Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Better Idea for Xbox Live Arcade

I just saw this post over at Kotaku, which states that Microsoft will start removing underperforming games from Xbox Live Arcade.

According to Whitten, any title that is six months old, with an average Metacritic score below 65 and a demo-to-full conversion ratio below 6%, will be pulled from the service. Concerned parties will be notified three months in advance if a title is going to be pulled.
That's your solution Microsoft? Just pull the title? What happens to the person who needs to re-download the game, because their Xbox 360 red ringed for the seventh time, but now the title they bought is gone from the service.

Here's a better idea. First off, allow user ratings. Users should be able to rate games, like on YouTube. This will allow the community to tell each other what games suck and which are awesome.

Secondly, offer sorting of games by "channel". An example could be the Indie Channel, where all the independent games go. People who are interested in those games could check that channel. It would be like the Fox Searchlight label that is used by 20th Century Fox for smaller, indie movies. There could be other channels, such as the Comedy Channel, Horror Channel, etc. Microsoft could still allow people to sort by genre, but allow sorting by this channel as well.

The advantages of this is that people may start gravitating towards channels as they prove themselves. Maybe someone plays N+ and realizes, hey there are other games in this Indie Channel I also like. It also allows people who don't care about those games, and would rather play Yaris to do that.

The biggest point here is that one massive list (or multiple massive lists by genre) is useless to go through. It's a usability nightmare. I have no idea, without searching the web or hearing from friends, what is good and bad on Xbox Live Arcade. Since so many games aren't that good now, I just default to not trying a game unless I hear I should. Or, I check the full game out for free at work (Xbox 360 dev kits connect to PartnerNet, which has the majority of Xbox Live Arcade titles on it available for free, including yet to be released titles. It's used for testing mostly, and is one of the nice perks about working on console games).

I think organizing games by channels and allowing user ratings are great ideas, and is a better alternative than just removing games from the service. That's a pretty poor way to handle things, especially for people who may have bought the game. If your reasoning is that you want people to be able to filter through the crap, then don't let it get in there the first place. At least put in real measures to let others inform each other how good/bad something is.

Of course, since Microsoft gets a piece of the pie for all games sold, this won't happen...


  1. There is another good reason why removing the games completely is a very bad idea, both to users and to Microsoft.

    It`s the Long Tail...

    The cost of having the titles available for download (the cost of shelf space, if you will) on XBLA is very low. Adding one more title to the library costs almost nothing to Microsoft. If then only 5% of the people who play the demo actually buy the game, this easily ofsets the `shelf space` costs.

    In short, by selling only a few copies of a lot of different games each, you can make at least as much money as selling a `hit` a lot of times. Hence, selling less of more = the Long Tail

    This benefits MS in revenues, and the user in a wide array of games for their specific needs. Indie games, arcade racers, bejeweled-copies and what have you...

    Of course there should be user-friendly ways to sort the content and quality as you mention. web 2.0 gadgets like user ratings and `digg`ing might work, at least better than MS`s current Quality Management system ;D

    Ohw and sorry for the long comment :/

  2. Another good idea would be to have regular sales and price reductions on XBL games. Every game player has his or her own idea of value and having games that go on sale or become cheaper overtime will surely add to sales.

    I also think this should apply to all the other aspects of the XBL service. Themes, Gamer Pics, and DC should all reduce in price overtime. For example, I recently bought a game that hit around the 360 launch window for a cheap price at my local brick & mortar and then when I went to download the additional content, I found that I'd be paying almost as much as I paid for the game itself. Ugh.

  3. I've heard about the Long Tail before, but I haven't read the book. Sounds like I should check it out...

  4. Yep Xbox live arcade has hit the pits as far as I'm concerned. I haven't even looked at it since Rez HD was released. There is just WAY too many crap titles on there. I have however bought my first WiiWare game and am already planning my next purchase. Lost Winds is a game to get gents (and ladies).

    I do agree very strongly with the filter by channel concept. That would do wonders in filtering the crap. Player rating is great to have as well, albeit not as useful as channel filtering IMO.

    Way to go for Microsoft though, for messing it up and coming up with a piss-poor solution to the crap heap that is Xbox live arcade. Go team!

  5. Actually, they games won't really be removed from the server or anythin, only delisted so no future purchases can be made. If you've purchased it already, you can download it again at any time.

  6. Well, if that's the case, that negates one of my points, but I still think it's the wrong way to go. It's like admitting there is a usability problem with ways to access content, because it's hard to find what they want. Instead of fixing the interface and method, they just say "remove stuff!"

  7. They simply need to make browsing the games faster, loading the stupid icons and games list takes way too long, and then they only show 6 games or whatever on the screen.

    Splitting the games into categories doesn't work, you end up having to browse all of them because something is always not where you think it should be.

    User ratings don't work either, if you want to use a metric that is bulletproof and important, use sales.

    A game sits on live for 6 months or whatever, then if its in the bottom of sales it gets put into the bargain folder, at a reduced price and is there forever unless it starts selling well again.

    The main list isn't sorted by sales or alphabetically, but randomly, this way all titles get fair a shot, and fresh ones are displayed. Sorting by sales stagnates the list to top titles that nothing can crack, and using a release date sort doesn't give the old good titles a fair chance to stay on the list.

  8. ksukgfwirgbwr.