Major Nelson talks about Microsoft’s shortcomings in promoting indie games to their Xbox One player base, and how looking backward isn’t the solution.
Larry ‘Major Nelson’ Hryb, Director of Programming for Xbox Live, sat down for a podcast interview recently and was willing to admit that the service he directs is lacking in some areas. Specifically, he’s acknowledging that Microsoft isn’t doing a very good job of promoting indie games.
While indie games are thriving more than ever, with Kickstarter backers raising $46 million for games in 2015 and other digital game services offering methods for quality games to get the attention they deserve, it’s not always easy for Xbox One gamers to find good indie games. While indie games are available through the digital Xbox store, the days of the Xbox 360’s Arcade promotions are gone, and Major Nelson and his team have no intention of bringing them back:
“I think Arcade was a great, defining feature of [the Xbox 360]. It was also a different time then. There wasn’t really a way for a lot of independent developers to get out there; now we have Steam Greenlight and a bunch of other platforms and [studios] can go right to mobile now. So there’s a bazillion ways to do it.”
While Major Nelson has a point, it doesn’t change the fact that gamers who exclusively play on the Xbox One no longer have a way to be directly alerted to the existence of good indie games. In addition, indie games are often a gamble for gamers; while some indie games are excellent, polished products, like Ori and the Blind Forest, others are terrible failures that really shouldn’t even be available to purchase.
Major Nelson does go on to point out that he’s personally made an attempt to promote excellent indie games with the avenues he has available to him, like his blog and his show, This Week on Xbox. However, indie games are often featured side-by-side with AAA titles from massive publishers on his blog and show, so it’s not exactly an even playing ground.
Thankfully, as Major Nelson points out, indie game developers have the opportunity to have their games get major exposure through the Steam Greenlight service. On top of that, gamers know that the games that make it through have met rigorous qualifications (providing that they’re not an early access title) so that they don’t have to fear getting burned by wasting money on a poor-quality game.
Microsoft has some ground to cover if they’re going to match the promoting quality that indie developers receive on services like Steam and even the PlayStation 4, which reserved a large amount of its show floor during the PlayStation Experience for indie games. With a little luck, they’ll learn from their competitors and their past to make finding and buying indie games a better experience for developers and gamers alike.