Last five years of Xbox 360 have been painful to watch, says founding engineer Nat Brown

Microsoft ‘idiotic’ for ceding Xbox indie community

Microsoft has been idiotic for its lack of support toward the indie development sector on Xbox 360, one of the hardware’s founding engineers has said.

Speaking on a blog post, Nat Brown said it had been painful to watch the Xbox over the last five years, and felt Microsoft had been coasting on past momentum of the Xbox, and was failing to innovate or capitalise on technical innovations such as its motion sensing peripheral Kinect.

He also claimed that the computing giant was touting market success while it was just experiencing Sony and Nintendo’s "stumbling failures", and had a complete lack of understanding on how to take advantage of living room gaming in the long-term.

Brown criticised Microsoft’s ecosystem for small and indie developers, who have found it increasingly difficult to make money on XBLIG in particular, with many even leaving Xbox for good.

He said that all this was going on while Microsoft was driving forward with its plans to enter the TV entertainment sector and was partnering with "big dying media companies when their core product, their home town is on fire, their soldiers, their developers, are tired and deserting, and their supply-lines are broken".

He described the $10,000 per year membership of XBLA and lack of promotion on XBLIG as huge problems for developers – despite an Xbox 360 install base of over 76 million.

"Read some of the fine-print at the Xbox registered developer program page (that ‘membership’ would cost you $10,000/year and a ton of paperwork, with Microsoft holding veto power over your game being published), navigate the mess through to learning about XBLA (also costly, paperwork and veto approval) and you may end up learning about a carved off little hard-to-find store with a few thousand stunted games referred to as XBLIG where Microsoft has ceded their veto power (and instead just does nothing to promote your games)," he stated.

"This is where indie developers have found they can go in order to not make money on Xbox, despite an installed base of 76M devices. Microsoft, you are idiotic to have ceded not just indie game developers but also a generation of loyal kids and teens to making games for other people’s mobile devices."

Brown also criticised the Xbox dashboard, which he described as creaky and slow beyond its first two levels, with much of it also being unfriendly to a number of users.

"These messages and many others – impossible Xbox Live sign-in and password recovery, accounting/membership, to name just a few – are made all the worse by the huge amount of time that passes while waiting for content to load," he said.

"You don’t turn on your Xbox to play a game quickly — it takes multiple minutes to load, flow through its splash screens, and then get you playing. It doesn’t surprise me that most people spend more time watching videos or listening to music on Xbox, because it takes too long to screw around with discs and wait for games to load."

He concluded: "So, because these two critical issues – user experience and indie content – are not nearly in order and I see big investments in future interactive content happening, as well as idiotic moves to limit used games or put harder content protection into place than exists in mobile or tablets – I predict massive failure and losses here.

"And it makes me sad. Because it just doesn’t have to fail, even though it has been punted around poorly for 5 years. Xbox just needs somebody with a brain and focus to get the product in order tactically before romping forward to continue the long-term strategic promise of an Xbox in every living room, connected to every screen."

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