Game Creation with XNA/Game Creation/Marketing

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Introduction[edit]

After finishing to develop your Xbox game, your aim will be to make as many people as possible to buy and enjoy your game to get at least the money back which you have invested into the game and at best some reward. Microsoft itself offers a platform for downloading games which can be used to distribute games - it contains two sections, where independent developers can submit their creations. This Book gives information about the whole platform, the special independent developers sections, describe the ways how to publish a game successfully and provides some informations how Microsoft generally promotes the Xbox to attract more users.


Xbox Games + Marketplace[edit]

General[edit]

The Xbox Marketplace is a platform, where users can purchase games, download videos, game demos, Indie Games (will be treated in a separate chapter) and some additional content like mappacks or themes for the XBox 360 Dashboard. It was launched in November 2005 for Xbox and 3 years later, in November 2008, for Windows OS. Since 11th August 2009 it's possible to download Xbox 360 Games. The content will be saved on the Xbox 360's hard drive or an additional memory unit.


Payment[edit]

The Xbox Marketplace has it's own currency: "Microsoft Points". So users can purchase content without a credit card and credit card transaction fees can be avoided for Microsoft.[1] Microsoft Points are offered in packages of different quantities, from 100 up to 5000 while 80 points are worth US$1 [2] and can be purchased with credit card or Microsoft Point Cards in retail locations and since May 2011 by PayPal in supported regions. Some points of criticism are that users have to buy usually more points then they actually need and that they obscure the true costs of the content:

"To buy even a single 99-cent song from the Zune store, you have to purchase blocks of “points” from Microsoft, in increments of at least $5. You can’t just click and have the 99 cents deducted from a credit card, as you can with iTunes. [..] So, even if you are buying only one song, you have to allow Microsoft, one of the world’s richest companies, to hold on to at least $4.01 of your money until you buy another." [3]

"Microsoft is obscuring the true cost of this content. A song on Zune typically costs 79 Microsoft Points, which, yes, is about 99 cents. But it seems to be less because it's just 79 Points." [4]

These statements are from Zune reviews, a platform to stream and download music and movies, also with Xbox 360, similar to iTunes. Microsoft Points are the currency of Zune, too and the points can be transfered between Xbox Live Marketplace and Zune accounts.


Xbox Live Arcade[edit]

General[edit]

Xbox Live Arcade was launched on 3rd November 2004 for the original Xbox. It's a section of the Xbox Marketplace which accepts games from a wide variety of sources, including indie developers, medium-sized companies and large established publishers who develop simple pick-up-and-play games for casual gamers, for example "Solitaire" or "Bejeweled". [5] It starts with 27 arcade games on the beginning, now there are about 400 games available. In November 2005, Xbox Live Arcade was relaunched on the Xbox 360. It now has an fully integrated Dashboard, every arcade title has a leaderboard and 200 Achievement points.


Publishing an Arcade Game[edit]

Publishing an Arcade Game can cost a few hundreds of dollars and takes about 4-6 month of time to develop an test for a small team. They have to work closely with the Xbox Live Arcade team on everything from game design and testing to ratings, localization and certification. If everything is finished, the Xbox Live Arcade team puts the game onto Xbox Live. The whole process can be broken down in some steps: [6]

  • Contact - Write an email to the Arcade team with the concept, if they are interested they will send some forms to fill in.
  • Submission - Submit the game concept formally with as much information as possible about design, documents, screenshots and prototypes to be discussed in the Arcade portfolio review.
  • Create - After a positive review the developing can start. Tools especially for Arcade game developing are available (for e.g. Achievements and Leaderboards). An Arcade team producer get assigned to work with the developer for working on design, Gamescore and Achievments and a schedule with milestones for showing process to the Arcade team.
  • Full test - Final test with debugging and verification, then the regular Xbox 360 certification to be signed.
  • Publishing - The game is available at the Arcade Game Marketplace now.


