metanet, N+, and the State of XBLA

By: Derek Yu

On: March 26th, 2008

N Plus Verus Toyota Yaris

I guess metanet and Nick Waander’s “”">Beyond the Postmortem" interview (which was incidentally conducted by insert credit’s Brandon Sheffield) sparked some controversy, because they were so candid about some of the failings of the service. One of the biggest being that the ratio of good games (like N+) to bad (like Toyota Yaris Racing) is totally out of whack.

metanet has since clarified their position a bit by saying that the people they worked with at Microsoft were good, and that they weren’t complaining about their sales (N+ was released after the interview).

But overall, what they said was much less controversial than I thought it would be (natch). It’s obvious to anyone who follows XBLA that there are way too many crappy games on the system. I’m sure part of the reason is that legitimately good developers are put off by the service’s notoriously difficult certification process (Minter rant alert), and prohibitive cost (possibly upwards of $125,000). And, of course, there was the bomb dropped around GDC 2008 that royalty rates have since slipped from 70% to 35-45% (depending on your sales).

The obvious fallout from all this is that Sony and Nintendo can probably look forward to an exodus of developers to their systems in the coming months.

  • Alec

    And yet Darwinia+ is headed to XBLA…

    Interesting. :)

  • Mike K

    There’s slides from maybe as far back as 2005 featuring a small graphic of a Darwinian.

  • MisterSmith

    I don’t think the XBLA is as bad as some people (from both the development and consumer side) make it out to be.

    Although, Yaris should be considered a crime against humanity.

  • FireSword

    Xbox and his online service(?) are from microsoft…

    Just beacouse many of you have windows installed in your computer, don’t think that you understand what microsoft really is… eh eh eh..

    I mean you publish your game through microsoft, or Valve.. what do you expect? They are there just to make moneys.. I didn t rennovate my xbl subscription coz i think that is a joke.

  • Noyb

    Hmm… Metanet had a scathingly comprehensive minireview of every xbla game on their site a couple days ago. Guess they took it down.

  • Adam Atomic

    So toyota yaris racing isn’t good?

  • Shih Tzu

    “The obvious fallout from all this is that Sony and Nintendo can probably look forward to an exodus of developers to their systems in the coming months.”

    That’s only if Sony and Nintendo are able to correct the problems with XBLA.

  • raigan

    we took down the reviews because, while i think there were a lot of good ideas in there (such as: why not PuppyGames games instead of retro titles?!), feeling totally stressed all the time is sucking.

    plus we need to actually get some work done.

  • MrBig

    Ok, before I rant. I would love if XBLA was an excellent service and had great games and just got better and better. Unfortunately it’s not, and it won’t. There are roughly 7 unique and exclusive titles coming out within the next 4 Q’s and the rest are rehashes and clones of all the old shit we’ve come to expect (on top of the wonky service, technical issues which don’t even touch the developer issues that come aplenty).

    Nintendo and Sony are already picking up the pieces from M$ofts fallout with Nintendo reaping the biggest benefits right now (especially with the upcoming North American release of WiiWare and recent Japanese release of the service) and Sony slowly gaining ground and speed by obtaining new IP’s and developers for the online service. Microsoft has made more than several mistakes along the way and learned from none of them with the exception of the red-ring warranty expansion (which is still bullsh*t since you lose your system for up to 6 weeks – and in some cases up to 3 times!)

    This is unfortunately just another sign of how much M$oft loves their customers and heralds their developers… “first they stick it in, then they break it off”.

    I’m not trying to sound totally negative about the service (because some of the guys who work for M$oft are gamers) but for the most part the company has given it’s customers mostly the stuff that’s been left-over from the developer poop-shoot and released only a handful of truly unique and cool titles.

    On a more positive note, here’s a list of titles that are at least somewhat noteworthy:

    Assault Heroes
    Alien Hominid
    Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (of course!)
    Cloning Clyde
    Mutant Storm Empire
    Pacman Championship
    Pinball FX (short term fun)
    Puzzle Fighter HD (sorta fun for a while)
    Puzzle Quest (lasting Match 3 game)
    Space Giraffe (for Stoners)
    Street Fighter 2 (shitty online play)
    Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (SNES port!)

    Unfortunately most of those are not exclusive nor original titles, and are for the most part a direct port (which means not a lot of work or effort went into providing them aside from the legal garbage involved). The few exclusive titles are fun, but most of them, not all, still aren’t enough to satisfy gamers who are looking for the great titles that are supposedly going to change the way we think and play games on a console with an online marketplace.

    M$oft is gonna have to take notes from Nintendo or they’ll just continue to blow goats.

