There was nothing else quite like Xbox Live Arcade when the digital distribution service came into its own in the early days of the Xbox 360. With much of the gaming public then familiarizing itself with the concept of the “indie game developer” for the first time, said developers needed a way to bring the masses their low-cost titles. Microsoft gave them just that in the form of XBLA, but not every indie studio was able to use the service to smoothly propel their game releases towards success. According to the man who at the time oversaw those releases, that’s just the nature of the entertainment business.
Speaking with GamesBeat, Spry Fox cofounder David Edery stated that it was unfortunate to see certain developers fail to get their games released on XBLA and others fail to find success once they did. However, the former worldwide games portfolio manager for Xbox Live posited that that scenario was inevitable.
“I saw people throwing themselves at [Xbox Live Arcade’s] gates and failing to get in, and failing,” Edery recounted. “I saw people who got into the program but then didn’t handle themselves correctly, and fail. I mean, it sucks. It sucks to watch people try so hard and not get anywhere. The thing is, to some extent, in any entertainment business, that’s unavoidable. There will always be more people trying to come in than the industry can support. [Former Microsoft Studios game designer Daniel Cook] and I both feel really strongly about doing whatever we can to help as many people as we can, knowing there’s obviously no way we’re going to help the majority.”
Though he stopped short of naming specific developers, Edery also noted that there exists no shortage of talented independent game designers who are out of their element when it come to business matters. He was saddened to see many of them put everything they had into a game’s development only to “get slaughtered” upon release because of their lack of business acumen.
Regular XBLA Fans readers will recall a multitude of stories centering around disgruntled independent Xbox Live Arcade game developers. Uber Entertainment, Phil Fish and Jonathan Blow are perhaps the most-well-known examples, but they are far from the only ones.
Still, Edery explained that while supply eventually outstripped demand to the point at which business knowledge and development skill were crucial for success, it wasn’t always that way. Things were different in the beginning of his 2006-2009 reign at Xbox Live.
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