparing PSN with with Xbox Indie Games is not really "fair". But I guess all is fair in oven war.

Re:not a "fair" comparison (1)

rgraneru (1748928) | about 4 years ago | (#31519712)

this was meant to be a reply to NScott1989's Hmm-comment

Re:not a "fair" comparison (0, Troll)

NScott1989 (1767498) | about 4 years ago | (#31519724)

That's what I'm thinking.... Haha. Anyways, it is my understanding that PSN is more accessible to Indie developers in the first place. I think that this is just a move on Microsoft's part to make up for some lost ground.

Re:not a "fair" comparison (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31519754)

Quite the opposite, PS3 charges an arm and 3 legs for devkits, MS provides them for almost no charge, if anything sony are still way way behind here.

Re:not a "fair" comparison (1)

NScott1989 (1767498) | about 4 years ago | (#31519792)

Quite the opposite, PS3 charges an arm and 3 legs for devkits, MS provides them for almost no charge, if anything sony are still way way behind here.

Well let's hope there's at least 2 people on the dev team!

best hot selling (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31519686)

Wow nice, but your can shopping online best hot selling and best offer prices , ALL DEPARTMENTS cheaping hot prices ext. Apple MacBook MC207 Laptop l BlackBerry+Bold+9700+Phone l PlayStation 3 250GB http://www.besthotsell.com/ [besthotsell.com]

Signal to noise ratio (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31519692)

About 95% of the game look like tests (___'s Pong!), rehashed crap (Super Deluxe Vibrator!), poorly cloned crap (Geometry Wars - now with less geometry!), or weird Japanese crap (dating sims, tetris with anime wizard girls, etc.). It's really difficult to get through to the good stuff.

Re:Signal to noise ratio (1)

Anarki2004 (1652007) | about 4 years ago | (#31519750)

I thought Geometry Wars Evolved was an awesome addition to the series. The extra game modes give you more to do with the game. Or am I missing something here?

Re:Signal to noise ratio (1)

Tjebbe (36955) | about 4 years ago | (#31519988)

i think he is referring to another game that is like geometry wars, but less good. I don't know for sure, we don't get the indy games over here (loved both geometry wars games though)

Re:Signal to noise ratio (2, Interesting)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 4 years ago | (#31519844)

There's some fun little games in there. The trick is to pop in and check what's new in the games section every couple of days. I look for new trailers, demos, arcade and indie games.

It's supposed to be a sandbox for budding developers. You're not going to find the next Mass Effect there. Are so many people really missing the point? Yeah, yeah, in this world that's a totally pointless question.

Re:Signal to noise ratio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31520468)

I don't think anyone's necessarily missing the point, but it's always going to be the case that there's a balancing act between stringent quality control and sandbox freedom for developers. If you have too much quality control, you shut out a lot of developers, too little and it's difficult for users to find the better products (and following that logic, difficult for the devs making the good products to get the message out and get paid). Some method of promoting games up based on quality so they become easier to find while still allowing developers freedom to work on their desired projects would be the answer, rather than just having everything available at the same level - so it's probably just the UI that needs work rather than the whole concept.

Re:Signal to noise ratio (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31520062)

It's really difficult to get through to the good stuff.

No, not really - try sorting by user rating.

Re:Signal to noise ratio (1)

TrancePhreak (576593) | about 4 years ago | (#31520084)

Well then it's a good thing they all have demos. Oh? You didn't know that or are just trying to troll? Why yes, Anonymous Coward does that often.

Re:Signal to noise ratio (2, Informative)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 4 years ago | (#31520316)

Well, have you seen Kongregate.com? Most games that get uploaded there also are crap. But that does not matter, since Kongregate is designed in a way, that you will usually only get in touch with good games. But you can go to the “new games” page if you want.
They simply use a rating system. And the users are quite demanding in their ratings. From 3 stars on, it’s worth a try. And from 4 stars on, developers get to use the achievements API, so they can add achievements. Which makes the whole site some kind of role playing metagame. Plus, every 4 star game gets its time on the front page.