    That’s my opinion and sorry if you don’t agree but I own all 3 systems and the 360’s online marketplace disappoints me the most even though it supposedly has “the most” to offer. Whatever.


  • GirlFlash

    umm, sometimes I have to step back and figure out if m$ are just trying to make money at the expense of people who actually have souls, or actually kick the little guy in the face and little else is important to them…

    actually I think they have a little checklist of things to do each day:
    -piss off many people
    -if at all possible, make profit afterwards

    is buisness really so rough for them that they have to be so damn greedy?

  • deadeye


    `*`*shakes fist*`*`

  • zomgzomgzomg

    I bought a 360 bc of Geometry Wars, yuo dickwads, and now yuo go spoil it all for me. Typical.

  • Tommunism

    *in teary desperate yelling pre-teen voice* Anyone that says YARIS Racing is crap is nothing but a big poop head

  • MrBig

    The online marketplace was “supposed” to be one of the big selling/promoting points behind the Xbox 360’s strengths… It’s a shame really because what a waste of energy and space. They really could’ve had something of substance and lasting appeal not to mention being of particular interest to prospective console newcomers. Dah well, M$oft’s just doin what they do best… screwin the pooch and lining their pockets. Looks like more quality time with the Wii and eventually PS3 (on top of MGS4!!! Oh god I just wet myself). ;-P

  • MrBig

    You’re right Tommunism, there’s nothing like free crap. ;) *jk* I don’t want crap even if it is free, and if someone IS buying crap I’ll sell at a reasonable price. Just give me part of your soul, the part that hasn’t already been given to Microsoft. >:)

  • Tommunism

    *preteen cracking crying voice* It’s NOT CRAP *slams bedroom door*

  • Adam Atomic

    WTF is castle crashers coming out already?

  • Tommunism’s Mom

    Now _honey_…

  • Derek

    Can someone photoshop a Yaris driving into Goatse? kthxbye.

  • crackers

    Goats aren’t legally allowed to drive cars Derek.

  • I Like Cake

    So it’s illegal to drive if you’re a goat, and it’s illegal to drive while drunk.

    Does that make it legal to drive if you’re a drunken goat? Because the two wrongs cancel out, right?

  • moi

    Toyota whatever is the dream product for microsoft. Free “game” and advertisement delivcered all at once to the “sheep”.

    If they could do it, all the games on XBLA would be like this one. Why bother with greedy indie devellopers when you can pay peanuts to a bunch of eastern european devellopers to produce cheap advergames.

  • bateleur

    I don’t have a 360, but TBH I’m not at all surprised by Metanet’s observations.

    And at the risk of sounding horribly cynical: WiiWare and PSN are going to go the same way.

    In actuality the PC indie scene only barely avoids the same problem. The ratio of weak games to great games is about the same. The difference is that with no upfront costs to pay, the great games actually get made. Finding them is no problem because it only takes one or two people to play them and start spreading the word.

    Microsoft aren’t really being evil. The bar is just set way higher to release onto XBLA. Not in terms of gameplay, but in terms of the game needing to not crash and so on. If I download some freeware game to my PC and it just fails I shrug and move on, but Microsoft don’t want that on their platform.

  • GirlFlash

    please could we leave eastern european developers who make advergames alone, I have friends who fit that description so that they can afford to make games in their spare time. kthxbai ^_^

  • nullerator

    Unfortunately it will only be a matter of time before WiiWare is full of crap as well, what with Nintendo’s non-existent quality control. And Sony’s service seems hard to get on to, at least if you don’t want to sign over your rights to Sony. They’ve also said they want to focus on fewer games.

    So it seems the PC is still the best option for most indie devs.

  • Cas

    That google cache of those reviews was great.

    Why not Puppygames games? Because we can’t be arsed to deal with all the shit porting them over.

  • haowan

    XBLA is total crap and Metanet are completely correct in everything they say. The main problem outlined are that the interface completely sucks (in particular there are no social features) and the release schedule is throttled by blocking perfectly saleable content because of some over-arching nannying about what games they think people want to play.

    MS needs to add a portal to XBLA and start greenlighting far more content, preferably anything they can get.

  • MrBig

    Couldn’t agree with you more haowan. M$ needs a kick to the teeth to realize this, but I doubt even that would work. WiiWare and the online service offered by Sony won’t guy the same way. They’ll have their fair share of shit, but I think their substance-to-shit ratio will be much more appealing than the shit-to-shittier ratio that M$’s XBLA service sports. Think back to the original XBOX. They had Xbox Live Arcade back then, and games like Astropop, Bejeweled, and Frogger seemed like novel ideas but they canned any future development for the original service because they knew they were suckin big space barnacle (not to be comfused with the awesome freeware game, Space Barnacle – another title that I would love to see on one of the online Console Marketplaces).

