A Fond Farewell to Radiangames
Radiangames, the developer behind some of the Xbox’s best indie games like Crossfire and Inferno, recently abandoned XBLIG and moved onto greener pastures. And it’s all your fault! Many developers, in fact, have quit supporting Xbox Live Indie Games, because the money just isn’t there. Zeboyd Games (of Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII fame) announced that its one-week sales on Steam surpassed a year and a half on the Xbox. So I can’t blame these indie developers for leaving the Xbox, but I’m sure going to miss them.
I stumbled across the XBLIG channel about the same time Protect me Knight was released, so it was the first indie game I downloaded. You couldn’t ask for a better introduction. I could see how someone whose first trial was a massage app would never want to download another Xbox indie title ever again, but Protect me Knight was amazing. It was every bit as good as a $10 XBLA game and sold me on the entire service. I check the indie channel every day now looking for the next great $1 or $3 experience, which has paid off with shining examples like Score Rush, Tacticolor, Explosionade, and, of course, anything made by radiangames.
The best part about these games is that most of them go for only $1, but sometimes it feels like developers are forced to use this price point. A game that costs 240 points is a harder sell than 80, and 400-point games practically scream, “Please ignore me!” I’ll admit that I’m very stingy with my Microsoft points, but that’s because Xbox marketplace transactions are run through Microsoft’s unforgiving point exchange system rather than being a direct dollar paid by credit card. I’d throw down a dollar for a lot of things, but when I have to pay 80 points from my balance that’s hard to keep even, it’s a different story.
Another thing that has plagued the indie channel from the beginning is underexposure. The latest dashboard update made sure to stick XBLIG games in a dark corner (you have to go to Game Marketplace > Explore New Games > Games & Demos > Indie Games to find it), and Microsoft rarely draws attention to its existence. But I hate to call Microsoft the bad guy here, because the indie channel is overrun by pure crap that cheapens the Xbox experience. Does Microsoft want customers to know its system has fifty massage apps readily available for download? I see that as more of a deterrent than a selling point.
As much as we’d like to see the massage apps disappear (and die a horrible death along the way), you kind of have to embrace them and all the other worthless games, because they’re part of the “free market” that makes XBLIG so great. Anyone with a computer and $100 (for the membership fee) can make a game and sell it on an actual game console. It’s a dream for a lot of people and an easy reality for those who take the time to learn C# and the XNA framework. Hell, I’m even working on my own XBLIG game, and my programming background is strictly web development. That’s how easy Microsoft has made it to be an indie developer.
Now I realize phones have opened up a whole new (and more lucrative) frontier, which is where most disheartened XBLIG developers go when their games fail to do well. But you don’t get the console experience on an iPhone. No 42″ screen to play on. No dual-analog controller to hold. Very limited multiplayer support. These were the things that made every radiangames release so brilliant. Radiangames was perfect for the Xbox. Knowing that the developer is trying to tap the phone market makes me sad, because I just don’t see how he can make the same kind of games and appeal to the Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja crowd at the same time.
Week by week, more talented developers announce they are dropping XBLIG, or at least supporting it in a much smaller capacity. But as they leave, new developers eager to get their first game out swoop in. As long as Microsoft doesn’t can XBLIG altogether, I think we’ll still see the same steady stream of good games and bad, just with new developers periodically taking up the reins. Nobody’s been able to replace radiangames yet, though. Sadly, XBLIG may never see another developer as talented, but the service is still going strong, and I highly encourage anyone who hasn’t already looked into it to do so. You’re missing out on one of the best features of the Xbox and some very cool indie developers.