Jul 062011

Yesterday, Arstechnica posted an article about how people can’t make a living with the XBLIG service. Although the writer of the article asked me a number of questions, he only used a few tiny quotes in the article so I thought I’d post the entire interview here so people could see the full story:

Rough XBLIG life to date sales figures:
Breath of Death VII has sold about 50k at $1. It came out on April 22, 2010.
Cthulhu Saves the World has sold about 16-17k at $3. It came out
December 30, 2010.
Q. What attracted you to XBLIG in the first place?
I’ve wanted to make games on a home console since I was a young child.
XBLIG was the first option to do this without needing a big studio or
a large budget.
Q. How did your experience developing for the platform match up to
your initial expectations?
It was actually a lot easier to developer for XBLIG than I expected. I
have very little formal training in programming (I took a class in
Java for fun around 10 years ago and that’s it), but with the help of
various tutorials and asking questions of the XNA community, I was
able to learn how to program the kind of games we wanted to make.
Q. Are you satisfied with the commercial performance of your games?
Yes and no. On the one hand, most games on the platform don’t even
break 1,000 sales so the fact that both of our games have sold well
over 10,000 copies each is impressive. On the other hand, I think our
games could sell a lot better than they did with a better platform and
more visibility. The sales for Cthulhu Saves the World were
particularly disappointing – we put a lot of heart and soul into the
game over a significantly longer period of development time and yet
that extra effort didn’t result in a similar increase in revenue.
Q. Why did you decide to port your titles to the PC?
Two reasons. First, we’ve gotten a lot of the emails and messages from
people who have said that they want to play our games, but don’t have
access to XBox Live Indie Games for whatever reason. The PC is the
biggest platform out there so by releasing our games on the PC, we
should be able to let most of these individuals have a chance to play
our games. Second, we’d like to make games for a living and make even
more impressive games than we’ve already made – this isn’t possible
without more money than we’ve been making so far.
Q. Do you have plans to continue developing on XBLIG? Why or why not?
Our next game will be a dual XBLIG/PC release. After that, I think
there’s a good chance we may leave XBLIG and just do PC or maybe do a
big game for one of the official console platforms like XBLA or PSN.
Going PC exclusive is especially tempting – it seems like every other
week we hear a new indie developer on PC success story. Plus I have a
few ideas that would work better on a PC (KB+M controls, no need to
use huge fonts and big buffer zones on the screen on a PC screen,
faster loads, etc.).
Oh and to answer the many requests we’ve gotten, no, we have no
intention at this time to make games for the Mac or smartphones. I’m a
total luddite when it comes to smartphones and I’ve never used a Mac
that’s more modern than the kind of relic that you would find in your
average underfunded classroom so I can’t even imagine trying to
develop for either of them.
Q. What do you think needs to/should be done to improve the visibility
of the channel and make it a more viable platform for developers?
Although many people have complained about the large number of low
quality games on the service, I don’t think making the platform more
restrictive is the way to go. One man’s trash is another man’s
treasure and besides, developers need a place to learn and hone their
skills. I seriously doubt anyone who saw my first few text adventures
expected that I’d be making quality RPGs the next year.
Microsoft has done some good things to help improve the channels
visibility like the annual Dream-Build-Play competitions, but what I’d
really like is more frequent promotions. Stuff like the Kotaku’s Picks
section is great, but not particularly visible since the only people
who see it are already in the XBLIG section. If on the other hand,
Microsoft pledged to post a front page dashboard ad once a month that
showcased the best XBLIG titles from the past month, I think that
would do wonders for improving the channels visibility and increasing
overall sales. I also think that if Microsoft took a more active role
in trying to scout the XBLIG section for future talent and offering
support and XBLA deals to the cream of the crop, I think that would
entice more promising new developers to developer for XBLIG.
 Posted by at 2:52 pm

  16 Responses to “Arstechnica Interview”

  1. The PC community will be far more loyal and appreciative of the content produced by this sort of indie company. It will reflect in both sales and community growth. It only makes sense for them to move to the PC. If your a fan of this sort of game then really I don’t see why you continue to be a console player, this is the sort of game that is the PC’s bread and butter.

  2. Nah, I don’t feel entitled, thats why I am not throwing a hissy fit. Simple as this, Zeboyd hooked me on the xbox. If they choose to move on to another platform I don’t enjoy playing games on, their games are not going to be the hammer breaking the wall between my like and dislike of playing games on my computer. If they choose to leave behind the fans that have bought their xbox games and given them the funds to continue making games, thats up to them, but they are going to have to work to replace all of us fans who won’t follow them on their pilgrimage to the pc, and they are going to have a lot of sad former fans who would of loved to have given them more money for their games, but who Zeboyd decided wasn’t worth the effort to please.