    Yes, PC is still the best option for most indie devs. The problem isn’t the indie devs though, the problem is the service and situation that’s been created has been turned into a wasted opportunity.

    Microsoft builds huge prototype homes where the bathtub sings to you, the shower will luffa your nether regions, and the toilets will wipe your behind for you. You’d think that a company which claims to focus on the future and technology would also try to improve and enhance their services especially when they want to participate and profit in the largest part of the entertainment industry.

    Without predicting the future of WiiWare and Sony’s online service I just hope they do better and decide not to build a service that’s equivalent to the lack of foresight that surrounded the Betamax or Virtual Boy. (Please, no Blu-Ray comments).

  • Jimmy

    I had to take the time to tally up some numbers. This is my opinion of games, and I’ll include everything I would buy if I had the money and time to play them. And, of course, things aren’t so black and white that I don’t see the value in most of the other titles on xbla and psn to certain people(Uno/Texas hold’em/Doom/Marathon/Pain have a place with certain people).

    XBLA 38/122 = 31% –
    MrBig’s list(minus SF2 and MK3, I’m not a fan of fighters) + Aegis Wing, Bomberman Live, Geometry Wars, Marble Blast Ultra, Mutant Storm Reloaded, Omega Five, RoboBlitz, Small Arms, Switchball, Wik, Undertow, Carcassonne, Contra, Metal Slug 3, Robotron, Smash TV, Prince of Persia, Hexic, Lumines, GripShift, Worms, Outpost Kaloki X, Commanders, Band of Bugs

    PSN 11/35 = 32% – I’ll be generous and include Warhawk, even though it’s a retail title. –
    Blast Factor, Calling All Cars, Everyday Shooter, flOw, GripShift, LocoRoco, PixelJunk Monsters, PixelJunk Racers, Super Stardust, Puzzle Fighter, Warhawk

    If you took a look at the WiiWare launch titles in Japan over the last couple of days, you’d be as sceptical as I am that the ratio will even come close to 30%.

    Lets hope XNA gives us at least a 10% good game ratio… but I have a feeling it’ll be more like 1%

  • MrBig

    Sorry Jimmy,

    Your numbers don’t mean much since Microsoft has had 3 times the amount of shelf life and alloted time for room to improve their service as compared to the other systems. So to compare the 3 right now is pointless. The optimism I have is for the future of WiiWare and PSN since XBLA has shown no real signs of improvement over the course of it’s lifespan (aside from XNA which is still in Limbo and the bullshit insider – inside xbox – news that they now provide which is utterly useless). Again, I own all 3 systems so I would love for them to succeed equally, but M$oft has proven most obviously that they aren’t looking to improve their services, nor do they want to turn their XBLA into an approachable and friendly service for new developers… not unless they already have a truckload of money to pay up-front.

    You are right about one thing, I forgot about Worms on XBLA, everything else from your list was either available on the original XBOX System for the original XBOX LIVE arcade or is, in my opinion, only worth the amount of play that you can get from the trial version.
    My original list was comprised of titles from a few different genres simply because I wanted to point out that there’s probably something for everyone (maybe one thing for everyone), but I still don’t believe that most of what I originally listed could be considered breakthroughs – even Castlevania, it just happens to be one of my favorite games of all time.

    So my point was I’m looking to the future of WiiWare and PSN with some hope, since Microshaft has given up on it’s customers and developers and the relationships they would have you believe they’ve built between them.

    So I’m trying to avoid being completely cynical about XBLA and the MS Marketplace but there are forums filled with complaints from disappointed customers and irked developers.

  • Tantan

    Isn’t World of Goo going to be WiiWare?
    If it is, that’s all Ninty needs to have me sold.

  • MrBig


    As far as I know/heard, yes it will be released through Nintendo’s WiiWare.

  • Movius

    From my parents basement in Wyoming I stab at thee.

  • ray

    help help my stickman flash game is being outsold by frogger

  • torncanvas

    This problem wouldn’t be a problem if people weren’t buying the “crap games” everyone is whining about.

    People vote with their wallets. That’s capitalism at it’s best (or worst :P). I think the problem isn’t that the platform is littered with these crap games. The problem is that it’s hard to wade through the games you think are crap to get to the good ones.

    To solve this, Microsoft needs to make their interface for searching and browsing games not suck.

    I can’t remember who put it best, but it went something like this (I’m paraphrasing):

    “The challenge isn’t in getting the product to the people, but in getting the right product to the right people. The 20th century was about sorting out the supply issue; the 21st century is going to be about sorting out the demand issue.”

  • Ted Martens