A brief look into the possible future of XBLA
In a recent blog post on Gamasutra, freelance game developer Borut Pfeifer gathered his thoughts on the viability of digital distribution in the gaming space. As an indie dev (working lately on the much anticipated Skulls of the Shogun), he writes from a distinctly independent perspective; the article starts off with some “myths” that he observed, namely the ideas of long term profitability (a “long tail”) stemming from digitally distributed games and the role that simultaneous release across multiple platforms plays in a title’s ultimate success. In short, he argues that financial traction can only really be gained by creating a good game that has a focused strategy for keeping people interested.
Many of his thoughts are PC-minded, picking apart trends of browser-based games truly competing with more traditional gaming platforms and a burgeoning sector of marketplaces who attempt (and he believes ultimately fail) to compete with Steam. With respect to the console space, Pfeifer spells a positive future for curated marketplaces like XBLA and PSN that effectively separate the wheat from the chaff. Furthermore, he postulates a future where disc-based retail sales go down and digital sales increase as a result of developers shifting to a more fertile and accessible platform. Finally, he says that crossplatform releases of indie titles between XBLIG and Steam sidled with a growing critical mass of audience on the Xbox 360 will finally bring some much needed attention to the Xbox Live Indie Games marketplace.
The blog dives into far more topics including the future of Facebook games, server-based streaming games, and tablet gaming. While this is just one man’s opinions, Borut Pfeifer’s unique position in the industry does lend some credibility to a very promising future for XBLA and XBLIG development. Some of these ideas have already begun to take root, with former retail-focused developers like Double Fine shifting their efforts to smaller titles and finding a high degree of success.