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UltimateWalrus

Would Microsoft publish an XNA game on XBLA?

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UltimateWalrus    229
Before you say anything, yes, I know about the Dream-Build-Play contest. This is what got me thinking about what it would take to get an XNA game published on Xbox Live Arcade. I am a very novice game developer. I have developed a couple small DirectX games and a one-tenth finished GameBoy Advance game. I also made a bunch of games in Multimedia Fusion (a point-and-click easy 2D game building environment) when I was a kid, and still play around with it from time to time. I am just about to start attending the University of Southern California, where I will work on a degree in CS Games. This, I hope, will give me the skill I would need to build more professional games. This is my impression of the current state of XNA, however idealistic and inexperienced it may be: Suppose I were to make a complete XNA game using the tools that Microsoft has provided. The game would be "more or less" complete, perhaps with little holes where I currently had no means to implement certain features. For example: there would be a space for an online scoreboard, but it wouldn't necessarily be implemented yet. Online multiplayer might be functional on a PC, but it couldn't yet take advantage of the Xbox 360's online framework. Now I realize that I might need to find a few good contacts in the industry. But suppose I actually managed to get an appointment with some Microsoft representatives, in which I could show them the game and politely suggest that it be published on Xbox Live Arcade. Let's suppose that the game is very fun, original, professional, fleshed out, in the spirit of Xbox Live Arcade, and capable of supporting the standard features that are in all Xbox Live games (Achievements, etc.). Would they really turn down a practically-finished Xbox Live Arcade game? After all, it likely costs them close to nothing to distribute these games online. There's not really much to risk. I don't see my idea as being that unreasonable --- or am I missing something? The whole concept of the "Dream-Build-Play" contest is to take hundreds of games made on XNA, and narrow them down to a single game, which Microsoft may publish on XBLA. This is a great prize, and I think I would enter if they were to run the same contest in the future. However, what are really the chances that my game will be picked out of the hundreds? I realize that it isn't exactly random chance --- but think about it. Even if my game is more fun than the majority of Xbox Live Arcade games being sold, there's still a good chance that one of the hundreds of contestants will have made a game that is "better" in the judge's eyes (keep in mind that good gameplay is "in the eyes of the beholder"). There is certainly no guarantee that the judges would pick my game over any other finalist. All the effort spent on making the game could be --- at least somewhat --- wasted. Can anyone confirm that my approach is at least more viable than trying to win a contest? After all, I already have one contact in the industry (I'll withhold his name here for Google-search reasons), who is the owner of a company making a full-fledged Xbox 360 game. I'm sure this would help me greatly in trying to get an appointment with Microsoft. Just to clarify, I don't actually have a game, and I'm just learning XNA. I'm talking about future plans here. Thanks for listening! ---UltimateWalrus

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Buster2000    4310
Would microsoft publish a game made using XNA?
Yes.
The thing is though most of the XBLA games at the moment are made by professional games studios or indie teams made up from ex games industry pros. These games arn't knocked together in a couple of months they go through the same sort of quality checking as a AAA blockbuster. Most of the games arn't published by microsoft either they are just distributed by microsoft. You'd generally have to go the same rout as with most games and thats with a publisher.
The prize for winning the Dream build play competition isn't just that your game will be published. The prize includes microsoft helping the developer polish the game and turn it into an XBLA title which means adding the achievments and XBL code that is needed to finish the game. presumably this means that microsft will also be providing the winner with access to a 360 dev kit.
So unless you are already signed up to a publisher who is backing your game then you really do stand more of a chance by entering competitions.

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UltimateWalrus    229
Thanks for the reply!

It's obvious from my credentials that there's no way I could get a publisher to back me right now. However, what if I presented a finished game to a publisher? It would probably take a relatively little investment to "polish" it up by adding achievements and such. I think it would be almost a no-brainer: a small investment for a potentially large return.

Of course, I don't know all the ins and outs of XNA yet. Maybe it is possible to add things like achievements and scoreboards within XNA --- in which case, I could hand Microsoft a game that is literally done. Of course, they would probably insist on "quality assurance," but I would have done a thorough bug-check beforehand (and I truly believe I can make a game that satisfies the "quality" requirement). And how much can it really cost them to pay for a couple of QA's?

