In Defense of the Apparant Shitstorm

22 Mar / by: M&R / 77 comments /

Well, apparently our Gamasutra interview is controversial. Probably we should do what all the professionals have advised us to do, and just stop reading comments — it is the internet after all. But let’s instead take one last stab at dialogue.


First of all, everyone we’ve worked with at Microsoft have been terrific — smart, helpful, bright, and passionate. Obviously we haven’t met everyone working there, but those who were involved in N+ were great to work with. We’re sorry if our criticism of the service hurts them, because we know they’re doing their best. The “most games suck” problem really seems to be a pervasive institutional issue rather than the fault of this or that person.. more on that later.

Secondly: the interview was done before N+ came out.. hence we’re not complaining about our sales. We are surprised and thrilled by our sales — we’re just happy that people are trying N+, and that some of them are enjoying it.

Third: the interview happened about an hour after we found out that the royalty rates for XBLA have been “adjusted” to the point where our whole business plan moving forward was totally shafted.. hence the bitterness.


So: what the hell were we thinking?

We didn’t intend to provoke outrage, we simply spoke candidly. Actually saying what you think rather than being fake in an interview situation is apparently just not done, but don’t shoot the messenger — it’s not our fault that the vast majority of XBLA games suck! Literally every single person we’ve ever spoken with is in agreement on this, and yet it’s apparently shocking for gamers in general to hear (assuming that’s who reads joystiq/kotaku).

If you think back to when these downloadable channels (XBLA/PSN) were announced, they were supposed to be the “anti-retail”: good royalties for all involved, smaller/less “epic” games (quirky ideas which would never have been approved by a publisher), basically a mecca for small teams. In hindsight we were perhaps naive to buy into what was apparently empty marketing speak, however we really believed that something worthwhile and interesting was happening.


Fast forward to now: royalties (allegedly) suck, casual games outnumber proper video games (this will have to wait for a future post for further discussion), the vast majority of titles are “disappointing” (this is perhaps a more politic choice of words than “utter crap”), and small teams are being actively funneled through publishers.


As gamers it was unbelievably depressing for us to try literally 80 games and enjoy less than 8 of them. As we mentioned in the article we no longer bother to try XBLA demos because of this.. we just wait until we hear something good about any given game. So, we’re back in retail-land!

The fact that the channel is glutted with crap IS a real problem that shouldn’t be dismissed. The “diamonds will always stand out” argument doesn’t work when gamers have ceased to pay attention to XBLA due to how badly the last 10 demos they tried sucked.

As developers it was incredibly frustrating to see Nick pitch his game — which is really awesome, but a secret for now — only to be told that “genre X is oversaturated”. It’s only oversaturated because, for example, a piece of crap like Street Trace somehow got in early and is now preventing actually good games from being made. Before you call us arrogant for bad-mouthing another XBLA game, note that in this case it was a direct quote from X360 Magazine UK (“A piece of crap.” [Issue 26, p.118]).


Those who point out that retail has the exact same problem as XBLA are correct — but that doesn’t somehow diffuse our argument, if anything it just reinforces it since XBLA was meant to correct the problems endemic to retail games and that whole shebang. If my soup tastes like garbage, I would hope that the waiter’s explanation isn’t “yes, but most of the food we serve here tastes like garbage”!

This ties in to the larger rant of “why do the majority of games TOTALLY SUCK ASS?”, which is a very complex topic. Certainly everyone is to blame — gamers, developers, publishers, press. Hopefully someone will figure it out before consumers become totally jaded and it’s music-industry-style meltdown time.

We don’t expect everyone to be perfect. We’ve made some crap games ourselves. Making a game that sucks shouldn’t be a big deal — it happens, you learn from it. What is inexcuseable is when you make an utterly crap game, and then RELEASE IT ANYWAY.

What’s even worse is when your job is to decide which games to release, and which games to cancel, and you choose to release, for example, some lightweight neon bunny match-3 and then cancel something interesting like, say, a physics-puzzle-based Thrust-like game.

Also, we should mention that any developers whose games we singled out shouldn’t feel too bad, since we also think that “The New Super Mario Bros” pretty much sucked (especially when compared to SMB3 or SMW), and we didn’t like Halo or Halo2 (haven’t tried 3 yet). So.. take it with a grain of salt? You’re in good company at least. πŸ˜‰ And, be cognizant of the fact that this is all our (very?) subjective opinion — N+ receives it’s share of poor reviews, too — it’s impossible for any game to resonate with every single person who plays it.

