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XBLIG developer blames new dashboard for poor game performance

Indie developer Kris Steele has seen very few downloads for his latest Xbox Live Indie Game, and he proposes that Microsoft's newest dashboard update is the culprit behind the decline.
Microsoft's latest Xbox 360 dashboard update has buried indie game content on Xbox Live, leaving little opportunity for developers to find success on the platform, says Xbox Live Indie Game developer Kris Steele. Following the tepid release of his new XBLIG title Hypership Still Out of Control, Steele examined the first week success of all six of his indie titles on Xbox Live, and found that overall trial downloads have decreased significantly since the debut of the new Xbox 360 interface in December. To help put things in perspective, Steele wrote a blog post comparing his new game to its predecessor, Hypership Out of Control. He reports that the original title saw 374 downloads on launch day, and 1,506 additional downloads over its first week. The new game, however, failed to break 1,000 downloads after a full week on the service. When looking for differences between the titles, Steele says, "The in-game artwork for Hypership Still Out of Control has been vastly improved. Hypership Still Out of Control is the better game. I would expect similar or slightly better sales numbers if all other factors were equal." This isn't even the first time Steele has noticed a decrease in XBLIG downloads after a dashboard update; he also notes that he saw trial downloads decrease by more than 2,000 after Microsoft updated the Xbox 360 interface in 2010. "Shortly after the release of Hypership Out of Control, Microsoft did some dash reorganization. I believe that’s why my next two releases Trivia or Die and Volchaos saw 2,000+ decreases in first week trials over what Abduction Action! received (I should note that despite the lower first week trials, Trivia or Die is my top selling XBLIG release by a wide margin)." After witnessing downloads decline so significantly, Steele says he is bailing out of the XBLIG market, as his games aren't getting the publicity they need to generate a profit. "Ultimately I do not believe the XBLIG market is growing. I believe these numbers show that," he says. "I believe the biggest factor is Microsoft's burying of XBLIG. Even with Volchaos-like trials, I was not making enough sales to run a profitable game studio. Certainly with Hypership Still Out of Control trial downloads, I have no chance. And that's why I've moved on." Under the current interface, indie games have been filed under a new tile dubbed "Game Type" on the Xbox 360 dashboard. These titles won't appear in the "New Arrivals" section, nor the "Genre" listing on the marketplace, though users that already know a game's title can find it through the new Bing search bar. Speaking to Eurogamer, Microsoft said that indie games on Xbox 360 "are generating a growing revenue stream for developers. In fact, the average revenue for the top 50 indie games is now well over $100,000 per title." According to the company, the key to success on the indie platform is to maintain a consistent marketing strategy well after launch. "We encourage indie developers to work together and support each other in marketing efforts, like the Indie Games Winter and Summer Uprising promotions," Microsoft said. Late last year, PC developer Stardock tried its hand in the XBLIG market with the small-scale title Elfsquad7. The game clearly struggled on the platform, however, as shortly after release Stardock's Brad Wardell noted that the indie game channel on Xbox 360 "is a waste of time from any sort of commercial POV." Shortly after the 2010 dashboard update, a number of other indie developers expressed concerns over the XBLIG indie channel, as Microsoft relocated the Indie Games section to a remote section of the Xbox Live marketplace.

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