Publishers and manufacturers are starting to realize that Indie Game Developers are a legitimate part of the business. For more background, Part One of this article is located here.
As a continued part of our amazement in partnering with Microsoft on the Marble Blast Ultra project for the XBox360, we ended up with the North American launch of the entire platform at our own little IndieGamesCon. A day after the European launch in Amsterdam, much of the Microsoft launch team were on red-eye flights here to Eugene, OR, USA. For the next three days, we had the world’s largest collection of XBox360′s in front of most of the US gaming press as well as 200 indie game developers.
While Mark Frohnmayer and I were eating lunch with Greg Canessa, head of the XBox marketing team, I asked him if we should we mortgage our houses to make XB360 games for Live Arcade download. Of course, his answer was yes, but you have to remember that his job for the last two years was selling the XB360 concept up and down the food chain. Turns out, he is probably right.
As promised, here are the five reasons (plus a bonus) this is important for Indie games developers.
1. Consoles are opening up to Indies. This is huge. Finally, indie game developers get access to millions of hard core game players, great input devices, and dedicated machines! On the flip side, the competition for this channel will go up in a hurry. All of the major game publishers are starting up games for XBLA. A year from now, there will be well over 100 games vying for player’s attention. Future blog articles here on MBG will address how indies can stand out in this market.
2. XBLA success puts pressure on Sony to add a download channel. Rumors are flying that Sony is already showing signs of cracking. In addition, Nintendo has stated they are looking for smaller, more innovative games for the DS and Revolution. Having more channels will increase your chances of getting a game published. Even though there will be “gate keepers” you will have to get around to bring your product into these channels, there will be a lot of possibilities.
3. Experimental Business Models. XBLA back end allows for add-ons, downloadable content, and access to a a huge community of players. This allows you to consider interesting, innovative business models like giving the game away free and charging for upgrades or game objects. Much more to explore here in the future.
4. Console development technologies available at Indie price. Again, I’m not here to simply plug GarageGames’ products, but our Torque Shader Engine 360 is such a compelling value that I simply have to mention it. TSE360 allows you to develop your product for the XBox360 without even having a development kit. Over half of our development for MBU was done on the PC, and we could even test PC vs. XB360 in multi-player. I’ll cover a step by step approach of getting your project onto XB360 in the future.
5. Proves that small companies can have a hit. We absolutely love Geometry Wars and thought it would be the break away hit since we first saw it at IndieGamesCon, but it was developed by Bizzare Creations, the non-indie developer of Project Gotham Racing. GarageGames is much smaller than BC, but we still have a lot of ex-industry talent. I would like to say that anybody can make a successful title for this channel, but it will take a lot of dedication, talent, and perseverance. It probably won’t be your first game.
6. Downloadable Console Games Can Make Money. Why this is important for Indie game developers is because it finally proves there is a market for smaller titles that are not “match three bubble poppers.” MBU is selling!! Without breaking any NDA’s we can tell you that MBU is selling faster than any product that I have created in my career. By just keeping one of the lowest “high scores” on a level that is not included in the demo, we can tell that at least 20,000 MBU’s have sold in less than four days. Accoring to this article on Joystiq, Geometry Wars was at 45,000 units a week or so ago, and was the number one title in the channel, “our Halo” according to Greg Canessa. At 800 Gamer Points for MBU vs. 400 for GW, MBU should become the highest grossing title in the channel within the next week or so. Wow, a Halo beater?