to access exclusive content, comment on articles, win prizes and post on our forums. Not a member yet? Join now!

"Great games are getting lost" on XBLA, claims indie - Microsoft should "encourage discovery and diversity"

The marketplace "has gotten way tougher in the last couple of years"

Speaking to VentureBeat, SpikySnail co-founder Niv Fisher has criticised the Xbox 360 dashboard and Xbox Live Marketplace in general for a failure to "encourage discovery or diversity", with too much storefront space given over to "nongame applications" and retail games.

"XBLA's marketplace has gotten way tougher in the last couple of years with a few titles getting lots of promotion, exposure, and sales, and the rest are getting hit pretty hard," he told the site. "At least compared to how it used to be, the store certainly hasn't grown 'well'."


SpikySnail's Xbox Live Arcade debut is The Splatters, a "a physics-based action-puzzler", released in April 2012. "I've heard people describe it as a mix of Peggle and World of Goo, which is OK for a one-liner," Fisher explained. "But it is much more than that. It's about how amazing our brains are - people, collectively, not us at Spiky Snail - at figuring out stuff. How simple interactions can bring control and direction into what seems like a chaotic system."

The game was solidly reviewed, but SpikySnail feels a combination of stiff competition and obscurity have cost it sales. "There's a combination of several factors, which I still hope Microsoft will address at some point," Fisher commented. "I feel the current dashboard just doesn't work well as a storefront, especially if you want to encourage discovery or diversity.

"Games are hard to find, there's no friend recommendation system, and lots of the store promotional space goes toward nongame applications - and now, also downloadable retail games. Sales are usually poorly promoted, and dashboard placement is sold and bartered with. Small developers like us have very little to offer here and are often left on their own."

"The Splatters was on sale for only one day, but with a very significant price drop," he went on. "It was, by far, our best-selling day ever. Having already done a couple of sales before, it just goes to show the power in-dashboard promotion has over everything else, including reviews or media coverage.

"If this was something Microsoft would do more regularly, I think it would do a whole lot toward a healthier marketplace. It's really nice to have a big hit like Minecraft break all previous records, but that's really saying more about Minecraft than it is about XBLA in general."

"The first couple months after launch, we were pretty disappointed with the sales. But looking at the numbers since, we're actually in very good company, sadly. Meaning, we're not the only ones getting hit, and great games are getting lost in that store, which is a real shame."

I spoke to a number of leading independent developers about the future of Xbox Live Arcade last year. Suffice to say, Fisher isn't the only one who has bruised feelings about support from Microsoft.

For more on what tomorrow holds, check out our piece on Xbox Live's 10 year history.