Xbox Live Indie Games[edit]

General[edit]

Xbox Live Indie Games is a category in the Xbox Marketplace for games from independent developers with Microsoft XNA. The difference to the Xbox Live Arcade Games is, that Indie Games are just tested by the community, has much lower costs of production and they are often very cheap. Currently there are were submitted about 1900 Indie Games since the release at 19th November 2008.[7]


Publish an Indie Game[edit]

Before starting to develop an Indie Game, some restrictions should be noted:[8]

  • The binary distribution package must be no larger than 150 MB and should be compiled as single binary package.
  • The games are priced at 200, 400 and 800 Microsoft Points, games that are larger then 50 MB must be priced at least 400 Microsoft Points.
  • Each game needs an eight minute trial period to offer a testing time for users. After the trial time they can decide whether they want to buy this game or not.
  • Xbox Live Indie Games have not the same features as the Xbox Live Arcade Games. There are no Achievements or leaderboards available, but they include multiplayer support, game invitation, game informations, Xbox Live Avatars and Party Chat.
  • AppHub membership is required


The publishing itself is also a process, but much less complex then for Xbox Live Arcade Games:[9][10]

  • Create - Develop the game in C# using the XNA Game Studio framework, to allow the developers to debug and test their game internally before release.
  • Submission - Uploading the package at the App Hub website, add some metadata, specify costs and design the Marketplace offer.
  • Playtest - Other developers of the App Hub community can test the game for one week to give some feedback.
  • Peer Review - Developers check the game for unacceptable content, instability or other things which could block the publishing. Multile reviews are needed to pass the peer review successfully. If a game was declined, it can be resubmitted if the feedback has been used.
  • Release - If the peer review was successful, the game is available in the Marketplace Indie games section. The developer now gets 70% of the profit, Mircosoft 30% (in US$!).


AppHub[edit]

AppHub is a specific website and community for Xbox Live Indie Games (and Windows Phone) developers. AppHub offers free tools like XNA Game Studio and DirectX Software Development Kit, provides community forums where users can ask questions, give advice, or just discuss the finer points of programming. Code samples provides developers with a jump-start to implementing new features, and the Education Catalog is packed with articles, tutorials, and utilities to help beginners and experts alike. An App Hub annual subscription for $99 USD provides you with access to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, where you can sell or give away your creation to a global audience. For students the membership is free if you register at MSDNAA. They also provide a developer dashboard so developers can manage all aspects of how the game appears in marketplace, monitor downloads, and track how much money they've earned. So the AppHub membership is required to publish an Indie Game. Per year, members can submit up to 10 Indie Games, peer review new Indie Games before they get released and get offered premium deal from partners.


Xbox Marketing Strategies[edit]

53 million Xbox Consoles have been sold world wide, the Xbox Live community has more than 30 million members and it's getting harder for Microsoft to attract new customer. So they try to gain user from a new target audience and develop some new strategies to get the Xbox into as many homes as possible. Microsoft uses a lot of viral marketing and tries to let users to interact as much as possible in their own Xbox Live community.


Xbox Party[edit]

The usual Xbox gamer is male, so there are a lot of women who can be won as new customers. Inspired by "Tupperware Parties", Microsoft offers the possibility to get an Xbox pack to throw a home party to present the Xbox. Hosts got an Xbox party pack of freebies that included microwaveable popcorn, Xbox trivia game "Scene It? Box Office Smash," an Xbox universal media remote control, a three-month subscription to Xbox Live, and 1600 Microsoft Points. The aim is to spread the Xbox and get into a new target audience, everyone wants to have the console all friends are on.[11]


Special offers[edit]

Another strategy is to reach even the last ones of the main target audience who haven't an Xbox yet. A main reason are the costs of an Xbox, a special offer for college students now offers an Xbox 360 to all U.S. college students who buy a Windows 7 PC. By targeting college kids, Microsoft is going after the sexiest demographic. College students ages 18 to 24 spend more than 200 billion dollars a year on consumables. The average student has about $600 a month in disposable income from part-time work, work-study or scholarships. They also typically don’t have mortgages or car payment. Because of this, they are able to spend their money less conservatively than an adult who has those expenses on top of paying back college loans and possibly providing for their families. [12]

To promote the marketplace and connect the users of Windows Phones and Xbox closer to each other, Microsoft offers a free Xbox 360 game to developers of Windows Phone Apps, the best App also wins a Windows 7 Phone. It's just available for the first 100 Apps and calles Yalla App-a-thron comeptition.[13]


Promote Indie Game[edit]

Indie Games are developed usually by independent developers with low costs. The best strategy to advertise for an Indie Game is spreading it as much as possible. Users can rate games in the Marketplace, games with a good rating get downloaded more often. If someone plays an Indie Game, friend in the Xbox Live are able to see that and maybe the game gets spread more and more into the community. Websites like IndieGames.com constantly present popular Indie Games, the aim of every developer should be to get as much attention as possible and to trust into viral marketing.


Weblinks[edit]


References[edit]