Hopefully we’ll have something good to write about next post — heh. πŸ˜‰

p.s – we’re not “fanboys” as some have accused.. we just can’t afford a PS3 yet! SSD:HD is pretty crap though, so it looks like Sony aren’t immune either.

comments ( 77 )

  • I think the main problem stems from business suit type people making gaming decisions. Ever since I joined the gaming world by stealing a NES from KMart, I played stupid azz game after stupid azz game. I then quickly learned what is a good game and what game sucks. So when the SNES came out… games got to the point that some were not even worthy of renting. Similar to how XBLA games are not even worthy of downloading and playing a free demo.

    Then you have huge publishers like EA that buy up the market only to push out recycled garbage (madden) and for some stupid reason gamers buy them up like hot cakes.

    So basically all a gamer can do is what for new IP games and check those out while staying away from sequels that are just carbon copies (halo 3) of the previous version.

  • “As gamers it was unbelievably depressing for us to try literally 80 games and enjoy less than 8 of them.”

    I don’t really understand where that comes from. I agree, XBLA has some shitty games, but I’ve always thought it just didn’t fit my taste. I have about 15-20 bought XBLA games and I’ve been gaming for about 25 years to date. I play all kinds of games regularly (collecting board games and stuff) and also work as a game designer in the industry.

    I love that the demos are mandatory for XBLA titles since I can just try the game out and buy it if I like it. I don’t have to go to web and read reviews, i can just try them out. Everyone of the 15-20 games I’ve bought has been great and well worth the money.

    And about UNO being the best seller? What’s so weird with that? It didn’t surprise me at all seeing that loads of casual gamers have flocked into the XBLA (Pretty much every game developer I know has a wife hooked on XBLA because of the more casual game titles and that’s preventing those said developers from trying out the new rainbow six and so on).

    I don’t see the XBLA situation as being so bleak. Games there still sell, you don’t need an enormous team or millions of dollars to do a game for it and especially with a strong IP, you’re pretty good to go. My gripe is with the overall clunkiness of the XBox Dashboard and especially here in Europe there’s just too much clutter that amounts to nothing (the void that is community videos and similar sections of the dashboard).

  • […] policies with Xbox Live Arcade has lead to much thrashing of teeth, enough for Metanet to post a defense of their words. So what’s all the commotion about? It centers around one specific quote where […]

  • You guys suck.

    Why are you calling out a game like SS:HD and calling it ‘crap’ just because you don’t like it?

    OK, let me say that N+ is the biggest steaming pile of horsesh*t I have EVER laid my eyes on. I can’t believe MS allowed you fools to release such a POS game. I hope MS boots your ass off the island and you can go release your crappy games on shareware

  • Candid maybe, but equally refreshing, honest and articulate.

    You’ll need to continue the damage control, though, you come across as complete asshats in that interview IMO.

  • I’m glad you said what you said, not because it is true (which, in my opinion, it is) but because I probably would never have heard of N+ otherwise. Like you, I don’t even think about XBLA games unless I hear something good about it. Then I’ll go check it out. So I appreciate the controversy because now I get to enjoy your game.

  • I wanted to offer my support to you for speaking your mind, being candid, as you say. While you could have said the same thing while being more conscientious of your choice of words, I can’t really fault you, as I’ve been equally rash in the past. Anyway, we really need more candid views in this industry, as exemplified by the whole Gamespot/Kane & Lynch thing a few months ago. So I just want to say “mad props” for the candidness and for the great game.

  • Oh, wanted to add a point; Maybe put your game on Steam. Audiosurf, another indie game, managed to shine through as a top seller for nearly a whole month.

  • Man. XBLA needs an overhaul in so many ways it isn’t even funny.

    I think your courage to speak out will certainly encourage others. I think XBLA is fixable. Alas, I don’t know of any way that criticisms can reach the ears that really need to hear it. Like I doubt MS will read what I’ve written about fixing XBLA. ;P

    Come on Microsoft, clean up your act.

  • Do what Gerry, John (kuddos man, I couldn’t believe I’d hear something so retarded since the first days of the Playstation – nice demonstration of backpedalling as well) and Baylor say: shut up, put lots of 3D and textures, forget about the essence of design, and bow before the publishers, no matter who they are.
    You should not say aloud what a lot of people think.
    There’s no controversy, just a bunch of stuck ups being threatened in their very foundations.