You can also give tips to the developers. Apart from having a successful game on the site giving you massive points in the metagame.
And on top of that, the site owners are no anonymous body, but if you write them, you get a real answer and a real communication. Something that I think is worth more than most other things.

I wish this site would be seen as a role model for such communities. I play there, even though I always get the latest and greatest games for free... go figure...

Re:Signal to noise ratio (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | about 4 years ago | (#31520454)

Afaik, any game can have ingame achievements and make use of the api to upload high scores etc.

The folks that run kong decide which games they want to give badges to however.

I was well on my way to earn lots of badges...and then I got somewhat distracted by the folks that suggested hooking up in meatspace and getting horribly drunk together ;-)

Re:Signal to noise ratio (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 years ago | (#31522700)

I was well on my way to earn lots of badges...and then I got somewhat distracted by the folks that suggested hooking up in meatspace and getting horribly drunk together ;-)

Hooking up in meatspace sounds more like something you do after getting drunk.

Re:Signal to noise ratio (1)

HaZardman27 (1521119) | about 4 years ago | (#31522100)

It's really difficult to get through to the good stuff.

Not really, you can skip past the junk and look at IGN's top picks, some contest winners, the top rated games, or the top downloaded games.

All this really proves... (0, Troll)

nataflux (1733716) | about 4 years ago | (#31519698)

Is that around 200,000 people were stupid enough to pay for a game with equal quality to a flash game, in fact almost every indie game on XBLA is of or lower than online flash game quality, that or are just ripoffs of geometry wars.

Re:All this really proves... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31519822)

My god the cocks you suck must be epic.

Get the FUCK over your insignificant self.

Re:All this really proves... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31520100)

It's one dollar, it's something to spend the extra points you have left over from Microsoft's shitty 10 hot dogs/8 buns virtual currency scheme on. And of course, your "equal quality to a flash game" troll remark is false, but I shouldn't have to point that out.

Re:All this really proves... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31525530)

go ahead and play a few demos of those games, most of them are much worse then many flash games on the web. so many people are reveling at digitally distributed games such as shadow complex (lolmetroid) or trials hd(lolflashgame), or half of the garbage on XBLA's indie games section, but its all just garbage clones really, the type of clones that serve as experimental applications meant to teach the programmer making them, you dont post that garbage on the web.In fact there are plenty of flash games that are far better than "I ma3d a gam3 with zombi3s in it", lets say boxhead for one, and the same goes plenty of other top down shooting games or stationary defense games on the web. You want to spend your money on garbage? Go for it, there's plenty of it on XBLA.

Re:All this really proves... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31520108)

geometry wars

Which was just a ripoff of Smash TV, which was just a ripoff of Robotron 2084, etc. Of course, a cheap Geometry Wars ripoff is far better than an expensive Halo or Gears of War ripoff.

There are some winners there. (1)

Pheonix28 (1362095) | about 4 years ago | (#31519760)

There are a few nice tower defense games in the indie games. I don't remember their names, but they are fun and definitely worth $1.

Avatar Golf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31520786)

I bought Avatar Golf after playing the demo. I think it was 7$. You can play against others online and create your own courses. Well worth the money if you like golf type games.

This is why apple better not have a lock in app st (2, Insightful)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#31521290)

This is why apple better not have a lock in app store with fees / and something like a 30% cut of sales and the apple app store censorship will just slow down people in makeing games.

A open market with no fees and no lock in / censorship. Is alot better then $99 to be able to come out with free games and even then you have to deal with censorship.

open market = more games over time vs a few good ones after a longer time.

Re:This is why apple better not have a lock in app (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31522186)

There are 100k+ of apps, many of which (2nd highest percentage wise) are games. I'm fairly sure that if anything, Apple will be looking to create more slowdown with higher fees and/or more hurdles to jump. So much of it is shovelware that it's making it hard to find the good from the bad, so if Apple can find a way to ... discourage ... the bad devs and encourage the good ones who are truly in it for both the money *and* the desire to provide a high-quality product (2nd one's important, too!) they would probably take that method in a heartbeat. Even if it meant less apps getting made and posted in the store.