    A company is only as successful as their fans make it.

    But when it all comes down to it, the point is moot at this time. They may leave xbox, they may not, at the moment it appears to be speculation and will wait on their testing of the pc waters.

  3. Why shouldn’t the gamers who supported this company from the start be entitled to being able to continue playing on their preferred platform. I am not saying that if someone has a PS3 or Wii and doesn’t want to download through Steam or Gamersgate that I expect Zeboyd to jump through hoops for said consumer, but seriously, Xbox players put his company on the map. Also to the poster who claimed additional content for a title on xbox cannot be free, you do realize that the update for this game costs nothing, right?

    Bottom line is, I have played PC games in the past. I have no interest in mods or addiitional options that the PC affords. I see no need to want to mod the games I play or mess with anything on them. This isn’t the days where the line between PC and Console was so visible. Console games now run in ultra high resolutions thanks to high definition, and now with consoles having hard drives, they can be installed to lessen load times, and be updated by the developers to fix bugs and errors. I would be less upset if Zeboyd was taking their games to another platform like Playstation or Nintendo, because with those consoles there are other titles that are at least appealing, but PC RPGs bore me, as do the majority of FPS, Point and Clicks, and RTS games. MMOs do absolutely nothing for me as well (I am a former FFXI player, so its not that I cannot see the appeal). I guess what I have rambled on to is that, whether or not the games start to be PC platform only, is out of the gamers hands ultimately, but for gamers like myself who don’t play on PC it is a bit disheartening…

  4. “All I know is if Zeboyd goes computer only, I won’t be continuing on as a fan, but I do understand why they would do that. I just hope they understand that by doing so, they are pulling the same crap large companies do, just in a different way, mainly dragging us old school gamers in, and then abandoning us for the money. They choose to quit releasing on consoles, bigger companies leave behind gameplay for graphics and no longer make a old school gamers style game. I am used to being abandoned, so its all good. The almighty dollar rules the world.”

    This is highly entitled.

  5. @rekenner

    Maybe it would be easier for you to make a list of Western RPG’s that do not play in the first person. And Mass Effect 1 and 2 are not RPGs.

  6. From what I have read, making games for xbox and the computer is fairly easy since xbox is basically developed with the pc in mind too as they both use similar architecture. My guess is once Zeboyd does a few xbox to computer games, they will get good enough at it to be able to put their games out on both simultaneously. That to me would be a best case scenario and what I hope for, because I am not a computer gamer other than World of Warcraft.

    All I know is if Zeboyd goes computer only, I won’t be continuing on as a fan, but I do understand why they would do that. I just hope they understand that by doing so, they are pulling the same crap large companies do, just in a different way, mainly dragging us old school gamers in, and then abandoning us for the money. They choose to quit releasing on consoles, bigger companies leave behind gameplay for graphics and no longer make a old school gamers style game. I am used to being abandoned, so its all good. The almighty dollar rules the world.

  7. (More PC RPG FPSes… Deus Ex and Alpha Protocol, too, I suppose. Though, really, nothing else comes to mind.)

  8. “Of course, most PC RPGs in the states err on the side of first-person shooting, but that could all change right here.”
    … Recently? Maybe? Fallout 3, New Vegas, and I’ll go ahead and stretch and give you Mass Effect 1 and 2. Even then, no?
    Unless you’re going to consider first person games as “on the side of first-person shooting”, ala Morrowind or Oblivion, etc. Then, maybe. But that’d be a poor categorization, given that there are first person PC RPGs older than any FPS or any JRPG.

    Further – Come out of your shell, folks. Games on PC can be just like games on consoles, just with infinite more options – for you, and the developers. PC games tend to have more options and the ability to be modded, which can be a godsend. And further, there’s no attachment to PSN or XBLA, which often put bad restrictions on developers (extra content *can not* be free on XBLA. Microsoft *does not* allow it. I don’t know about PSN.).

    Hell, even if moving to PC only was a purely financial decision, I’d still back it as a choice. Developing for two systems takes more time and energy, and if one version of it is likely to do much worse than the others… is it worth it?