    Seriously, you don’t have to excuse yourselves. Don’t be afraid of the legions of dogooders. You’re merely criticizing people who are paid much more than you to run a system which is already showing some fatigue.
    And yes, there’s a lot of shite on XBLA.

    Hey, you’re lucky, you have made a game at least. I mean, otherwise, you’d have gotten the equally moronic reply “then do one if you don’t like them!” in spades. πŸ™‚

    If indies can’t open their mouth and give fingers, who can? Geez.

    Besides, bravo for your first step in marketing. πŸ˜‰

  • […] let their two cents be known here. Alot of folks were shocked and outraged, so they let some more thoughts out in an attempt to defend their […]

  • As a local Canadian hero would say:

    I’ve got two words to say about XBLA… Fuck you and fuck off.

  • Hello Fellow Ex-Flipcoders,

    Congrats on getting your game published on Live. I’m kinda on the fence with my take on your interview. On one hand, Yaris, Bliss Island, many games on XBL are crap. My sailing game (not on XBL) is crap…but your N+ is no Tetris. Sorry.

    I played it last night, gave it 45 minutes of my time, then nuked it. It’s Jumpman. So you’re guilty of much of what you detest in your interview. Prior to playing your game, I was going to give you kudos. But…as you can see, it’s not so good to be the pot calling the kettle black.

    I hope that you’re not taking the approach of “any publicity is good publicity” and that you were indeed candid…which was very refreshing. But at the same time, you can’t pull a Mark Eckos and say your game is better then the rest, and then not deliver. It’s just bad business.

    Good luck, though. I hope a lesson is learned from this for us indies (aka we should really stick together since 90% of ALL games are crap)!

  • […] has since clarified their position a bit by saying that the people they worked with at Microsoft were good, and that they […]

  • I think that the problem isn’t that “there are too many crap games”, as many people’s opinions of what is or is not crap will vary (I love Grip Shift and Space Giraffe and even quite enjoyed Mad Tracks). The problem is that they’re still too heavy in user interfacing terms.

    How does YouTube get around the problem of most videos being crap? It has all kinds of ratings systems, true, but the most important fact is that if you don’t like a video, you just click a single button and a different video starts instantly. Whereas on ANY of the existing game publication systems, you have to go and download, and wait, and then navigate through a bunch of menus..

    Make a demo-playing harness that’s something like WarioWare with more substantial games, and you might have something more scalable. πŸ™‚

  • […] a while back but only published a few days ago, and has provoked a bit of controversy. They explain on their blog: the interview happened about an hour after we found out that the royalty rates for XBLA have been […]

  • […] have to agree with the N+ developers that LIVE is suffering from a glut of not-great titles, burying the gems in a sea of mediocrity. […]

  • I own more than 50 games on xblarcade making this the most games ive owned on any console, it is full of crap but also full of goodness (like anything)

    you cant expect anything to be full of just a+ material things dont work like that. you have the freedom to dicide what games you like and enjoy.. and i tell u on the surfice n+ looks like huge piece of crap but after playing the demo for a while i was hooked

    i wouldnt want to get a refund on any of the xblarcade games i have and the comments made by n+ developers have made me sad to think this might b used in ps3 fanboys arguements or other developers not to jump in. its the best gaming distrubtion out there because it gives u the choice of what u like, giving you retro games that you might not have seen the 1st time round and indie games to get new experiences

    name any piece of crap on arcade and ill give you gold for every street trace there is an n+ for every bliss island theres a castlevania,

    i think everyone that thinks arcade is crap do some exploring get a free demo… start with switchball and workbackwards

    n+ might have good indie developers behind it but they talk alot of crap

  • I’m sorry, I’d rather play a good portion of those ‘crappy’ games as you put it, then play your piece of crap game I couldn’t stand after about 5 minutes of the demo. You think you’re hot shit because your game has sold so well since it’s come out? Apparently others don’t if games like TMNT are still in the top 10 list. And the fact that I enjoyed some of those XNA demos more than N+ kinda poos on you too. You really come off as some crybabies because retro games sell more than yours does. Well here’s a tissue little baby, go wipe your runny nose.

