We're delighted with the new Xbox 360 dashboard, but not everybody's as keen. Speaking to our sister magazine Edge and Eurogamer, some independent game developers have objected to what they perceive as the sidelining of the Xbox Live Indie Games section.
"The Indie games are now squirreled away under "Game Marketplace/Games/Game Type/Indie Games" as though Microsoft are trying to keep them out of sight," Smudged Cat Games' David Johnston, creator of the wonderful The Adventures of Shuggy, told Edge. "Once you find them - it took me a panicked ten minutes of searching the first time I tried the service - there is no way to browse by genre which seems an unusual exclusion."
In our feature on the new Xbox 360 dash, we expressed mild concerns about the repositioning of Live Arcade and Indie Games away from the main section hubs, but argued that Microsoft can offset this by featuring Arcade and Indie games more regularly.
Mommy's Best Games' Nathan Fouts, creator of Shoot 1UP and Weapon Of Choice called the rearranged dash "a step down for Indie Games as whole - but not for Arcade or Games on Demand." According to Fouts, the section title "Game Type" is "obtuse".
"There's more intuitive phrases to be used than "Game Type". Off the top of my head: All Games, More Games, Complete Marketplace, Every Game, Buy Games, Full Game List, Game Marketplace... point is, Game Type is not a very good pick and it's the only way to get to Indie Games reliably."
He found a fair few things to praise, however. "On the positive side, the search system works great, the Related tab is fabulous, and I love that lists like Top Downloads and Release Date can be scrolled through all by box art."
Cthulhu Saves the World developer Robert Boyd suspects the new layout will take a bite out of indie profits. "It feels to me that Microsoft is trying to promote individual games more but hide the [XBLIG] channel as a whole," he said. "I think this will result in less sales overall but only time will tell."
There were words of reassurance from DjArcas of Projector Games, developer of $1.8 million grossing MineCraft homage FortressCraft. "As with all paradigm shifts, it's confusing and scary," he told Edge. "I'm not particularly sure about making it look like a WP7 device, myself, but it didn't take me long to find the Indie section."
Speaking to Eurogamer, a Microsoft spokesperson argued that the dash's new Bing search tools compensate for the Indie Games section's new situation, and assured critics that the provider will continue to promote indie games.
"The new Xbox 360 Dashboard update provides improved ways for consumers to find great indie titles, including the ability to search with voice. We've been experimenting with Xbox 360 Dashboard promotions for indies, such as our Halloween 'Shocktober' campaign. And we've been helping the community support their own amazing promotions, including the recent Summer Uprising.
"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. When you consider the increasing install base of Xbox 360 consoles (over 960,000 consoles were sold in the US during the week of Black Friday 2011), it's clear that Xbox Live Indie Games is a great opportunity for developers."
Microsoft feels indie developers need to learn to promote their own games, rather than leaning on prominent dashboard positioning. "Indie developers have told us they are looking for an easy route to market, which is the biggest hurdle to overcome, and we've provided that for them with Xbox Live Indie Games.
"But they've got to take that next step and do marketing after the launch. We encourage indie developers to work together and support each other in marketing efforts, like the Indie Games Winter and Summer Uprising promotions."
Are you finding it harder to keep track of indie gaming content?