  9. It isn’t that i really even have anything against the PC, its just that your RPGs are a perfect fit on a console, so why even entertain the idea of abandoning the xbox for your project after next, when its where you gained the majority of your fanbase. It just feels like a bit of a slap in the face to those who have been diehard since the start. I understand a dual release, on both PC and Console platforms, but with games as retro as yours are designed, I just have to question whether you are really interested in PC because its a bigger marketor because its an opportunity to make more money (as noted in the interview,where you mention reading about indie devs having success stories when working on PC), rather than release on both so that you make the money and please your console fans too. Alienating consumers on the platform that boosted you to notoriety isn’t necessarily a good thing

  10. Yeah, I enjoyed zeboyd’s first 2 games pretty much, and nah, not quite like you, I am the kind of fella who could play Final Fantasy 2/4 around 8 times through and still read every word =p

    The thing is about Zeboyds future games, in order for them to charge more for rpg’s, they have to make them longer, or they can just give them some extremely pretty graphics like a lot of developers think is all a game needs nowadays, though thats a quick trip to losing the fans. Most developers have lost their connection with the old school gamer, and are only interested in the younger folks who are awed by all the glittering graphics. Due to this, it is hard for old school gamers to get the games they really enjoy. I was having a blast on the ps2, though 95 percent of all the rpg’s on it didn’t quite meet super nintendo quality, they were still a lot of fun to play.

    Oh, btw, you folks here at Zeboyd……if you can make a spiritual successor to Secret of Mana, I will give you $15 bucks for it on arcade without batting an eyelash.

  11. @Chris – I can beat CStW in less time than it takes for you to start watching and then decide to hate Smallville. Zeboyd games’ games are the epitome of fast and furious game play. The games look like clunky old NES RPGs, but they have a hell of an engine in them, because they play faster than hell! The combat in both their games is about as fun as it gets, really. If you are like me, and pretty much do not read anything on screen after the first time and tend to burn through decision menus quickly, they will make you happy.

    That being said, I did get a weird Game Gear vibe out of BoDVII. I cannot substantiate why, but I just did. Who knows.

  12. As far as computer games go, I just don’t like playing games on my computer. Only game I play on here is World of Warcraft, and thats only because of family. I have been a console gamer for around 25 years, its my chosen gaming set up, as I have a ps3, xbox 360, ps2, dreamcast, saturn, super nintendo, nintendo, genesis, sega cd, game gear, around 200 ps1 and ps2 rpgs, action rpg’s, strategy, action and so on games, around 20 saturn and dreamcast games, and currently around 30 to 40 ps3/xbox 360 games that aren’t digital, and a few super nintendo and nintendo games to top it all off. I just enjoy sitting back in my recliner in front of my flat screen tv with a controller in my hand, a soda at my side, and a snack in my lap, and playing my games. Its stress free, comfortable, and I have to do so much stuff on the computer as is, that I am having pains in my hands on and off the last few weeks, so time spent off my computer is fun time indeed. Only on now because I like checking this site every 2 to 3 days. Consoles never did the hand hurting thing to me, though I think the xbox 360 controller’s weight could cause issues over time.

    I just don’t enjoy games on the pc much. If you all do go only pc, I may try your first game, but I am fairly sure it won’t be a positive experience as I have tried rpg’s and other games on Kongregate.com, the website gamestop likes to promote, and they hold my attention for a bit, but I haven’t finished any of the games I started there, and a few of them are pretty much full fledged rpg’s, just flash based.

  13. @Geoff-I built my own PC (I always do) and it cost me less than a PS3. 2.4 ghz amd phenom II processor, 4GB Ram, integrated 512mg vram w/HDMI out, integrated 7.1 HD sound and a 500 GB SATA HD. I used my old ATX case and power supply. With one wireless logitech gamepad I just got a super-console! I even have my pc connected to my 47″ LED HDTV, alongside my ps3, 360, Saturn, PS2, and SNES. I do not even play PC games. It I cannot use a controller, I do not play the game. There have been a few exceptions (Septerra Core, and various hentai dating sims).

    My point is not to brag (partially true), but to address the part of the interview about the PC being the biggest console there is. It just is. Them wily Asians make kickass RPGs for PC all the time. Ys, Magna Carta, various hentai dating sims (okay they’re not RPGs, but they’re hilarious) and crap-loads more are all RPGs that play just like home console ones, they just tend to have way better music, graphics, FONTS, save data security, scalability (patches) and so on.

    Of course, most PC RPGs in the states err on the side of first-person shooting, but that could all change right here.

  14. We’re not leaving the 360 at the moment. Besides, if we did go PC only, you wouldn’t need to spend a thousand dollars or more to play our games – our system requirements are so low that a $300 or so desktop from Best Buy should more than suffice.

  15. Unfortunately if you guys leave the console in favor of the PC, you are going to lose a fan. I have always been a console gamer, and don’t see myself spending a thousand dollars or more for a platform that has lackluster offerings in the genres that I gravitate to

  16. I loved the interview, great words of wisdom… currently waiting with some others for the 13th!

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