XBox Live’s Virtual Gold

This one I had to find. After noticing a nice screenshot from Atari’s Test Drive: Unlimited game, I read a couple of paragraphs of the accompanying Next Gen story (Link). I didn’t get further than this line:

Revenues will be supported by downloadable content via Xbox Live.

I’d wondered off and on what was going on with XBox Live’s Marketplace. If you recall, when Microsoft announced it I was more than a little enthusiastic (reLink); and for good reason I thought (reLink). However, I’m not a console person so I had to rely on what I found online to get a sense of how it was going. And most of what I was hearing was that the Marketplace was being used by developers – not by independents freelancers. That wasn’t what I was hoping to hear. It just meant that developers were off hiring people to make add-on content and then taking a major chunk of the profit. I’d prefer the money go straight to the creator (minus MS’s cut, of course).

So anyway, reading that about Atari, one of the old videogame guard, got me wondering if there was some recent news. And whaddaya know, Gamasutra has a report on XBox Live. It’s just a few weeks old and titled “GameFest: Xbox Live Marketplace Details Revealed” (Link). From the article:

Microsoft also indicated that downloadable add-on content for games was the “most significant” Marketplace engagement point, revealing that three titles had already achieved $1 million in sales of additional content.

However, the company conceded that such content has not been coming out as fast as it would like, and that companies should plan ahead and devote small teams to creating new content in order to meet the user community’s demand early on, specifically within the first 60 to 90 days following a title’s release.

Well, I’m not surprised on two counts. The first is that it’s raking in the money. The second is that developers weren’t prepared. Although on the second count I understand why that may be the case. And if you read my earlier post on the dearth of talented people (reLink), you’re not surprised either.

However, I’m still left wondering if there are freelancers getting anything sold through the Marketplace. Guess I’ll have to keep hunting for news about that.

2 thoughts on “XBox Live’s Virtual Gold

  1. I was just browsing the Marketplace last night, and I didn’t notice any indie content (if that’s what you mean by freelancers). It all looks like corporate tchotchke to me. Maybe this will change once the Xbox SDK’s become widely adopted by students and indie developers.

    Lately I’ve heard about the Marketplace being used to sell “virtual consumables,” which seems to have the greatest income potential (but doesn’t seem to serve gamers very well). I guess the idea is that you’ll have a tough time getting through a game unless you fork over to buy extra ammo or gold pieces through Xbox Live. When Texas Hold’em Poker was announced, I asked Microsoft if the virtual dollars used in the game would be made available for purchase through Marketplace, but their PR people didn’t respond.

  2. Yeah. That’s what I meant; people who are independent of the game developers (was afraid that might be confusing – I should correct that).

    Not sure the SDK will change that though. If someone has the keys to a gateway – and each game is a gateway – will they open it up? I don’t know. I think some will. If they’re successful more will follow. But in the end giving up that control will be tough for some, I suspect.

    I read about those “virtual consumables”. That’s too rich for this post as it gets pretty close to my constant refrain of “virtual-to-real”! Pretty wild.

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