Housecleaning at XBLA?

Two executives in charge of Microsoft’s XBox Live Arcade have recently left: Greg Canessa and Ross Erickson.  Frankly, I think this is good news.

I don’t know these guys, I don’t know their history, but they’ve been in charge of XBox Live Arcade, and that service is doing a terrible job. 

Ross’s title was “Worldwide Games Portfolio Manager”, and really that’s the problem with XBLA.  Its portfolio of games sucks.

There are a few gems, but the console has been out for a year now, and that’s all there are – a few gems.  Aside from the PopCap games (which are also available on the PC and on the web) and Geometry Wars, what do we have?  Some iffy originals, and a lot of old arcade titles. 

The arcade titles were cool for a while, but some of the releases (Scramble, Tapper) lack that spark that makes some games classic.  And in general, these titles are good for a few hours of walking down memory lane, but that’s about it.

Paying $4 for a few hours of entertainment isn’t bad – about the same cost per hour of entertainment as renting a movie – but if your movie store only had one good movie every 3 months, well, you’d start shopping somewhere else.  And that’s what XBLA users are going to do.

I think XBox Live Arcade’s problem is that Microsoft has picked a few developers to work with, and those developers aren’t very good.  Games frequently get delayed, take forever getting through certification, and then once they do go live, aren’t that good. 

There are a lot of great Flash games coming out – and you can play those on the Wii today.  Maybe that’s why Microsoft doesn’t want to include a browser (something the other consoles have) – because they know we’ll stop paying for poor quality XBLA releases and play free games online instead.

Now that we’ve had two of the people in charge of XBLA leave (or be asked to leave – frankly I hope it was the latter), I’ve got a few suggestions for the new management.

  • Release more games.  There is no shortage of good games.  Look around the web for awesome Flash games and bring them over to XBLA.
  • Charge Less.  Some games are worth 800 or 1200 points, but most are not.  Especially the retro games.
  • Streamline the release process.  What’s the hold-up?  We don’t really care what the hold-up is, we just want it to go away.  We were told there were 10 titles coming in February, and now on February 21st, we have two titles.  Fix it.
  • Get XNA Game Studio games on XBLA.  You’ve released a great tool that lets anyone write games that nobody can play.  Set up a real marketplace for games here:  Let users post and charge for games, let users rate games, and let the free market sort out what games succeed and what games don’t. 

I’ve spent more time playing Flash Element TD than I have playing most XBLA games.  It’s not very polished, it’s a bit cheesy, and I’m sure would never make it through certiifcation – but it’s a fun game.  Isn’t that what matters?