XBLIG failure, sabotage & ratings war

The XBLIG Spring Uprising?

This past week has been a turbulent one for Xbox LIVE Indie Games with developer MStar Games - creator of titles such as Xenocide, Blazin' Balls and Space Pirates from Tomorrow - proclaiming the service to be a complete failure in an interview on www.dealspwn.com:
"XBLIG has totally, utterly failed. As an experiment in reaching out to independent devs it’s a disaster. As a marketplace it’s a joke."

Harsh words and a bitter resumé for a service I as a gamer (and customer) consider to be the greatest enrichment for Xbox LIVE, even with all its flaws and failings. Although I can understand the disappointment and frustration many developers must feel, I fear that such a negative rant will not help much to improve the situation. On the contrary, I believe that potential indie gamers just discovering the service might be driven away by such sensationalistic statements. Why should anyone bother to get involved in games on a channel that even respected developers shout out to be utter crap? So if this is supposed to be the Spring Uprising, I don't like the direction it's going. Fortunately, George Clingerman, a respected MVP for XNA, responded the same day with an article presenting a more balanced perspective on the XBLIG service. His conclusion is, that XBLIG "is neither dead nor the diamond it could be, the truth, like always, lies somewhere in between." I couldn't agree more with his view.

Another controversy came up when Robert Boyd of Zeboyd Games noticed a steep descend of his RPG hit Cthulhu Saves the World on the US Top Rated list, assuming that possibly overzealous Lacrosse fans created numerous accounts on Xbox.com to downgrade several top rated titles other than College Lacrosse 2011. Even though these ratings attacks seem to continue, Boyd is not disheartened: "It’s highly annoying, but to be honest, we’re still in good shape." Also, other regions not familiar with the sport are not affected at all. Cthulhu Saves the World currently occupies the top position on the Top Rated list on the german dashboard, whereas College Lacrosse 2011 is not even among the top 100. Yesterday, Armless Octopus reported that the Lacrosse studio is evaluating legal actions against Boyd for the possible damage done to their title by Boyd's assumptions. Let's just hope this whole affair doesn't get out of hand, because I fear it could be a damage for the entire service. At least, the XNA team announced via Twitter that they are investigating this possible misuse of the ratings system.

Putting these annoyances aside for a while, I'd like to finish this post mentioning some good things that have happened for XBLIG. The ever static IGN Picks list in the indie section on the dashboard was finally replaced with a more reasonable selection called Kotaku's Favorites, which hopefully will see more regular updates and a better sense for quality. GamePro continued their bi-weekly IndieWatch series with episode three on the german dashboard, followed by a video promotion on the UK dashboard by the Official Xbox Magazine. More details on these promotions can be found here. So there's also a bright side that was easy to miss in the turmoil of recent events.

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