The ups and downs of Xbox Live Indie Games

The Xbox Live Indie Games service has endured a troubled life. Launched to the public as Xbox Live Community Games in the fall of 2008, it quickly picked up a reputation as the source of dodgy massage apps and poor quality releases. Some good games were available, but they were buried under a pile of mediocrity.

With a rebrand to Xbox Live Indie Games last year, Microsoft hoped to change the service’s fortunes. But nine months on and the general consensus is still bad. Just last week a high-profile piece over at Boing Boing restated some of the most common concerns – that XBLIG suffers from poor marketing, a baffling editorial policy for the IGN Picks and an inflexible pricing structure. For both consumers and developers, it remains unconvincing.

However, for all XBLIG’s problems, there is still the potential for developers to make decent money on the service. According to an in-depth analysis of 2009 XBLIG sales from GamerBytes, some titles have racked up impressive six-figure revenues.

The best-selling game of last year, I MAED A GAM3 W1TH ZOMB1ES 1NIT!!!1, was downloaded a total of 160,000 times. Once Microsoft take their cut of 30%, that leaves a not to be groaned at $112,000 (£69,366). RC-AirSim was the second biggest earner with 74,000 paid downloads, making an impressive $129,000 (£79,880). Heartening stuff.

Elsewhere, however, revenues fall away sharply. Outside of the top 20 sellers, profits on highlighted games range between $17,500 (£10,835) and $500 (£310).

So the potential of the service is clear; both the market and the talent are in place. It just needs a bit of a rethink on Microsoft’s part. With the right support, Xbox Live Indie Games could flourish.