Microsoft’s indie game program [email protected] has shipped over 2,000 indie titles

Microsoft’s indie game program ID@Xbox has shipped over 2,000 indie titles
Variety is the spice of life.

Since its inception [email protected] has paid out over $1.5 billion in royalties to indie developers

According to Microsoft, their indie game development program, [email protected], had sold over 2,000 unique titles since the program’s inception back in 2014. In addition to the 2,000-plus new games in development, Microsoft has paid out more than $1.5 billion in royalties to those indie developers under [email protected]’s umbrella.

Even though Microsoft is known for its first-party games like the Halo franchise, they all too well understand the need for new, creative, and innovative titles to flesh-out their gaming roster. “Sometimes it seems like the only thing these games have in common is their diversity,” wrote senior director of [email protected] Chris Charla in an Xbox Wire post. “But there’s another hook too. They represent amazing clarity of vision and the fruits of creative freedom that only independent games can deliver.”

And they’ve known this for years. Back in the 360 era, Xbox Live Arcade was the platform’s premier location for casual and vintage arcade titles. “A funny thing happened though,” continued Charla. “Some of those independent developers who were still making games on PC… saw those downloadable games and started to get some ideas.”

These ideas would eventually blossom with Microsoft’s massive influence and bankroll underneath them. The advent of making “disc sized” games available for digital download bridged the gap between player’s looking for something new and the commitment of visiting a traditional brick-and-mortar store whose inventory would be meticulously curated toward selling more accessible, if not fiscally “safer,” AAA titles with millions upon millions spent on marketing.

It’s not just stores who would’ve shied away from sacrificing precious shelf-space on games not guaranteed to sell. Indie developers still needed a publisher’s distribution and manufacturing network to even make it to stores – and much like book publishers, those distributing video games won’t risk the loss on something that isn’t guaranteed to turn a profit.

Imagine if Xbox Live Arcade never came to fruition when it did, and classic titles like Castle Crashers, Limbo, and Super Meat Boy had to compete for a publisher’s blessing – assuming they would even get the time of day. It very well may have spelled death for many games we now know today.

As generations came and went, so too did the preconceived notions that only a AAA release could amass prolific sales and a position of esteem in the gaming industry.

Take Cuphead, for example, a side-scrolling platform-shooter, painstakingly hand-animated in the classic “rubberhose” style of the 1920s and 30s. Despite being the brainchild of a studio who’s employees you could count on one hand, Cuphead had sold over 1 million copies within the first two weeks – later growing to over 4 million since the game’s release in 2017.

Studio MDHR, developers of the indie runaway-hit, credit [email protected] for much of their success. “Whether it was the excitement and passion they showed us when the game was in its earliest stages, [or] the support and guidance they offered as we grew the team,” said MDHR Lead Art Designer Maja Moldenhauer, “…they’ve been there every step the way on our journey.”

Indie games aren’t going anywhere, especially now in an era of franchise reboots and classic remasters. The need for fresh and unique perspectives is critical not only for the variety of games themselves but also for their publishers. Giving people what they didn’t know they wanted will be vital to prolonged success lest they want their line-up to grow stale.

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Jose is a left-handed techno-mancer with an affinity for IPAs, big dogs, and black-and-white movies. Rebels are scum, Empire for life.
Gamer Since: 2004
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