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Obscure    175
Quote:
Original post by UltimateWalrus
I am just about to start attending the University of Southern California, where I will work on a degree in CS Games. This, I hope, will give me the skill I would need to build more professional games.[/b]
add several years of actually making games after you graduate to get to the necessary skill level - so your asking what the situation will be in five or six years time

Quote:
.....Would they really turn down a practically-finished Xbox Live Arcade game?
Yes they would because they don't publish the games you do - so you would not only have to create a game which competes with third generation XBLA titles but you would need to pay to have it tested and localised into multiple languages to the standard that MS will expect.

Alternatively you would need to secure a publishing deal via a third party publisher because the XBLA business is already changing. A year or so ago small indies could get onto the platform. Since then all the big publishers such as Eidos, THQ, Capcom etc have jumped on-board and they are now paying $300,000+ budgets to experienced professional development teams to make XBLA games

Quote:
After all, it likely costs them close to nothing to distribute these games online. There's not really much to risk. I don't see my idea as being that unreasonable --- or am I missing something?
Yes you are. MS only allow one XBLA game per week. There are already more games in the queue than they need. If your game is cheap to distribute then so are all the other ones (from experienced professional developers) so that isn't an advantage at all.

Quote:
The whole concept of the "Dream-Build-Play" contest is to take hundreds of games made on XNA, and narrow them down to a single game, which Microsoft may publish on XBLA. This is a great prize, and I think I would enter if they were to run the same contest in the future. However, what are really the chances that my game will be picked out of the hundreds?
The odds are no better that your game would be selected by a publisher for publication - in fact given that the odds of a new graduate being able to produce a game which competes with experienced developers with a multi-person team and a $300,000 budget are almost zero you actually have a better chance with the competition.

Conclusion
The business side of game development/publishing is a lot more complex than you are assuming - can you negotiate an IP licensing deal (they won't teach you that on your degree course) or do any of the many other business tasks? Having a finished game isn't nearly enough.

In addition, by the time you are out in the market, the XBLA platform may have changed totally. However I do think that there will likely be other opportunities for budding indies. It isn't going to be nearly as simple as you think and it will almost certainly take longer than you think but there will be opportunities out there.

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UltimateWalrus    229
O.o


Quote:
add several years of actually making games after you graduate to get to the necessary skill level - so your asking what the situation will be in five or six years time


...I was hoping I could use my prior experience to slingshot myself into having a higher skill level than most of my colleagues. Most people are going in without ever having written a single line of code. Granted, I won't be making games on quite the same level as experienced professionals. But I think I could beat out "Feeding Frenzy" right now!


Quote:
A year or so ago small indies could get onto the platform. Since then all the big publishers such as Eidos, THQ, Capcom etc have jumped on-board and they are now paying $300,000+ budgets to experienced professional development teams to make XBLA games


Uh... crap. >_<
Why couldn't I have been born earlier?
Just because the big guys have shoved their way in, does that mean there's no room for little guys?

Quote:
If your game is cheap to distribute then so are all the other ones (from experienced professional developers) so that isn't an advantage at all.


If the game is good, do they really care where it comes from? :(


Quote:
The odds are no better that your game would be selected by a publisher for publication - in fact given that the odds of a new graduate being able to produce a game which competes with experienced developers with a multi-person team and a $300,000 budget are almost zero you actually have a better chance with the competition.


But I could compete with Feeding Frenzy!!!! :]

Jokes aside, I think I understand what you're saying. The business world can be a very harsh place for indies like me, I know --- but if I don't at least try, I'll never know if I could have made it. Rest assured that I'm not banking my life's hopes on publishing an XBLA game; I do plan to do work in the games industry before I ever try to actually form my own little company. But "I singlehandedly made a successful Xbox Live Arcade game" would be one hell of an item for the ol' resume, don't you think? :)

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Tom Sloper    16040
Wally Russell wrote:
>The business world can be a very harsh place for indies like me, I know --- but if I don't at least try, I'll never know if I could have made it. Rest assured that I'm not banking my life's hopes on [it].

Yes, fine. By all means, give it a try. But keep away from rose-colored glasses. And do NOT let failure discourage you. While you're pursuing XBLA, you ought to be getting started on a second game - and when that one is done you ought to be thinking about your third.

