So yesterday Microsoft announced it’s turning off XBLIG. It’s been a great 9 year run, but for those of us that have been keeping track, we’ve been expecting it for a while. Andy posted his thoughts at the end of the blog post, and people like Indie Gamer Chick have commented on it already, so I thought I should add my $.02 on the topic, seeing as how I was one of the guys there at the beginning.
After the announcement at GDC and seeing some of the videos MS released that supposedly showed what XNA was capable of, those of us who wanted to do game development for a living but not belong to a AAA studio got very excited. While what we ended up with in XNA Game Studio allowed us to create almost any game we wanted (except for the inevitable dev that wanted to make an MMO as their first game!) it wasn’t exactly AAA quality. A lot of the devs weren’t exactly AAA developers either and we ended up with a lot of junk released onto XBLIG that gave it a very negative reputation in the industry. There were a lot of great games there but very few gamers wanted to sift through the junk.
Microsoft announcing the first Dream Build Play was another first in the industry. Anyone had the chance to submit a game and win cash and a chance to get their game on XBLA, which meant major exposure. I think the several competitions were a relative success and made many developers’ dream of moving to full-time game development become reality.
While sales data that devs released were all over the place, many games brought in a ton of money for indie standards. Considering costs for indie games aren’t quite up to the 7 figure range that AAA titles hit, many devs seemed to be making out pretty well. I’m not quite sure why, but this didn’t seem to be enough for Microsoft. Support for XBLIG tapered off, both in updates to XNA GS and responses to issues that came up in the community. The XNA team dwindled to nothing and problems with payments and the release pipeline stacked up. For years we couldn’t get a solid answer to what was to become of the XBLIG community. The writing seemed to be on the wall – XBLIG was dead. Many devs moved on to other technologies and platforms.
Personally, XNA has led to me becoming a twice-published author and tech book editor, Microsoft MVP, and conference speaker. I couldn’t have anticipated what has happened in the past 9 years. While I didn’t become one of the big XNA success stories, I’ve definitely benefited greatly from the existence of XNA and the XBLIG community. I’ve met a lot of great people, got to visit the Microsoft campus several times, and helped out the community in some small way I think.
Although XNA is dead, the community will move on and hopefully continue to create great games. I’ll be there, doing what I can and try to get my games out there for people to enjoy. Who knows, I may eventually become the next great indie game dev. 🙂