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Will Initial Lack of Indie Games Hurt Xbox One Launch Sales?

Sony seems to have already won the fight regarding indie games. So what does this mean for Xbox One?

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It's finally here! The Xbox One hits stores internationally tomorrow. For Xbox devotees, it's as though Christmas has come almost exactly one month early. Just look at the AAA launch line-up! It's hard to argue that the Xbox One doesn't have the stronger line-up of Day One titles, especially as Sony have already expressed disappointment at critical responses to theirs.

But even if Sony's AAA games aren't hitting all the right notes, one thing's for certain is that their indie catalogue is really going down a storm. Contrast is wowing gamers with its artwork and style, as much as it's puzzling them with a whole new way of logical thinking in gaming; and Resogun is just pure happy hardcore hyperactivity in glorious full HD.

Microsoft have made a big song and dance about working with indie developers through ID@Xbox and their partnership with Unity. But it seems odd that despite all the talk, it's only Sony that actually have a full array of indie titles to accompany their AAA ones; the only console seemingly putting their money where their mouth is. But is it really that straight forward?

Specialisation

Xbox has always been the First Person Shooter (FPS) console of choice. Especially, with games such as Call of Duty and Halo pretty much defining the success of the machine. Microsoft have always pulled out the big guns on the big titles, especially at launch, and have generally come out top. Ryse: Son of Rome looks gorgeous, as does Forza Motorsport 5. It's a crying shame that Titanfall is still several months away. Thankfully for Xbox fans, though late, it will still keep its exclusivity.

PlayStation, on the other hand, whilst still putting up very good competition with AAA titles, have made a real effort to focus also on indie games, especially since the PlayStation 3. Titles, like Journey, have been break-out hits despite their humble nature. For the PlayStation 4, they've certainly kept up not only that dedication, but upped their game by giving as much promotional time and space as they did the bigger titles that were launching with the console. This meant that they were very confident about their overall launch line-up at Eurogamer Expo 2013, despite Microsoft beating them to UK shelves by a full week.

"The lack of initial indie games on the Xbox One may well be because Microsoft know their audience well. Indie games were never a big thing for Xbox."

Therefore, the lack of initial indie games on the Xbox One may well be because Microsoft know their audience well. Indie games were never a big thing for Xbox, although they were certainly promoted and distributed on Xbox Live, like Super Meat Boy. So it's completely feasible that Xbox have chosen not to compete at launch with indie games, because Day One for Xbox was always about the blockbusters and not much else.

Therefore, the lack (ie complete absence) of initial indie games certainly won't affect Xbox One's early sales, because it was never something that was part of the its appeal in the first place.

But What About Future Sales?

Indie games have shown that they are not to be trifled with when it comes to potential success. Many indie games have done better than those from big studios in terms of critical response and financial turnover. Therefore, it's no surprise that Microsoft, Sony, and even Ouya are looking to capitalise on these, especially when it comes to platform exclusivity. Indeed, there's no doubt that Journey, Flow, and Flower contributed to Sony's pockets quite nicely, to choose ThatGameCompany as a sterling example.

Microsoft have already presented their manifesto for supporting indies, and make no qualms about recognising the significance of the genre. But with Sony already going full steam ahead with the scope of what it's offering, Xbox are already far behind. If Microsoft really wanted to be a viable platform for indies, then they should have chosen to compete at launch. It might have also given them the extra edge for initial success.

"If Xbox One can't get a foothold in what looks like is already going to be a small market, then what hope does it have in the long run despite its ambitious intentions?"

This is made even more pertinent in the fact that we've already discussed that the shift of indie developers to consoles might not be as significant as projected, with small studios either choosing to stick with Steam and desktops, or move to either mobile or VR gaming instead. So if Xbox One can't get a foothold in what looks like is already going to be a small market, then what hope does it have in the long run despite its ambitious intentions?

Whilst being left in Sony's dust with indie games won't harm the Xbox One's future sales, per se, it certainly will leave Sony in a significantly stronger position in the battle for which console will reign supreme. Furthermore, if our misgivings are proved wrong about where indie games will go next, then the head start Sony has might just be the straw that breaks Microsoft's back.

But for now, just enjoy the gorgeous AAA games that Xbox One has to offer. And who knows, maybe ID@Xbox and Unity may have a few aces in the hole that might just turn the tables yet.

Originally Published Nov. 21st 2013

Featured Columnist

Bearded British game-bear. Likes his JRPGs accompanied with a G&T. Lives in London, UK. Also writes a lot about theatre and film. *jazz hands*

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Comments
  • 36
    Ryan Kerns 11 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    Besides the ID@Xbox and free copy of Unity Pro... the Xbox One itself will be able to function as a dev kit in a future update. I see it as a very attractive platform for Indies... really no reason to not be on both PS4 and XBone.
  • 41
    Destrolyn.Bechgeddig 11 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    The way I see it is, is that ID@Xbox and Unity will make it easier for indie devs to get their games onto Xbox One. But, Phil Harrison alluded to a screening process when it came to dishing out dev kits. Although, I hardly think they're going to be too strict about it, but it certainly won't be a free for all.

    So, it looks like a toss-up between getting onto a platform easily, or working with a platform that has already established a thriving audience and great support for those wishing to release. It would be a hard decision, but I'd wager that devs are going to look to the PS4 first and the Xbox One second when it comes to getting their games out there, just because of how things are at the moment. Microsoft has been all really positive talk, but Sony have been all very successful actions. But you're right, they may develop a preference but there's no reason to not be on both unless either are particularly bothersome.

    Remember, Xbox didn't come off too well in how they worked with Super Meat Boy in Indie Game: The Movie. Thankfully, the game was able to ride out the slight bumbling and went on to be the huge success that it is on the platform, and beyond.

    It's one to wait and see how things pan out, like I said at the end. But as a spot analysis, speculation that it might cause trouble down the line isn't an unreasonable punt.