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XBox (Games) Games

Devs Finally Finding Success With Xbox Indie Games 65

McBacon writes with this excerpt from "Often dismissed as a failed venture, the Xbox Indie Games programme has earned successful man-and-his-dog developers tens of thousands of pounds from sales of their homebrew games. Wired explores the success stories of this hidden marketplace. ... now, more than a year since its launch, the Xbox Indie Games are seeing something of a revival. Microsoft has made huge strides to improve the service, games are beginning to be taken more seriously and success stories are becoming more and more common. Especially for [James] Silva, a New York-based developer, who became an impromptu Indie celebrity after his game The Dishwasher won Microsoft's Dream-Build-Play competition. He says he's 'absolutely thrilled' to have seen I Maed a Gam3 w1th Zomb1es!!!1 — his latest game — become a cult hit, for gamers to flock to it in record numbers and to have sold over 200,000 copies."
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Devs Finally Finding Success With Xbox Indie Games

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  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:42AM (#31519638)

    ONE person managed to make money with XBox market place. Well, that's ... super. But news? Happens every day in other ventures. There's always been the suddenly-successful indie band amidst all the hyped stars, or the odd "Blair Witch" low budget movie that for some odd reason was successful.

    OTOH, there are thousands making music and movies, and now games, who spend hours after hours, knowing that they will, at best, do it for their own entertainment and maybe, just maybe, get a warm meal out of it.

    • by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:54AM (#31519672)
      You got a warm meal? You can share with old Zoidberg... hmmmm?!?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:53AM (#31519904)

      Disclaimer: James is an acquaintance of mine from a brief time spent at SUNY Albany, so I may be a bit prejudiced. Hopefully he sees this and can reply on his own; most likely he's far too busy with an actual life.

      His success is due to insane amounts of effort. I would say that anyone could do it, but in all honesty, most can't. His early games were models of non-programmer programming -- they did what they needed to, not elegantly, not provably, but damn, they worked. (I've seen some of the old sources)

      When I say "insane amounts of effort," I mean of Sisyphean magnitude. *Every single asset* in his (old?) games is under his copyright control: as in, he played all the music, he drew all the sprites, he wrote all the code. The only part that isn't his is internationalization, and there is good reason for that.

      This extends to his own bone system (and 3D modeling software thereupon) for a game that I don't even remember being released.

      Now, I'd wager he's a pretty mean coder as he's a CS professor at SUNY's flagship IT school. He still does insane amounts of work -- I don't think he sleeps, or eats -- but he's probably a lot more productive coding now.

      So yeah, James is the man, but I don't know how well his success will translate to other "indies."

      PS -- "I Maed a Gam3 w1th Zomb1es!!!1" is a classic, but if you really want to see awesome, go find a copy of his game "Survival Crisis Z" and play the arcade mode.

      And Jim, you're (still) the f'in man, keep it up.

    • As much as I hate to admit it, this is where marketing comes in. All you have to do is look at the crapfests that come from the major publishers and still pull in megasales to realize that marketing is far more important than anything intrinsic to the product itself. It's true of everything: movies, books, music, even games.

      Indie products almost never have the kind of commercial success they deserve (excepting the rare cult hit) because they don't have the money to buy their way into the enormous media mach

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Eraesr ( 1629799 )
        As far as marketing goes, I never understood why the indie market place is a closed off part of XBox Live. I mean, isn't part of success directly related to the potential number of customers? If you first have to pay $100 a year subscription to be able to download games (for which you have to pay again), not many people will be interested in it. Especially not when most people already pay $60 a year for an XBox Live Gold subscription.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by mlk ( 18543 )

          you first have to pay $100 a year subscription to be able to download games ...Especially not when most people already pay $60 a year for an XBox Live Gold subscription

          The $100 on top of Live Gold is to develop games on the 360.
          All you need to download an Indy game to a 360 is a 360, a free Xbox account and broadband connection.

    • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:34AM (#31520058)

      Where did you get the idea it's one person? Did you only really the summary but still manage to miss the fact it said "Devs" as in plural?