Re:This is why apple better not have a lock in app (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31523948)

Quality English there, Joe The Dragon. Quality nick name too.

They come shambling in from the sides ... (1)

Lemming Mark (849014) | about 4 years ago | (#31521346)

Essentially, the author as recognised the need for games with zombies in. He has produced a game with zombies in for one dollar, which he hopes people will pay. The game features zombies shambling in from the sides, which you had better shoot lest you die.

XNA is not perfect (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#31522022)

True, XNA is a big improvement over the other consoles, but it's still not perfect. There are two major things you can't do with XNA [pineight.com]: synthesize the speech of game characters (there's no streaming PCM API) or write text in the languages of fictional cultures in your game (your game will fail peer review if Microsoft's criteria are to be believed).

Re:XNA is not perfect (2, Informative)

Mortlath (780961) | about 4 years ago | (#31522990)

That's only partially, true, and the sound is issue is being resolved:

Re:XNA is not perfect (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#31523248)

Version 4 allows custom sound

Vapor until released. The CTP version is for Windows Phone 7 only, not Xbox 360 [xna.com]. But consider this: Shawn Hargreaves maintained the Allegro library, which contained an audio stream API [sourceforge.net]. He now works on XNA, and it took until 4.0 for XNA to have a counterpart to this API.

According to this, only "made up languages that are documented (e.g. Klingon/elvish)" are failed.

That's exactly what I was talking about, and it would appear to rule out a lot of RPGs.

Re:XNA is not perfect (1)

Mortlath (780961) | about 4 years ago | (#31533434)

It only rules out RPGs where the authors "documented" the language so that it could be translated. Most fantasy languages aren't fully fleshed out like the one in "Lord of the Rings" or "Star Trek".

Compare the Hamtaro games (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#31534722)

So in other words, the dictionary has to be kept a trade secret. This means anyone could get the game pulled from the marketplace merely by playing the game, compiling a dictionary, and publishing it on GameFAQs, as has been done for the Hamtaro games on GBC and GBA.

XNA was a bad experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31523160)

For 9 months me and two other devs worked on a tetris like game only to wait another 6 months for it to get approved, then be taken down with no notification in two days.

C# was great but the XNA community blew chunks.
It was like having your game reviewed by 3 year olds.
The xbox was easy to develop for but the whole submital process made me go insane. I will never develop on XBOX community games again.

Indie Games and World Records (1)

derrickh (157646) | about 4 years ago | (#31524388)

My Xbox Indie Game, You Will Die [deadpixelarcade.com], just got accepted to the Twin Galaxies scoreboard. They're the guys who do the official tracking of videogame world records (for example,the Donkey Kong world record from the movie King of Kong was officiated by Twin Galaxies). It's the first time an Xbox Indie game has been included in their tracking system so it seems that the platform is gaining a bit more legitamacy


Open Consoles? (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | about 4 years ago | (#31527322)

This is a step in the right direction. Consoles are computers, and they can run all sorts of software. This service is still limited to games, and doesn't seem to allow free games to be distributed. I'm sure it's limited in other ways too, but it is much more open than what used to be allowed on a console.

Imagine if consoles offered the equivalent of Apple's App Store. Sure, the app store has frustrating limitations as well, but it does offer many interesting programs. I'd love to see popular free, cross-platform games available to play on consoles for free. I'm also curious what non-game applications might prove useful for the living room.

Of course, the console makers will resist this amount of openness, because they want to sell games. If you're spending your time on free games, you're not buying anything. But it is encouraging to see Microsoft move in this direction. If Google TV or other set top boxes take off, and they allow the user to run any Android based software, the console makers may be forced to open up their platforms in order to compete.

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