The Xbox 360 is probably the easiest system to get your game on. Xbox Live Indie Games only has a requirement that the game runs properly and fits their extremely loose restrictions (only languages could theoretically be an issue).
So… how can this be a bad thing?
A naive question to ask, for sure. First off, the ease of getting your game on is more of a curse than anything. Not having to pay hundreds of dollars for a devkit is a plus, but not when quality control goes to hell because of it.
So your game goes up and people are unable to find it because of all the garbage. If they can even find the indie games section at all – it’s not an easy place to find between all the non-game stuff on the 360, especially after the “update” to the interface, that added more advertisements and such at the cost of making everything you actually care about hard to find.
So people can’t even find the section and it’s lost in the regular flow of garbage. Surely, this must be enough for me to be done… no, wait, there’s more.
I believe I glossed over this at some point before, but there is a contractual clause in place for all games released on the 360 that prevents you from releasing the game you put on the 360 anywhere else before the 360 – the 360 MUST be on the same day or earlier. Furthermore, the on-disc content must be identical between the 360 release and all other releases of that game. Yes, that means no updated re-release, ever. This is why, as I’ve previously said, Tales of Vesperia was unable to come over for its PS3 version outside Japan. Nevermind that most of the JRPG fanbase uses a PS3 instead of the 360, since most of the console JRPGs are PS3 exclusives, any of them who wanted to play the game were SOL or had to get a 360 for the sake of a single game. Guess which option most people took?
Of course, as a friend of mine pointed out, a Star Ocean release was able to break that rule with impunity, but I assume Square Enix paid their way out of that restriction. It’s on record that the rule exists, and it got a lot of attention some time ago, look it up.
At the end of the day, as an indie developer (I’m going to avoid going ballistic over other reasons why the rule’s stupid, or we’d be here all day), this is a restriction placed on what you can do with your game. One that I don’t think anyone wants to deal with in exchange for putting your game up on a hidden shovelware section of Xbox Live.
On the flipside, a lot of people have the 360, and you can direct them with an internet link, directly to a website run by Microsoft that shows a page on your game, where they can buy it directly on their computer, causing the download to start automatically the next time they boot up their 360.
Does this make up for… all the other negative stuff?
Not in the slightest. Neat feature, helps with not being able to find your game, that’s all. Most of the games on their service being shovelware still makes it a tough sell.
Tomorrow, I’ll cover why PSN also sucks as a release platform. See you guys then!
Table of contents can be found here.