The Indie Games Winter Uprising (IGWU) was a first-of-its-kind event during last December and January with one purpose: to show the gaming community the great titles available on the Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) channel for Xbox 360.
Of the 14 scheduled to release during the promotion, one didn’t make it to the channel. For those that did become available, the event was nothing but positive.
“I think the event was successful,” Ian Stocker, developer at Magical Time Bean and creator of IGWU release Soulcaster 2, said. “It connected me to other developers and it undoubtedly improved the media exposure of the Indie Games channel as a whole.
“I can't think of any other time XBLIG has gotten remotely that many blog posts, forum threads, and news articles,” he added. “And to read the number of comments like, ‘Wow, I didn't know stuff like this was available; I've got to check some of these out,’ I can't help but think we improved our image as well.”
Other developers' feelings mirrored Stocker’s positive attitude about the event. Badger Punch Games released their first Xbox 360 indie title as part of the Uprising, and the response they received for being a part of it caught them off guard.
“We didn’t expect any reviews at all or even mentions on any sites, but because of the Indie Games Winter Uprising, we got dozens of online reviews and quite a bit of attention,” Henning Ludvigsen, cofounder of Badger Punch Games, said of Ubergridder, a simple arcade-style game in the same vein of Pac-Man.
The idea to start a promotional event began in early November when the indie-games section moved into the specialty side of the Xbox 360 Marketplace, which made the games less visible to potential buyers as they were nestled next to the Avatar Store.
Stocker and Robert Boyd of Zeboyd Games (developer of the successful Breath of Death 7 indie role-playing game) had initially decided to do their own promotion, but eventually the idea to bring together some of the big and best was born.
“I asked him if he wanted to release Cthulhu at the same time that I released Soulcaster 2 so we could do some cross promotion,” Stocker said. “Robert was into the idea and thought we should take it to the next level. If we coordinate two releases, why not coordinate 12? We decided to focus on high-quality, non-avatar games for this event to put our best foot forward to the gaming community.”
Good publicity was definitely a goal the event reached, and perception (for the most part according to reviews across the web) was generally favorable for the games released under the Indie Games Winter Uprising banner.
Even a sense of community was found through the event.
“The most exciting thing about the Winter Uprising was the fact that it was community driven by some of the best Xbox indie developers,” Mike Muir, creator of Epic Dungeon, said. “Of course, it’s great to get publicity, but the thing I’ve really enjoyed about the Uprising has been getting to know some other developers during this process.
“Indie game development — for me at least — has been a very solitary experience, so it’s been great working with other developers on the Uprising.”
Sales for games in the IGWU were a mixed bag, but generally they didn’t receive a great sales boost from being a part of the event.
Ubergridder didn’t sell well, Soulcaster 2 made less than its prequel, Chu’s Dynasty developer Tribetoy said their game did fine considering the marketplace, and Kris Steele of Fun Infused Games found the boost in sales to be tiny…but that wasn’t the point.
“How will we gauge its success?” Camille Chu of Tribetoy said as she mulled over the question before answering. “I think if people receive the games well and it generated more interest in the indie scene, then the Uprising has achieved its goals.
“The main goal behind the Uprising was not to promote any one or dozen games, but just to say to the gaming community, “Hey, there is some good stuff going on here, and these games are just a small sampling.”
Stocker hopes another IGWU event makes its way to the Xbox 360 after the media and gaming-community buzz created from the first one, even if it isn’t possible to make everyone happy.
“Not everyone in the Creators Club was on board with an event where games have to be approved by the event organizers, but really, I can't think of a way around that,” he said. “If we're going to make a splash and try to improve our image, we have to put our best foot forward and have a clear focus.”