Posts Tagged xbla
In the last week, there were a couple of newsworthy items (loosely) related to Microsoft’s Community Games initiative. Their most recent news post over at the XNA Creator’s Club web site has a list of review sites which cover community games. They got a lot of details wrong for Worth the Points, but hey–there’s no such thing as bad press! More important than the tiny little traffic bump, game developers are now more aware that there are in fact sites out there promoting their games. While I have gotten a couple of emails asking for reviews in the past, since that news post went live they’ve started trickling in with greater regularity (about 1 a day).
The biggest problem with the community games review space right now has nothing to do with those of us that are actually reviewing games–it’s the larger review sites who don’t review them. Run a Google search for pretty much any community game (for example, google two recent games we reviewed–FreaKick or Planet Crashmania 9,000,000) and you get a litany of results from the “bigger” players in the game review space: IGN, Gamespot, GameRankings, GameFAQs, GameStats, Gamespy. All of these sites automatically create pages for all the XBox games, but the problem is that they don’t actually cover any of the community games. After a half-dozen search results yielding no actual content, it’s no wonder that only the developers themselves (who are willing to scour through pages of results for any press) seem to be finding the actual reviews. Unfortunately, the only solution to this problem is time.
The second newsworthy item was the announcement that Amazon has started carrying XBox Live Arcade games. There are some kinks (you’re actually buying download codes, which means you have to punch them into your box manually), but this has the potential to be a huge boon for arcade games in general. While they don’t carry any Community Games yet, it’s a short leap from Arcade titles to Community titles (assuming Amazon doesn’t have any hang-ups over the lack of rating). Putting the community games on Amazon would instantly solve the number one request by community developers: game ratings. WTP and other review sites allow users to rate games, but for it to really be a useful feature you need a TON of ratings–something Amazon could provide. Having community games listed on Amazon would also create an instant revenue stream for any site reviewing community games (referral links). I doubt the conversions would be all that high (it would be MUCH better if Microsoft had their own referral program, as you can actualy tell your XBox to buy/download games through their marketplace site), but it would probably beat ads. The more I think about it, the more I think Microsoft should just let Amazon run THEIR marketplace–they’ve got way more experience in the space.
I was hard at work on the Flash version of Filler 2 when the XBox Live Community Games initiative launched, so I didn’t have time to get the XBox version out as a launch title. I was very impressed by the whole idea, but I found Microsoft’s game store to be less then helpful in finding out which games were good and which games were crap. For the regular Arcade titles, there’s an expectation of quality. If it’s a type of game you’d normally be interested in, they’re at least worth a demo download to give them a shot. There’s no expectation of quality on the community games (at least, not yet), so I found myself downloading crap demo after crap demo and thinking there must be a better way. I’d heard about CommunityEngine, which was more blog oriented and less “purely” social than something like Insoshi–and the license was a heck of a lot more favorable. I also had no experience with Amazon EC2, which was something I wanted to fix. A community games review site seemed like a perfect opportunity to test both out, so I went for it.
Without further adieu (or just click the banner above), feel free to check out Worth the Points: XBox Live Arcade Community Game Reviews. The site’s actually been “live” since around Christmas time. I’ve been slowly funneling traffic (both through a test of the MochiAds self-serve ads and from the ads in front of the original Filler, which is still being played ~10k times a day) towards it to make sure it didn’t break and fixing bugs as I spot them, but I think most of the major kinks have been worked out. We play a lot of games in my house, so I figured it was our civic responsibility to wade through the mountain of crap and try to find a few gems–and there are definitely some out there.
A lot of my crazy side projects don’t make it this far, but I saw this one as a good excuse to get some friends involved on something, so my twin brother, an old high school friend, and my roommate are all “featured writers” for the site (for the time beings). I once thought I’d open it up so anyone could write community game reviews (after all, there are more games being released than we can even keep up with)–but ultimately decided a tighter focus on just the four of us would work better in the long run.
There are already sixteen reviews posted, and I’ll try to prod everyone to do one or two a week. You can go directly to the games which got the thumbs up or which games didn’t make the cut, browse games by overall rating (users can rate games from 0-10), genre, or tags. Hopefully giving credit where credit is due (or at least finding a few games that don’t totally suck) will help legitimize the community games as a viable platform.
As of earlier this month, Filler has been out for exactly six months–definite long tail territory for a flash game. I did post-mortems at one week and one month, so I thought I’d continue the trend with another look back. I’m a bit of a stat-hound, so I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the numbers so far, as well as various other comments on the game.
Total gameplays are now over 9,000,000 (at least on Mochibot enabled versions), though the actual number is surely much higher than that. Roughly 5,000,000 of those gameplays came on licensed versions (AddictingGames being the biggest single contributor) while the other 4,000,000 or so came through ad-supported versions on Kong and the Mochi network. Daily gameplays are down to around 12,000/day but seem fairly stable around that number. Read the rest of this entry »