      A handful of people have made over £100,000 out of this in about a year, tons have made tens of thousands. Your assumption that it's a single person is simply wrong. People are making money on things they would struggle to otherwise be able to make money from, often because it means putting a lot of time, effort and money into support, distribution and marketing- all problems that XBL Indie games basically solves for you to a decent extent (although additional marketing never hurts).

      What stands out with XBox Indie Games is that it's probably one of the easiest ways to build a game and publish it. Nothing matches the combination of Visual Studio .NET, C#, and XNA in terms of ease and speed of game development whilst retaining the ability to build solid, professional grade games.

      You do need an XNA subscription to publish, but you only need a 4 month one to publish to the Xbox 360, and that's hardly going to break the bank at $49. You can still release on Windows for free. Once that's done, the whole process of submission for peer review, eventual publishing if in a fit state for release and payment is so well automated and simple. The subscription gives you the opportunity to play through other games people have released as part of the peer review process too.

      • You know, of course there's only going to be a few people who really hit it big in indie games. Just like there's only going to be a few people who really hit it big in indie movies. Just like there's only going to be a few people who really hit it big in indie music. Just like there are rarely television shows on off-brand cable networks that get the same kind of viewership that sitcoms get on network channels.

        And yet, despite all of that, the FX Network picked up a pilot for a low-budget sitcom call
    • I thinking the same thing. I have an issue of Edge magazine from last year with numerous people complaining about making little to no money. There is just so much stuff to choose from and most of it's shit. It's always going to be hard for most people to earn some money even if there are some raking in loads of cash.
  • And how long have PS3 Dev's been prospering off the excellent indie games on PSN?
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Osty ( 16825 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:16AM (#31519774)

      And how long have PS3 Dev's been prospering off the excellent indie games on PSN?

      You can't compare PSN to XBLIG. Don't confuse Indie Games (XBLIG) with Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA). PSN is Sony's equivalent to XBLA, which dev kit investment, certification, timed deployments, etc. Those are for bigger studios that can invest in full development. Indie Games are free for anybody to write (costs $100/year to put it on Xbox, though), are peer-reviewed rather than certified by Microsoft, and are posted as they clear the peer review queue rather than being limited to one or two at a time.

      For comparison, The Dishwasher and I Made a Game With Zombies In It were both written by the same guy, but The Dishwasher is an XBLA game (grand prize for winning Dream-Build-Play several years ago) and Zombies is an Indie game.

      Sony and Nintendo have no comparable program to Microsoft's XLBIG, where hobby developers can write games with very little up-front costs and get them published on the console.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xest ( 935314 )

      It's a stupid comparison. XBox Live Arcade is the equivalent of the PSN's games as you still need to go through Sony/Microsoft's certification and review process to get published, the barrier to entry is much, much higher. XBox Live Arcade has been making a small fortune for developers there pretty much since the console's release.

      This is talking about XBox Live Indie Games which is completely different- it's a place where developers can publish with no barrier to entry other than a $49 4 month subscription

  • The X-box equivalent for PSN is Xbox Live Arcade. Does Sony have a Xbox Indie Games equivalent? Comparing PSN with with Xbox Indie Games is not really "fair". But I guess all is fair in oven war.
    • this was meant to be a reply to NScott1989's Hmm-comment
  • by Anonymous Coward

    About 95% of the game look like tests (___'s Pong!), rehashed crap (Super Deluxe Vibrator!), poorly cloned crap (Geometry Wars - now with less geometry!), or weird Japanese crap (dating sims, tetris with anime wizard girls, etc.). It's really difficult to get through to the good stuff.

    • I thought Geometry Wars Evolved was an awesome addition to the series. The extra game modes give you more to do with the game. Or am I missing something here?
      • by Tjebbe ( 36955 )

        i think he is referring to another game that is like geometry wars, but less good. I don't know for sure, we don't get the indy games over here (loved both geometry wars games though)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      There's some fun little games in there. The trick is to pop in and check what's new in the games section every couple of days. I look for new trailers, demos, arcade and indie games.