  • It seems you guys aren’t allowed to have your own opinion… even this following nugget in your post wasn’t enough to deter the moaners (or they simply chose to ignore it):

    “And, be cognizant of the fact that this is all our (very?) subjective opinion β€” N+ receives it’s share of poor reviews, too β€” it’s impossible for any game to resonate with every single person who plays it.”

    To hell with them I say. Have faith their immaturity won’t spread and keep sharing your honest, subjective opinion with those who appreciate it.

  • Listen you retards….

    While you do make some good points the fact of the matter is that if you guys had half a F*****’ brain you would realize that every console released has had their share of “crap” games.

    Oh yes the PS2 did well…. but do you want to know how much manure or shit you had to dig your hand in the basket to find golden nuggets like Final Fantasy or God of War or GT5??! That’s a lot of hand washing there my friends!!

    It is no different with ANY console whether it is from retail or digital distribution. I could see if you guys released awesome games one after the other but you have no say except for your bullcrap N+

    See how that works? I just said N+ sucks….just the way you said SSD: HD sucks (LMAO….yeah right….sure SSD:HD sucks). I dare you to say that N+ is better than SSD:HD.

    Do you see where I’m going? Opinions are like a**h****…..everyone has one and they stink! What YOU may think sucks another may find to be great.

    ……oh and once again when you said that SSD: HD sucks right there told me that you guys have absolutely no clue what the heck you’re talking about. Sure it’s an opinion but I trust you that you will be in the minority.

    As one person already stated your whole rant and comments about XBLA all sounds like sour grapes because you’re upset about the roylalties that MS changed. You guys sound like whining 5-year olds that just had their lollipops taken away. JUST STFU.

  • ….how old are you guys? I hope you guys aren’t referring to the old classics on the arcade as crap like pac-man frogger or joust! Why? Because these games were great back in the good old days!!

    …and anyone including metacrap software that says that those games are crap must be a moron or were born just yesterday and know nothing about the games. If it is the latter reason well….then there is nothing that can be done about it……and if it is the former reason…..well guess what…. there is nothing you can do about it lol.

    The bottom line is that all consoles/platforms have crap games including the Wii, xbox 360, xbox, PC, PS3, PS2, N64, Gamecube, NES, Super NES, Intellivision, Colecovision, Atari 2600, 7800. ALL OF ‘EM had crappy games mixed with good ones. No company is perfect including metanetsoftware. So please stop acting like you guys are Gods or something.

    All you guys sound like is a bunch of cry babies who had their royalty checks “adjusted” by MS. This is the only reason you made the comments that you did because you were mad! So low class! Don’t get me wrong everyone has an opinion but it is the TIMING of your opinion that stinks. I mean you said it yourself. It happened after you found out about the royalty check changes….WOW.

    Check out this scenario:

    Timmy loves his daddy and can’t stop saying good things about him….

    Timmy: I love you daddy! You are the best!
    Daddy: Timmy I need to take that candy bar from you because it is too much…

    Timmy: No daddy….NO!
    Mommy: What’s wrong Timmy?!
    Timmy: I hate daddy! He stinks and he is ugly! I want candy!!!! WHAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

    Please somebody call the WHAAAmbulance for metanetsoftware!

  • It’s kind of ironic the above two posters accusing M&R of being childish… well, let’s just say that voicing concern in a well reasoned and thought out manner is a lot more mature than attacking someone for speaking their mind.

  • The funny thing about all of this is that, as consumers, these guys are indicative of the problem and might not even realize it. The real problem isn’t that most XBLA games are shit (although of course they are, 90% of everything is shit), it’s that consumers make no effort to determine which is which, and rewarding the good games.

    Quality does not determine success on XBLA, *simplicity* does. This is why retro games, Uno, and N+ do better. People are lazy and don’t like figuring out things, least of all demos. When the guy in the interview says “I died a couple times in Space Giraffe and then quit,” that’s what I mean. Triggerheart Exelica is probably the deepest game on all of XBLA, but how many people know this? Probably not even 1% of the people who even played the demo.

    Of course you can have deep games which are crap and simple games which are good, so this is just to explain why bad games can be popular. Again, this is a systemic thing so it’s not like anything can be done about it anyway. But it does mean that devs that care about sales should focus on simplicity over everything else, including game quality, which is unfortunate.

  • Hello,

    This is a inquiry for the webmaster/admin here at

    Can I use some of the information from your blog post right above if I give a link back to your site?


  • Uh… sure? Not sure if this is a spam due to the “buy-kinect” URL.

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