Can you make money on XBLIG?

MoneyGrab
image by Steve Wampler

Can you make money on XBLIG? This question has been on my mind for over a year now and recently I’ve been researching it a lot, so I thought I’d share my findings with you.

I love XBLIG, it has some really awesome games on it for hardly any money. Also XNA is bliss to program in. I’d dearly love it to be a successful platform, but unfortunately I’m not so sure it is…

Here are some things I’ve discovered:

- You most likely won’t make any money at all, not even chump change. Many games make < $100, no kidding. But many are bad. Better games can make several hundred dollars, and the best can make a few thousand dollars (based on recent stats on the Creators Club Forums).
- To make a few thousand dollars you have to make really stand out excellent games that get in the top 50 download or rated charts, or on the IGN picks (People have not done much external advertising yet except for the Winter Uprising thing. Although there are a few review sites mentioning XBLIG games. Marketing may well be vital to making money on the platform.)
- So if you make a few thousand dollars from a great game (say $5-$10 over quite a few months), that means you need to make a game in a month and pay absolute minimum for content (graphics/music etc.) to make it worthwhile in my opinion. Plus it has to be awesome and maybe have a silly hook to get downloads and convert well. That is NOT an easy task at all. Probably <1% of people will manage it.
- Some of the best devs who are making the most money are considering quitting XBLIG (according to their blogs). Not a good sign.
- Sure that Zombie game made a ton of money, and some of the early games have done OK, but now there's a huge volume of less that stellar titles on it which probably puts a lot of people off even bothering to download anything. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that it's open and anyone can make a game and get it on a console, cool! But it's crappy if you want to make your game stand out and make money.
- Another problem is eyeballs. The Indie games are a bit hidden away on the Game Marketplace and not many people check them out. Some really great games only get 10K-20K downloads during the launch period (and plenty get <1000 downloads), and if they convert high (10%-20%, which is entirely possible) that might be OK. But that is a fraction of the total Xbox users. Casual games will EASILY get 10x (and even 100x) that many downloads on a portal (but will convert at a lower %)
- Personally I'm going to make some games for XBLIG for fun (early in 2011) and because I like XNA. It will be a good learning exercise. But it may be smart of me to think more about iPad, Facebook, and Download games later in 2011.

I hope that things will change it will become a very successful platform, but I'm not sure how or when that could happen.

Have more info? Perhaps you disagree? Please let me know.

4 Responses to “Can you make money on XBLIG?”

  1. George Birbilis Says:

    maybe we need more game porting tools (Unity has done great job, but would like to see tools to port Java games to XNA, XNA to Flash etc.)

  2. Ungeheier Says:

    I think one of the mail issues with converting a download to an actual sale on XBLIG is the fact that you get the same experience in the first 3 mins (or whatever the demo timer is) than you would if you bought the game.

    The lack of achievements kills sales in my mind too. For some reason the chance of getting achievements adds value to the game. If I get bored I might get the list of achievements up and try to play the game a little differently. It’s somewhat goal-based at that point.

    I find myself trying more GameCenter games than I do non-GameCenter games nowadays as well.

    I’ve been on xbox live for at least 7 years and I thought the Indie stuff was going to be great. I’ve been a bit disappointed so far though and have only purchased a few indie games. On that note, I probably own the majority of XBLA games at this point.

    Anyhow, good luck!

  3. RiK Says:

    So, have you switched to C now or are you still noodling with Blitz?

    Main reason I’m asking is that with Mark close to releasing v1.0 of his ‘monkey’ cross-platform thang there may be some scope for Blitz apps to be targeted relatively easily to multiple platforms, and hence multiple revenue streams.

  4. Grey Alien Games Says:

    @George: I’m very interested in the new Blitz langauge that works on iPhone, Android, XNA and Online! It may be available mid-Jan 2011.

    @Ungeheier: I agree that it would be great if Indie games could have achievements. Also you shouldn’t need Live Gold membership to do online scoreboards etc it should work with silver membership. It is possible for devs to make the demo different if they wanted, but actually having the same demo/full-game experience works for casual games.

    @RiK: C# and XNA is pretty darn good fun. I do still enjoy Blitz though, I made a mini-game last weekend and will keep noodling on it. For sure I’m very interested in “monkey” and will check it out in Jan as making multi-platform games seems to be the way forward as you can re-used the IP and assets several times (and see which platform is the best).