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Video Game Marketing

Indie Game Marketing from the author of the Game Marketing book, The Indie Developer's Guide to Selling Games. Video Game Marketing made simple... or at least as simple as I can make it.

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Location: Philomath, Oregon, United States

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A 360 Degree Reality Check

A few days ago Russell Carroll (www.gametunnel.com) and I were talking and he mentioned he was seeing more and more developers harping on the idea that the 360 Live Arcade is a great new outlet for indies... and in fact that many people were planning on making games with the objective that they become Live Arcade games.

At the time my response was that he was crazy and it is his imagination, there aren't too many people out there with such a mentality. As of today I changed my mind, the number of 360 'wanna-bees' is growing and he apparently just ran into the horde before I did.

See, it isn't Russ' job to post what I am about to say... if he wrote it people would get angry, for some reason people like picking on what he writes because he runs a game website. I believe if I articulate it though, it will come off a little more 'slap you in the face to stop you from falling down the steps.'

So, here goes:

First, getting into Live Arcade is hard. Really hard. This isn't "if I make a good game I can get it on there" kinda hard. That's actually the somewhat easy part.

It takes a great game, I believe you can create a great game. What you may not realize is it also takes money. A fairly substantial amount. It takes a rediculous quantity of QA work, more than any team smaller than Wahoo Studios/Ninja Bee (www.ninjabee.com) should undertake. It also requires contacts... not just knowing someone's e-mail... but knowing them well enough that they trust and believe in your company: NOT JUST YOUR GAME.

This means you need a well respected company (plenty of business experience as well as programming), plenty of CASH capital, and a team large enough to deliver whatever the various MS people want promptly... and you need this before you even get whatever game you have considered.

So be honest with yourself: Are you in this position? Do you have the above requirements met? If you do, is your game really going to be considered? What's your backup plan if each of these answers turns out to be 'no.'

My opinion is if you haven't made a game for the 360 Live Arcade yet, don't make one SPECIFICALLY for the 360... or even with that as a cornerstone of your intentional business plan. Make it for the PC and if your game does well that it makes your company well respected and provides capital for future development you can take the time to get to know the Microsoft team and convince them they should be interested in your company. THIS METHOD MAKES SENSE.

I'll be deeply saddened if I see some good idea get canned because they couldn't get MS behind it without having a proven track record.


Blogger The Rampant Coyote said...

My information is secondhand...
but from what I have heard from several sourcs, your analysis and advice is spot-on.

From what I understand there are some forces within Microsoft's LA group that REALLY REALLY want to sponsor and help the indies get their games out for the 360. And they are pushing and doing all they can to make sure it remains a viable platform for indies. Talking to the NinjaBee guys who have been dealing with Microsoft, they have nothing but good things to say about that relationship.

But there are some real difficulties facing indies doing this.

First off, as you say, when Microsoft says "indies," they aren't talking about hobbyists in their basement cobbling together their first game. Just like the Sundance Film Festival isn't for your kid brother running around with his camcorder making videos of your dog. They are talking real, honest-to-goodness PROFESSIONAL indie developers, with a team (so if one person gets hits by a bus, the game still gets made), a budget, and a track record.

Secondly, Microsoft has a TON of developers wanting to jump on the LiveArcade bandwagon right now - including many big "AAA" studios and publishers wanting to cash in. This means that the distribution channel has become tightly restricted. This means that they HAVE to be very choosey about what they accept. If you don't have a proven track record, and you don't have a game that is fairly unique and very high quality, then you aren't going to be going out on the 360.

Thirdly - as you mentioned - is cost. We're talking upper-mid-5-digits here. These aren't just fuzzy costs that can be overcome with a lot of freely donated elbow grease, either. The costs of getting Microsoft QA approval alone, unless you KNOW you can nail it on your first submission (and if you've never done a 360 game before, let alone a console game, then you WON'T), can run into the 5-digit figures all by themselves.

8:59 AM  

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