Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG; previously called Xbox Live Community Games; XBLCG) are video games created by individual developers or small teams of developers released on Microsoft's Xbox Live Marketplace for the Xbox 360. The games were developed using Microsoft XNA, and developed by one or more independent developers that are registered with App Hub. Unlike Xbox Live Arcade titles, these were generally only tested within the local creator community, had much lower costs of production, and generally were less expensive to purchase. The service was released to widespread use alongside the New Xbox Experience, and as of November 2014[update], over 3,300 games had been released on the service, many receiving media attention. All Indie Games currently require the user to be logged into their Xbox Live account to initiate the start-up of each game. Indie Games were not available in Australia, due to the requirement for all games to be rated by the Australian Classification Board, and the prohibitive expenses involved. The Xbox Live Indie Games program did not continue with the release of the Xbox One, and the marketplace for these games was shuttered in October 7, 2017.
Initial tools for the development of games on the Xbox 360 platform were bundled in the XNA Game Studio Express 1.0, released in December 2006, as a means of introducing newer programmers to the steps in game programming. Additional releases of the XNA Game Studio added further features with the core software libraries, but the created games were limited to the developer's own console unit and could not be shared with others. During the Game Developers Conference in February 2008, Microsoft announced that it would be bringing the Xbox Live Community Games service to Marketplace, allowing these games to be shared with others. According to Microsoft's David Edery, portfolio planner for Xbox Live Arcade's, the company envisioned the Community Games as a way for programmers to bring niche experimental games to wider attention without justifying the cost of a full Arcade title with only a limited audience, while still potentially earning some money for the effort. Edery also cited the Community Games as a potential differentiator from either of the PlayStation Store and WiiWare services.
A closed beta of Community Games was introduced on May 21, 2008, limited to Premium members of the XNA Creators' Club. Community Games were introduced with the New Xbox Experience on November 19, 2008. Upon the release of XNA 3.1, Microsoft changed the games to "Xbox Live Indie Games" with hopes that it will help increase the "understanding and discoverability" of user-created games. After the fourth quarter Dashboard update in 2010, the Indie Games tab on the Marketplace was moved to the "Specialty Shops" section of the dashboard, away from where regular Xbox Live Arcade titles would be shown. Independent developers that published through the Indie Game service were concerned that this move reduced the visibility of the games, leading to lower sales and fewer incentives to develop for the series. Microsoft stated that the move was designed to benefit independent game developers, highlighting such games through the Specialty Shop tab. However within a week, Microsoft quietly reverted this change, moving the Indie Games tab back to the main "Game Marketplace" section. Currently, the most successful game on XBLIG is DigitalDNA Games' CastleMiner Z, which was the first title on the service to reach one million paid downloads.
Xbox Live Indie Games were developed under certain distribution restrictions:
Indie Games were created and added to the Xbox Live service by a four-step process:
With an August 11, 2009, update to the Xbox Live system, Xbox Live Indie Games supported user ratings, a feature which was also applied to other content in the Xbox Live Marketplace.
Most XBLIG games had been developed by students or hobbyist developers, who have invested a minimal amount of money, including the yearly fee for the App Hub membership, to develop their games. However, at least one game has incurred much larger development costs: Biology Battle by Novaleaf, developed by Novaleaf Software, took eleven months to complete the game with development costs just under $100,000. The game was originally planned as a standard Xbox Live Arcade title, but was rejected by Microsoft about seven months into the project; Novaleaf decided to press forward and release the game as an Indie Game. Another game, Techno Kitten Adventure, was developed by a smaller developer, XMONOX, who then partnered with design studio Elite Gudz to relaunch the game with gameplay improvements and ports to mobile devices.
While distributing for XBLIG was relatively easy, games on the platform often made very small earnings, compared to other platforms, prompting many indie developers to move on from the Xbox 360 platform. Zeboyd Games, who developed Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World for XBLIG, ported the games to Microsoft Windows about a year and a half later; within six days of their release on the Steam platform, the Windows-version sales, roughly $100,000, had surpassed the previous year-and-a-half sales from XBLIG.
Developers had come together to promote Xbox Live Indie Games with community driven promotions featuring select games, called the Indie Games Uprising. There had been four "uprisings", the "Indie Games Winter Uprising", which took place during December 2010, and the "Indie Games Summer Uprising" which took place during August 2011, and the "Indie Games Uprising III" which took place during September 2012. On September 28, 2015, the Uprising returned with a tribute page showcasing developers that got their start on XBLIG and are now working on projects for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Wii U thanks to the platform.
As Microsoft transitioned from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One, the Xbox Live Indie Games program was not brought over to the new platform. The XNA software was discontinued in 2013, and in September 2015, Microsoft emailed developers outlining the end-of-life of the Xbox Live Indie Games program. The Indie Games Marketplace was originally scheduled to be shuttered on September 29, 2017; users that had already purchased these games could continue to play and download the titles. However, due to player demand, Microsoft extended the shutdown date until October 7. Microsoft has stated they are interested in helping to bring more successful titles from the program into their Xbox Live Creators Program, part of their ID@Xbox indie game initiative, to help preserve these titles.
See also: Category:Xbox 360 Live Indie games
So, no, chances are you won't be able to quit your day job by releasing a game on XBLIG. And, yes, virtually all of the developers we spoke to are considering moving on from the platform.