Microsoft: XBLA will continue to evolve and then die
Xbox Live Arcade will eventually cease to exist. Every Xbox 360 owner who has spent time enjoying the growing selection of titles on the service has surely had that thought dawn upon them at one point or another. Even assuming that the wait for a new batch of consoles is going to last a few more years, and that technical restrictions will prevent the most ambitious blockbuster releases from appearing on XBLA for some time yet, it’s impossible to not think about the service’s inevitable end. Now, however, Microsoft itself has acknowledged the mortality of XBLA.
When asked by Vox Games if the plug will one day be pulled on the service, Michael Wolf, global marketing manager for XBLA at Microsoft Studios, replied, “Personally, I’d say absolutely, yes. I think digital distribution has to be like that.”
The sound of pitchforks being taken to grindstones can now be heard echoing across the internet. There is no cause for the XBLA faithful to panic just yet, though. Microsoft’s popular downloadable platform most likely has a number of potentially excellent years ahead before its light is snuffed out. “I don’t think XBLA will be leaving soon,” Wolf clarified. “It is an incredible platform. We have XBLA fans, I don’t think it’s going to be announced anytime soon. One thing Microsoft has proven is that we continue to try and adapt and innovate in experiences.”
Furthermore, XBLA is only destined to burnout as a result of the eventual convergence of “full” retail games and downloadable titles. Services like Steam have already erased the barrier between the two over on the PC side, while Sony’s competing PSN platform has certainly blurred the line over on the PlayStation front. Microsoft is hardly turning a blind eye to the trend, and Wolf envisions a day when there are no longer boxed Xbox games and downloadable Xbox games, but just games.
“We all know what those definitions mean,” Wolf said of retail versus downloadable. “We know what an XBLA game is, what on demand is, what a retail disc is. But I don’t think most people care. They don’t care how they’re getting their games, they just want good games.”
That consumer desire to obtain any game they want, however they want is why he sees the XBLA designation eventually fading out. The same AAA games sitting on store shelves, will also be obtainable via a download. With the death of XBLA will come the rise of a superior system that it paved the way for.
He also said that “we’ve come a long way” since XBLA was first distributed to Xbox owners on a disc. For instance, as Vox points out, the size limit of Arcade titles has grown three times. It sits at 2GB right now, which is still barely enough space for some developers’ ambitions.
Wolf specifically mentions Alan Wake’s American Nightmare as a prime example “of the depth and detail of some of the games coming out.” American Nightmare is perhaps the most apt example of the scale an original work can now achieve on the service, and the boundaries are only going to expand in the years ahead.
Don’t go thinking that going bigger is the only new lane opening up on the Xbox Live Arcade highway, though. A flexible pricing structure is something that is still being toyed with, and Microsoft is even considering allowing freemium titles onto the Arcade storefront.
Wolf told Vox that he “can’t confirm” Microsoft will ever allow developers to do that sort of thing on their service; however, he did say that “we will if we have content that makes sense for that.”
With such a bright future supposedly coming down the pipeline for downloadable Xbox games, it makes little sense to lose sleep over XBLA’s time being finite. Wolf has suggested nothing but expansionism, and it’s hard to find fault in that.
Source: Vox Games