I have been working on a post about basic things that you need to do to get started in the Indie Games business as part of my prerelease series before officially announcing the MBG blog, but changed my mind and decided to write about Marble Blast Ultra. I don’t plan on having the MBG blog just be a mouthpiece for GarageGames press and hype, but MBU360 is a groundbreaking product for a bunch of reasons.
When we first started GarageGames in 1999 one fear in the back of my mind was that indies would never have a shot at getting their products on consoles. All of the major boxes were tightly controlled by the manufacturers (Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo), requiring pre development approval, expensive development kits, upfront purchase of all inventory at inflated costs due to proprietary media, and many other huge barriers to entry. The only other way to get on consoles was to sell your soul to publishers that instist on owning all intellectual property, maintain tight creative control of the product, and many other bad things that we will go over in future blog articles.
As PC sales continued to become less relevant and went down year to year, my fears continued to rise. I had visions of PC’s becoming Web access devices where less and less people considered playing games. As an aside, I actually worry about “everything” since that is my nature and my job, but it turns out that the downloadable games market on the PC that was the main vision behind GarageGames is alive, well, and growing.
Even if the downloadable market on the PC had not blossomed two years ago, we had a meeting with Ross Erickson from Microsoft and David Nixon from Oberon that was the first step to fixing the problem of getting indies on consoles. David and Ross were working on the XBox Live Arcade download system for the original XBox which needed content, and they loved our game Marble Blast, as well as our published games Think Tanks and Orbz. In addition to liking our “next generation casual” games, they knew we owned our intellectual property as well as out technology and could bring it over to the XBox.
Immediately, I felt like this would be the key to getting indies onto consoles, so my earlier fears were about being locked out of the market were subsiding. All we had to do now was deliver three games, but again, the whole idea of GarageGames worked. GarageGames handled most of the technology port as well as Marble Blast, Bravetree (indie developer GG acquired in 2005) ported Think Tanks, and 21-6 Productions ported Orbz.
While XBLA for the original XBox was kind of a “dry run”, we all learned a lot from the experience, especially Microsoft. When they approached us to have an updated Marble Blast be a part of the launch portfolio for Xbox360, we could not say yes fast enough. We were amazed at the depth of thought they put into the design of Live Arcade 360, and were even more blown away when we actually got to work on it. The most important thing to note here is that GarageGames and several small indie game developers were give Alpha hardware and an equal shot at bringing games to market on next generation hardware at launch. Think about that for a second. Instead of giving Electronic Arts more of the scarce development kits, Fed-Ex brought one of the hand built Alpha kits right to our door! Even though we had signed the contract, we could not believe it.
It gets even better, but this post is running way too long. Tune in for Part II, where I actually explain why shipping MBU is important, and give some advice on how to get your product into the Live Arcade 360 downloadable channel.