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Microsoft has made some important changes to the service lately, not all of which being generally noted, and there's some movement that might indicate more to come. It might be worth looking at it again... things could be looking up.

Megan Fox, Blogger

November 12, 2010

4 Min Read

Do you know that point in a market's life cycle, where it transitions from an entirely risky and unknown field, full of questionable profit margins, to a still risky but emerging field?  That point right where a market finally crystalizes as more than a hobbyist playground and things really start to explode, where if you're poised just right, you can hope to ride the eventual wave?

Well, turn your peepers to this for a sec: http://forums.create.msdn.com/forums/t/65717.aspx

Specifically:

"XNA Game Studio v.next: With XNA Game Studio 4.0 released this year, unquestionably the new features were largely in support of Windows Phone 7 as we looked to expand the managed code platform to our new mobile devices. That meant a number of features the XNA team were considering for XNA overall were put briefly on hold.

We're collectively re-visiting all of that now. With each version of XNA Game Studio, we’ve prided ourselves in listening to your feedback and providing features and capabilities that our Creators have specifically asked for.

From improvements to our APIs to completely new feature sets , your feedback absolutely has played a material role in having shaped XNA Game Studio and Xbox LIVE Indie Games. This is still true today as we look ahead and consider what to add next for our Xbox 360 developers. What we’ve heard in the past and are evaluating include:

o Achievements

o Leaderboards

o Kinect API support

o Ongoing XNA Game Studio and XNA Framework improvements and enhancements

While nothing is concrete at this point and still under investigation, we’d love to hear you weigh in further as to which of the above or other unnamed feature(s) you’d like to see in upcoming versions of the offering."

... now I wouldn't necessarily say that this means the market's poised quite yet, but clearly Microsoft hasn't forgotten about it, and if they add achievements especially?

It will legitimize the platform in a very big way, even if it's for somewhat silly reasons (ie. you wouldn't think achievements would be such a big deal, but... well, they are - and leaderboards in a market largely defined by score-competition-based games?  Uh, yeah, that'd help). It could make things very interesting. Especially when the primaries in the market are doing cool things like this.

There's also a nifty thing that Microsoft has already done. Yes, everyone's covered the fact that Xbox Indie is back in the Games and Demos section (yay!), but what few to none have mentioned is how it is placed in that section.

It's to the far right of 4 selections in that category, so normally (and as it was in the old dashboard) the "active" pane would start on the far left side and the XBox Indie pane would be mostly off-screen, meaning many never even notice it's there... but instead, for the first time you scroll to Games and Demos each time you enter the Market, Microsoft chose to start on the far right.

Xbox Indie flashes up first, sits for a second, and only then do you see it scroll to the far left. It's the only category where that is done, and it means the absolute first thing in front of everyone that looks at Games and Demos is, as of this month, Xbox Indie. That's a heck of an upgrade from back in a forgotten corner.

So, you might at least consider an unrelated side project, if you've got the time and don't mind dedicating your code base to XNA.  Especially given how saturated iOS has become in the last 6 months, I'd especially say you might should at least consider XNA before just jumping head-first into that mess. 

Mind, you might get lucky in iOS, and free to play helps, but those that get rich in a market typically don't do it by jumping into the re-emergence phase of a market after its downswing, when publishers and advertising have begun driving sales - they do it by getting into a market before the first upswing, when indies can define the market.  Xbox Indie?  It might finally be coming around to that.

[see more from Megan Fox at her primary site, Glass Bottom Games]

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