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World of Goo’s Ron Carmel Wonders if XBLA is “Past Its Prime”

According to World of Goo developer Ron Carmel, the XBLA service needs a heavy overhaul to make it more appealing to developers and better known to users to thrive, otherwise it’s looking at continuing a trend of losing out at least to PSN, if not most of the digital arms race.

Ron states that “Having unlimited shelf space is, after all, one of the great benefits of digital distribution” and yet consoles’ digital stores, both the PSN and XBLA, fail to use this unending shelf space. In a sense, he makes the argument that 7 years ago when the service was launched such a curated selection was appropriate because there wasn’t a lot of good content out there, however, as the market matures there is less of a need for such a tightly controlled market.

He even goes so far as to poll around 200 indie developers (of which about half responded) on what platform they’ve developed on before and which they will develop on in the future with regards to XBLA and PSN. The result? 2011 was a turning point for XBLA and PSN where traditionally more developers would create games for Microsoft’s service, many are now switching to Sony’s…

And these aren’t run of the mill developers either. Ron cobbled together the Metacritic scores for these developers’ work and got an average of 78. That’s hugely impressive coming from a large group and should make Microsoft a bit worried about where the bulk of their developers might be heading.

Ultimately he boils down the results to largely having to do with Microsoft’s lack of ease in working with developers. Essentially they seem like a real pain in the ass.

0% rated Microsoft as “very easy” to go along with a generic “cell phone carriers” or companies who have in almost no capacity before worked with game developers. As a software company you’d expect Microsoft to perform better than that.

It really is a fascinating article and Ron really, really did his homework on the subject and provides a compelling argument as well as a list of ways to alleviate the current situation by doing such things as:

  • Creating a fair contract without the need for negotiation.
  • Stop requiring indie devs to publish through Microsoft. (XBLA requires a publisher)
  • Removing exclusivity requirements for independent developers

Among other things.

All in all, I largely agree with him. Microsoft has this nasty habit of controlling too much when there’s no need to be controlling. We’ve seen it already in the mainstream game space where developers aren’t allowed to give away DLC for free or when they refuse to allow Valve (who used to be their staunchest proponent) access to some interconnectivity a la Steam.

XBLA is merely the latest noted area where Microsoft is strangling itself. I’ll admit that XBLA in 2008-2009 was one of my go to hubs for indie games. Today it’s mostly the PC. Is that due to what Ron has been seeing? Quite possibly. It definitely seems like XBLA is pushing passed its prime…

What are your thoughts? Do you like XBLA the way it is? Do you agree with Ron’s analysis?

Check out the full, very interesting article via the link below.

[2D Boy]