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Microsoft has fixed the dashboard at least for the moment and Top Downloads is working (as of October 6th, 2010). Unfortunately in the past, after the list is fixed, it often breaks again in a few months, without warning. Microsoft has offered no public explanation to developers or any assurance they've fixed it with any more certainty this time.
Great news--Explosionade is finished and ready for you to play! The bad news--I'm not going to release it till the Xbox Marketplace is less broken. Sorry, but I want the best launch possible, and when the Top Downloads list isn't up to date, it's a crappy time to release a game to Xbox Live Indie Games. (Gamers, jump to the end for when it will release; Developers--read on)
There are currently over 1,300 games available on the XBL Indie Games channel. Several games are released each day. Often times a game will only spend a few days in the New Arrivals list. If it hasn't garnered enough attention, it will slip off that visual list, and buried in the "Browse All" list where only the most determined gamers will seek it out.
Why Aren't You Releasing Explosionade Yet?
Basically the way the NewArrivals/Top Downloads system works is more adventurous gamers sift through all the releases that enter the New Arrivals list. Some of these games get downloaded by more gamers than others. If a game gets downloaded enough, it will show up in the Top Downloads list. From having data from Weapon of Choice, Shoot 1UP, and from talking to other XBLIG developers it's apparent having a game in the Top Downloads list can get you many more trials than slipping off all easy-to-find lists.
|To the right, you can see days data was late, or partial, which translates to a broken Top Downloads list.|
If we had released Explosionade yesterday, it would be missing potential time in the Top Downloads list and potential sales.
I really want to release Explosionade, as I publicly announced we could release by October 4th (Monday). It was ready in time for review earlier this weekend, but I've been waiting till Top Downloads is functioning properly.
|Explosionade in all it's alien-stomping glory.|
I'm hoping the list will start updating again properly by Monday evening. If it is, I'll put Explosionade into review, and if the game passes review, it will probably be available Thursday morning, October 7th.
Above all, I really love the freedom the Xbox Live Indie Games channel affords developers to make console games. It's a fantastic marketplace that has really come into it's own with stand out titles like I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1, Miner Dig Deep, Breath of Death VII, Protect Me Knight, SoulCaster, Inferno, Decimation X, and many more. I love developing games for the XBLIG when the system works and I want the service to continue. But if Top Downloads keeps getting stuck it's going to eventually impact developers and gamers and the channel will suffer.
The story was covered here on eurogamer.net. Here and around the web, some questions were presented I thought I'd explain with the original article.
Currently to submit a game to XBLIG it has to enter peer review. This system has worked very well as over 1,300 games have been submitted with a very low percentage of crashes. But to pass through the review it takes several days. At any given point the dashboard could break--even right when it's out of your hands and shows up freshly on the list. There's no developer control here, it's all up to Microsoft to fix the the broken dashboard.
I'm not saying Explosionade will automatically be in the Top Downloads, it's more that the possibility of getting into that list is basically removed completely for our game and anyone else releasing a game when the dashboard is broken. The system breaks down for new releases' potential when Top Downloads is stuck.
Any breaking is too often. A digital distribution system lives dies by it's useability and the reflection of current traffic. Look at any good website or marketplace from CNN to YouTube to Gamespot. There is always a section of 'most popular' which needs real-time data to survive and where most people go first. If this most popular section is broken, sites and markets lose traffic. As I mentioned earlier, once the game is released the developer has no control over it. If the list is broken, they will lose traffic and possible sales.