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A number of indie developers have expressed concerns about the updated Xbox dashboard, with some suggesting it is guilty of burying Xbox Live Indie Games.
Indie Games are no longer listed in the New Arrivals section of the Marketplace, nor the Genre listings. Instead, they are found through a tile labelled Game Type.
The Xbox Metro dashboard update went live on Dec. 6 and brought with it a host of new features. In the shake up though, the XBox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) channel has been replaced with an Indie Games tile, which some developers are worried might be missed by gamers, or could eventually disappear altogether. In addition, the Bing search engine on the dashboard is failing to return results for many Xbox Live Indie games. Searching for ‘Dead Rising’ yields a multitude of results, but searching for ‘Applejack’ or ‘Avatar Battle Bees’ returns no relevant findings.
Mommy’s Best Games boss Nathan Fouts spoke to Eurogamer explaining his concerns, “There’s a revolving tile that currently also links you to Indie Games but it’s sort of random if someone will see that or even if IG will be listed there next week.” He added that “the truly disheartening news is that the ‘games’ tab on our game console is now several pages away from the start……simply getting to the main portal for Arcade, Games on Demand or Indie Games, or for that matter my own game library is a chore.”
The dashboard has also brought with it more advertising, as Microsoft looks to target adverts to individuals, based on their behaviors. The new layout is an “advertisers dream”, according to Fouts, but this means that “every single page main page now has an advertisement on it, there are dozens of secret little places to feature things, and it’s easy to get lost.”
Cthulhu Saves the World developer Robert Boyd, is also concerned about the new dashboard, and thinks that it will probably result in reduced sales: “It feels to me that Microsoft is trying to promote individual games more but hide the [XBLIG] channel as a whole. I think this will result in less sales overall, but only time will tell.”
Although a degree of backlash is to be expected with such a major dashboard change, the concerns raised by indie developers do feel like part of a wider feeling of discontent towards Microsoft. Brett Everleigh, developer of Avatar Battle Bees, says that “Microsoft take a back-seat approach and only really gets involved to take a cut of your sales and make the games slightly harder to find with each new dashboard update”. He adds that “it feels like Microsoft has abandoned the platform in favour of Windows Phone 7. But instead of admitting it they’re brushing it under the carpet and hoping it’ll go away.”
Pricing is also a point of concern for many XBLIG developers, as they are forced to under-value their games, to get people to even consider them, according to Everleigh. He points out that while Indie games on PC and iOS are also being devalued, there are a sufficient number of users on those platforms to offset the problem, which isn’t the case on XBLIG.
Microsoft has responded to these concerns in a statement, saying “Indie developers have told us they are looking for an easy route to market, which is the biggest hurdle to overcome, and we’ve provided that for them with Xbox Live Indie Games. But they’ve got to take that next step and do marketing after the launch.”
The statement continues, “”the new Xbox 360 Dashboard update provides improved ways for consumers to find great indie titles, including the ability to search with voice”, but while this voice search is a nice new feature, it doesn’t overcome the fact that some indie titles aren’t showing up in the results.
Microsoft states that it is listening to feedback from developers, and is taking it into account for future programs.