Xbox Live Arcade is a dead platform downloading. Microsoft’s designated home for small and inexpensive downloadable video games will not make the jump to the next generation. When the Xbox One releases later this year, all of its video games will live in the same space. The nearly nine-years-old Xbox Live Arcade might continue to exist on the Xbox 360 and slowly fade away during the transitional year(s), or Microsoft might quickly yank it like a Band-Aid through a dashboard update. In either case, XBLA has been read its last rights.
One day soon, gamers everywhere will turn on their Xboxes and find all available games under an aptly named Games section of the dashboard. It’s tempting to read this move as another case of Microsoft pushing independent developers farther away from the green glow of the Xbox spotlight. It’s tempting to assume that the new dashboard will shine that light even brighter on big-budget game releases and multimedia options, and that may well end up being the case. However, some indies, believe it or not, actually enjoy working with Microsoft. Additionally, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer told Eurogamer that he feels the new layout, which includes a recommendation system, will “solve fantastically some of the challenges that independent developers face, particularly around discovery and connecting their game to an audience, by some of the platform features we have in the machine itself.”
We’ll have to check back in a few years into the Xbox One’s life to verify whether or not Spencer spoke truly — but no one wants to wait that long. So here and now, what does the elimination of Xbox Live Arcade mean? Will it continue the Flight of the Indies? Or will it better a system that obviously has more than a few kinks and bring back the downtrodden and departed?