Microsoft has hit a high note with its Xbox 360 download service, racking up over 25 million downloads on Xbox Live Arcade since launch and god knows how many hours of CVG Geometry Wars face-offs.
Releases haven't been completely gap-less but in its first year we've seen quality titles like Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting, Lumines Live! and Marble Blast Ultra, and it looks like an even better line-up is set for the next few months.
At GDC last week we managed to sit down with Microsoft Casual Games group manager Bryan Trussel to grill him on the company's plans for Arcade, the size-cap increase and his most-anticipated releases this year. Here's what he had to say...
How is your strategy for Xbox Live Arcade going to evolve in the next 12 months?
Bryan Trussel: With everything we do we try to stay true to the philosophy of giving broad access to developers at a great value to consumers for these pick up and play experiences, and every thing that we do will be with that basic premise in mind.
Specifically some of the things we're doing are increasing the size limit and doing some specialised games that are actually more European-centric like board games.
We're trying to bump up the pipeline quite a bit; we have these Wednesdays where we release our games and they come out not every week but most weeks. We're increasing that pipeline. We want to do a couple of things; we want to have more games come out so that it becomes a new game every Wednesday, and occasionally more than one game coming out every week.
We want to make those Wednesdays an actual destination time so you come there both for new games, new download content, community, tournaments, competitions and really make it a destination site.
And then the other thing that we're doing across the board is making sure that we really tie into the Live service - we really think that's a competitive advantage for us and we think it's something that the end users really want. Make sure we have multiplayer, make sure we have online play, play-up the achievements aspect and play up the gamerscore aspect.
One of the changes we're also making is through download content allow developers to get more gamerscore, so you'll have 50 more gamerscore you can give away with every premium download and you'll also be able to add three achievements.
There's a lot of competition in this area at the moment from the likes of Steam and PlayStation Network. In a few years do you think you're going to have to really sell your service to developers to get games on XBLA?
Trussel: I would actually say that we do that now - we really concentrate a lot on our developer relationships and we throw a lot of tools and support at them.
We support everyone from these very small, three-person garage developers right up to your EAs. As you go down to these smaller and smaller developers we provide more and more services for those folks, in terms of testing, production value and localisation. I consider ourselves that we sell to those folks now.
We're looking for creative content out there and to do that we know that in the future it's going to be more competitive. But I think we'll stay in a good position because we've really ramped up and focused on the tools and developer relationships we have now, and frankly because of the flat-out audience numbers; we've had 25 million downloads to date on Xbox Live Arcade which is a massive number that really nobody can touch.
How is the size-cap increase going to affect the price of games?