Why indies leave Xbox for PC

Cthulu Saves the World

Indie games sell better on Steam and with less hassle for developers than they do on Xbox Live, according to a number of developers Gamasutra interviewed recently.

Robert Boyd of Zeboyd Games explains how Zeboyd's Cthulu Saves the World did a disappointing 16,000 sales on Xbox Live Indie Games, "which means it's earned just about the same amount of money as our first game - even though we spent so much more time creating it."

Zeboyd switched their focus to Steam, bundled Cthulu with their first game, and sold the package for $3 apiece on Steam starting in July. Five days later, they had already made more money on Steam than their annual revenue on XBLIG.

There are other benefits to developers, according to Braid creator Jonathan Blow.

"[I can] live a comfortable life and just put my game on Steam without that much of a hassle, or I can have the XBLA business people dick me around and give me asshole contracts that I need to spend three months negotiating back to somewhere reasonable ... it's like, at some point, the question 'Why should I do that?' arises."

Perhaps developers shouldn't. Introversion software enjoyed huge success on PC with the superb DEFCON and Darwinia, and were poised to press on with new projects when they took a detour into XBLA development . It took them three years to finish the project and get certification, during which the company hit financial straits. Rather than guaranteeing Interversion's future, however, the Xbox release of Darwinia nearly destroyed it . An 11th-hour Steam sale for DEFCON produced enough revenue to keep the company going.

The Gamasutra piece points out that XBLA is a tougher market for indies now than it used to be, and with a high-bar to entry just to make it into the store, Xbox might be offering more risk to indie developers than it does in rewards.