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XBLA's Review-Based Delisting? The Developer Perspective

Following Microsoft's announcement that it would delist some Xbox Live Arcade games with a MetaCritic score lower than 65%, Gamasutra sister site Gamerbytes asked XBLA developers what they thought - fascinatingly different opinions from Metanet, Housemarq

June 13, 2008

4 Min Read

Author: by Ryan Langley, Staff

Following Microsoft's announcement that it would be delisting Xbox Live Arcade games with a MetaCritic score lower than 65%, if other conversion rate and age criteria were met, newly launched Gamasutra sister site Gamerbytes - which deals with all elements of console digital downloads - asked XBLA developers exactly what they thought. First up was Ilari Kuittinen, CEO of developer Housemarque, recently known for its PlayStation Network Super Stardust HD and currently working on Golf: Tee it Up for Xbox Live Arcade. He advocates an approach that fixes the oversaturation problem with interface improvements rather than delisting: "It is hard to really fully comment on the issue of removing games from the XBLA service as we don't know how many games are really fulfilling the criteria. Are there really many games that are under the threat of being delisted from the service? If you think of a game that is selling about 200 copies per week at $10 each, it can still create income of up to $6,000 USD per month. It may seem low, but for a small, independent developer, this is a very welcomed additional income to keep the company floating. As the digital distribution is really allowing to keep an inventory without a significant cost to the service provider, I really think that these games should be still available unless the sales have been close to zero many months. Rather than removing the games, the marketplace interface should be improved to include innovations from other web stores. There are many ways to improve the service. There should be an equivalent of a bargain bin in the marketplace, recommendations of other similar products available on XBLA, tell people that what other people buying a particular game have also bought or a possibility to do customer's reviews & ratings. Amazon.com has literally hundreds of thousands of different items available and they are happy to add more items to their lists every day rather than delisting items from their database." Both Mare Sheppard and Raigan Burns, the two members of N+ developer Metanet Software, were more outwardly frustrated by the announcement. They would like to see a user rating system such as the one used for WiiWare, and like Kuittinen, they cited Amazon.com. Mare Sheppard: "Wow, that seems so extreme! It seems very unfair that the offending titles would be pulled entirely, regardless of their sales. Sure, they may be rated/reviewed poorly, but isn't that, realistically, entirely subjective? And, a conversion rate of 6% is still admirable, isn't it?" Raigan Burns: "It really doesn't make any sense that they wouldn't just bump them to a lower-profile category... deleting them outright is INSANE. Amazon stocks books with single-digit annual sales, and they have to deal with physical inventory! You'd think digital would be even cheaper to manage. We both believe that a rating system would be a better solution to this problem. The system implemented on the Wii is working very well, for example, especially since it requires players to have played the game for a certain amount of time before they get to rate it. It's fair, and such an important feature. Cutting down the catalog is not an effective way to manage complexity; user ratings are." Finally, Merscom (Buku Sudoku) co-founder and CEO Lloyd Melnick weighed in with a dissenting opinion in support of Microsoft's changes, arguing that developers who deliver quality games deserve a marketplace free of clutter: "I support this policy. I think it is important to maintain a consistent level of quality and if a game is not hitting these targets (which are not that rigorous) they aren't giving the gamer a good experience. "We put almost three years into Buku and it is frustrating that there is so much noise that player's may not realize our game really is good. "I always believe in quality over quantity and I think the Microsoft policy is a good move in this direction. I understand how some developers feel they might end up wasting their effort, but I think if they make a REAL effort these hurdles should be a piece of cake."

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