A big deal has been made, and rightfully so, about Might and Delight “renting” space on XBLA from an unnamed developer to sell their new platformer, Pid. The PA Report explains that way this works is that when Microsoft agrees to publish a given developer’s games on XBLA, they provide them with a number of “slots”, each one of which is a space on XBLA to sell one game. Might and Delight is paying said unnamed developer to rent one of these open spots for Pid, thereby bypassing the need for publishing on the Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) channel, which is admittedly the equivalent of sorting the games in the Apple App Store by “release date” — that is, you are probably going to encounter some pretty awful and/or shameful games. Microsoft has proven to be unwilling (or probably just uninterested) in marketing the Indie Games channel or making it more visible when browsing XBLA.
Johnathan Grey Carter over at the Escapist (partial inspiration for this here blog’s title) points out this lack of quality at XBLIG, and lauds Might and Delight’s clever move while bemoaning the state of XBLIG. He feels is that it is just too hard to publish a game on Microsoft’s digital service, and thus Might and Delight’s move is indicative of an overall problem with XBLA.
I think his logic is flawed. He is essentially claiming that the one place on XBLA for an indie developer to sell an indie game is overrun with terrible games and thus is useless for marketing and selling an indie game. But those terrible games are made by other indie developers! This is actually pandemic to the industry as a whole. It would appear that only those developing highly-polished, universally acclaimed games are referred to as “indie developers”. Otherwise, you’re just, I don’t know, a dude(s) making junk. I think Microsoft is completely justified in separating those developers who have resources, and who are more likely to produce higher-quality games, from indie developers, who are by definition lacking said resources. If you want to bridge the gap, do what the rest of the industry does, and find a publisher and lose some indie cred (or find an interesting workaround like Might and Delight).
If Johnathan wanted to lodge a complaint against XBLIG, he should have focused on how Microsoft treats the channel, providing almost zero marketing for it and hiding it in a dark corner of XBLA like China did with their poor people during the Olympics.