      It's supposed to be a sandbox for budding developers. You're not going to find the next Mass Effect there. Are so many people really missing the point? Yeah, yeah, in this world that's a totally pointless question.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's really difficult to get through to the good stuff.

      No, not really - try sorting by user rating.

    • Well then it's a good thing they all have demos. Oh? You didn't know that or are just trying to troll? Why yes, Anonymous Coward does that often.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

      Well, have you seen Most games that get uploaded there also are crap. But that does not matter, since Kongregate is designed in a way, that you will usually only get in touch with good games. But you can go to the “new games” page if you want.
      They simply use a rating system. And the users are quite demanding in their ratings. From 3 stars on, it’s worth a try. And from 4 stars on, developers get to use the achievements API, so they can add achievements. Which makes the whol

      • Afaik, any game can have ingame achievements and make use of the api to upload high scores etc.

        The folks that run kong decide which games they want to give badges to however.

        I was well on my way to earn lots of badges...and then I got somewhat distracted by the folks that suggested hooking up in meatspace and getting horribly drunk together ;-)

        • I was well on my way to earn lots of badges...and then I got somewhat distracted by the folks that suggested hooking up in meatspace and getting horribly drunk together ;-)

          Hooking up in meatspace sounds more like something you do after getting drunk.

    • It's really difficult to get through to the good stuff.

      Not really, you can skip past the junk and look at IGN's top picks, some contest winners, the top rated games, or the top downloaded games.

  • There are a few nice tower defense games in the indie games. I don't remember their names, but they are fun and definitely worth $1.
  • by Joe The Dragon ( 967727 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @08:37AM (#31521290)

    This is why apple better not have a lock in app store with fees / and something like a 30% cut of sales and the apple app store censorship will just slow down people in makeing games.

    A open market with no fees and no lock in / censorship. Is alot better then $99 to be able to come out with free games and even then you have to deal with censorship.

    open market = more games over time vs a few good ones after a longer time.

  • Essentially, the author as recognised the need for games with zombies in. He has produced a game with zombies in for one dollar, which he hopes people will pay. The game features zombies shambling in from the sides, which you had better shoot lest you die.

  • True, XNA is a big improvement over the other consoles, but it's still not perfect. There are two major things you can't do with XNA []: synthesize the speech of game characters (there's no streaming PCM API) or write text in the languages of fictional cultures in your game (your game will fail peer review if Microsoft's criteria are to be believed).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mortlath ( 780961 )
      That's only partially, true, and the sound is issue is being resolved:
      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        Version 4 allows custom sound

        Vapor until released. The CTP version is for Windows Phone 7 only, not Xbox 360 []. But consider this: Shawn Hargreaves maintained the Allegro library, which contained an audio stream API []. He now works on XNA, and it took until 4.0 for XNA to have a counterpart to this API.

        According to this, only "made up languages that are documented (e.g. Klingon/elvish)" are failed.

        That's exactly what I was talking about, and it would appear to rule out a lot of RPGs.

        • It only rules out RPGs where the authors "documented" the language so that it could be translated. Most fantasy languages aren't fully fleshed out like the one in "Lord of the Rings" or "Star Trek".
          • So in other words, the dictionary has to be kept a trade secret. This means anyone could get the game pulled from the marketplace merely by playing the game, compiling a dictionary, and publishing it on GameFAQs, as has been done for the Hamtaro games on GBC and GBA.
  • My Xbox Indie Game, You Will Die [], just got accepted to the Twin Galaxies scoreboard. They're the guys who do the official tracking of videogame world records (for example,the Donkey Kong world record from the movie King of Kong was officiated by Twin Galaxies). It's the first time an Xbox Indie game has been included in their tracking system so it seems that the platform is gaining a bit more legitamacy


  • This is a step in the right direction. Consoles are computers, and they can run all sorts of software. This service is still limited to games, and doesn't seem to allow free games to be distributed. I'm sure it's limited in other ways too, but it is much more open than what used to be allowed on a console.

    Imagine if consoles offered the equivalent of Apple's App Store. Sure, the app store has frustrating limitations as well, but it does offer many interesting programs. I'd love to see popular free, cross-pl

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