Indie game developer critiques WP7 Marketplace, offers advice

This morning on Bill Reiss's blog, Silverlight Games 101, he makes some pretty good and in our opinion, even handed, criticisms of the Marketplace, specifically in relation to indie games and competing against the big Live titles.

Reiss is the developer of Popper 2 (see review) which was launched pretty early in the Marketplace. But now with developers finally having access to their numbers, he noticed just how lackluster his game was doing: 600 downloads/156 sales, even though he notes it is "...the 20th highest rated overall for all apps and games on the phone". At a $1.29 a sale, we can see that he's not exactly rolling in money from this game.

In turn, he goes through and lists a range of reasons as to why he thinks this may be the case (and he's far from the first developer to say such things). The reasons range fro the Xbox Live "filter" which gives higher precedence to those games over indie apps, no ability in the marketplace to sort by popularity, "featured" games and more,  For developers, he gives a few tips on how to better increase presence, including offer a free or lite version, social networks, etc. If we were a developer, we would think this to be a solid read.

From our perspective as consumers, "games" on Windows Phone 7 are almost too bountiful and we agree--with no real way to sort games by ratings/popularity, it makes it hard. Take for instance Decimation X2 which we covered here--by all means not selling well, though it's my #1 game by a long shot. It was discovered by accident on my part. Combined with increased users and early adopters, social networking, sites like ours for reviews, etc. we hope that developers will be able to profit. But then again, even Apple's App Store tells a similar story with the biggest, most popular apps being free and with over 300,000 programs available, we imagine most get lost in the crowd. Agree or disagree with Reiss's comments? Discuss in comments.

Source: Silverlight Games 101

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • I think sites like this have to have a dedicated WP7 application/games section. How many games and applications have you guys reviewed? How easy is it for someone to access those reviews without knowing exactly what they are looking for? You should also include links to the visual search sites as well, right now your site (and others like wmpoweruser, pocketnow, windowsphonethoughts) dont really make discovery of WP7 programs easy and since the big blogs dont really care I think the dedicated WP sites need to step up.
  • Umm...we do. Look at the top bar: "Apps" and "Games" link to all our reviews of those. While we want to do more, coding this stuff in when it is changing very rapidly is not easy either. As far as visual search sites, once again, that is very new--WP7Applist and Marketplacebrowser have only been around for a few weeks. We need to let the dust settle before we re-organize our whole site. But yes, we are looking into doing more.
  • I have mixed feelings on this. It's unfortunate that Xbox Live titles are given a search preference over other indie titles. However, I'm an Xbox gamer and enjoy the benefits and features that an Xbox Live game provides. If a title does not sport that Xbox Live banner, I'm likely to think twice about downloading it. Getting 'lost in the crowd' is also subject to debate. Rovio's Angry Birds launched into a near-impossible game market and is now one of the best selling games of all time. Moral of the story: Design a good game, price it right, and you will make sales.
  • While I think MS needs to stop letting Xbox LIVE tagged games from hiding the non-tagged games, the independents need to be mindful what kinds of access their apps require. For example, how many games really need access to my phone's location and identity? Seriously.
  • Making and selling indie anything is hard. I've noticed the non-sticky filters myself a while back and if anything it's annoying. While the search results could present a more balanced view of results, ultimately no market owes any particular developer anything and so I'd say the promotion strategies extending outside of the zune marketplace is the best idea. I also think it's too early to expect a great return on any development investment.
  • I think it's more likely that people didn't like his game. 600 downloads and only 156 sales? That's a 26% conversion rate... not so great for an item under $5.00.
  • Which is a hard truth for many. I saw the game and just decided it wasn't my thing .
  • There's also the psychological price point thing. I wonder if he'd sell more at $0.99 instead of $1.29.