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Why Shipping Marble Blast Ultra On XBox 360 Is Important For Indie Game Developers, Part 1

MBU Marble

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.

-Jeff Tunnell, Game Makermakeitbigingamesgaragegames

  • http://www.letsdesign.co.uk David

    Looking forward to what it was like working with the Alpha hardware and part 2.

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  • WoooDat nice

    Fun game, would have like a KING of the Hill kinda deathmatch

  • http://none joe

    MBU360 is a great game and it probably was bought by at least 5 to 10k 360 users. I think it was 800 points, so thats roughly a $10 game…. so that equals $100k profit. Maybe my #’s are wrong on who bought it, but where is the profit to be made for the devs?

  • http://www.xboxevolved.com John Olin

    good job on the game guys, I appreciated the interviews, and the help, and we gave it a 9/10–best XBLA game yet :-)

  • ken

    Great job. Jeff, would you mind sharing a bit info on the dev cost, such as the 360 XDK and so on? I understand that with a dual core CPU and ATI SM3.0 GPU you can sort of emulating the environment of X360, but eventually an XDK is must, thank you so much!!

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  • http://biasedvideogamerblog.wikidot.com/ gamer review

    The 360 is probably the second or third best platform for game development right now. I'd say PC is number one as it should, iPhone apps are huge right now and have a lot of potential. The 360 has the benefit of Microsoft developing tools for developers. From what i have heard with Xbox Arcade, Microsoft will take a 15 to 20 percent royalty and not pay the developer unless it gets a certain threshold of download/purchases.

    At the very least, I hope there is a demo for Marble Blast Ultra. Demos are a great way to get more people to buy the game.

  • http://biasedvideogamerblog.wikidot.com/ gamer review

    The 360 is probably the second or third best platform for game development right now. I'd say PC is number one as it should, iPhone apps are huge right now and have a lot of potential. The 360 has the benefit of Microsoft developing tools for developers. From what i have heard with Xbox Arcade, Microsoft will take a 15 to 20 percent royalty and not pay the developer unless it gets a certain threshold of download/purchases.

    At the very least, I hope there is a demo for Marble Blast Ultra. Demos are a great way to get more people to buy the game.

  • http://howtofix-xbox360.blogspot.com/ HowToFixXbox360

    Marble Blast Huh? I am going to have to check that out. I really like the Indie Games on XBL. The big problem I have it is hard to decide what I spend my money on.