It's rare indeed for someone to make it on his first attempt. It's the solid portfolio that'll see you through in the long run.

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Tom Sloper    16040
Rusty Walter wrote:
>After all, it likely costs them close to nothing to distribute these games online. There's not really much to risk. I don't see my idea as being that unreasonable --- or am I missing something?

You're missing lots. It costs Microsoft a lot - and it'll also cost you money.
First, no game can be posted on XBLA without considerable QA testing, which you'd have to pay for. Secondly, the act of posting it requires considerable procedural work by numerous personnel on their side - and man-hours always cost money. Thirdly, before they could even get near putting your game online, there'd be the whole process of deciding whether or not to put it online in the first place.

>Now I realize that I might need to find a few good contacts in the industry. But suppose I actually managed to get an appointment with some Microsoft representatives, in which I could show them the game and politely suggest that it be published on Xbox Live Arcade.

No, you don't need contacts. And no, you don't need an appointment. You just submit it through the same channels everybody else does.

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Buster2000    4310
Why are you so determined to go for XBLA?
If you think you can code an indie game as finished and as polished as feeding frenzy then go and code it for the PC and try to get it published (or self publish online).
Try and walk before you can run. XBLA isn't the be all and end all of indie game development.

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Obscure    175
Quote:
Original post by UltimateWalrus
...I was hoping I could use my prior experience to slingshot myself into having a higher skill level than most of my colleagues. Most people are going in without ever having written a single line of code. Granted, I won't be making games on quite the same level as experienced professionals. But I think I could beat out "Feeding Frenzy" right now![/b]
Basic economics. If there is an space in the market people will move in with the smaller more nimble people getting in first and then the bigger people muscling in when the market matures. When MS created XBLA the guys who got on were the small indies who were publishing stuff on the internet but now the big guys are moving in. By the time you have your degree "Feeding Frenzy" won't be your competition.

Quote:
Uh... crap. >_<
Why couldn't I have been born earlier?
Just because the big guys have shoved their way in, does that mean there's no room for little guys?
Sure there will be space.... but were are talking a handful of those 52 slots per year and there are hundreds of indies out there now looking to get on the system. It is likely that those slots will be for winners of one or other of the indie game dev competitions.

Quote:
If the game is good, do they really care where it comes from? :(
Not what I meant. You stated that it would be cheap for them to distribute your game as if this was a benefit - it isn't because it is equally cheap to distribute the hundreds of other potential games so you are just one of hundreds. In addition at least 100 (made up number) of those will be by experienced pro teams whose games will already have the networking in place, already be concept approved, already have the achievements and will be 3rd gen XBLA titles.

Anyway. As mentioned by the time you finish school XBLA will be dead and there will hopefully be some other opportunities to pursue.

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paulecoyote    1065
Publishing a game requires lots of hoops to be jumped through. From a technology point of view, Microsoft is NOT going to discourage people developing for it's XNA platform, the fact that there are planned XNA things for Visual Studio *Professional*, and that the whole dream build play competition is about getting an XNA title on live... means they are investing in it.

The leading question seems to be, "if I happen to make something really cool while learning XNA, would MS publish it?". Who knows! Your choice in XNA I don't think would be a negative factor though!

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UltimateWalrus    229
Thank you very much for all of your replies, encouraging and discouraging!

Maybe I'm just a little too "eager" right now. I think that learning XNA would be a valuable skill, regardless of whether my game actually got published or not. My dad keeps saying that it would also be an excellent way to learn multi-core programming. As tsloper suggested, it might be better to focus on just building my portfolio instead of trying to dive headfirst into the games industry, especially while I'm in school.

One great thing about XNA is that it works on both PC and Xbox 360. So, if I learn XNA, I can build cross-compatible PC/Xbox 360 games to fill my portfolio with while I am in school! And the better quality/quantity in my portfolio, the better off I will be, regardless of whether they get published or not! :)

And, if I ever do want to try and shoot for XBLA or a PC publisher, I could always just whip a game out from my portfolio :)

And even when XBLA dies, I'll still be able to put the game on PC.

BTW, thank you NickGravelyn for that link! That'll be an excellent resource if I ever do find myself with a completed XNA game engine.

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