Is XBLIG Getting Xboned?

There’s a big honkin’ problem with Xbox Live Indie Games, the service that allows indie developers to self-publish inexpensive games to the Xbox 360.

No, it’s not that a lot of the games are rip-offs, clones, wastes of money, or unintelligible messes.

No, it’s not that the market is so undervalued that you can’t sell anything on it for more than a dollar.

No, it’s not that Excruciating Guitar Voyage 2 still hasn’t come out, even though the first one is awesome and let you set yourself on fire in order to solve puzzles.

It’s that the games all have an expiration date, and we’re inching ever closer to it.

Not a lot of people know this, either because they don’t notice, or they’ve never actually bought an Xbox Live Indie Game before, but every game on the market requires a connection to Xbox Live in order to run. You can’t play them if your Internet’s out, or if Xbox Live is down, or if you’re like me and your console can only to connect to Xbox Live one out of every five tries. They just won’t work.

So far, this hasn’t been a big enough problem for people to complain about, but it’s going to be one soon. Microsoft’s new console, the Xbox One, is coming out by the end of the year. That’s gonna be their big new focus. From that point on, it’s only a matter of time until they shut off Xbox 360 support entirely. And what happens then?

Your entire Xbox Indie Games collection goes dark. Every game you’ve ever purchased for it will be totally unplayable, because you can’t make that arbitrary Xbox Live connection. It’s tantamount to Microsoft sneaking into your home in the dead of night, Grinch-style, and making off with your Super Nintendo collection.

But it’s not just that—the games themselves will essentially wink out of existence entirely. Any game that’s an XBLIG exclusive won’t be playable by anyone, ever. No more FortressCraft. No more I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1. No more (to be selfish about it) my own Life in the Dorms. They’ll just be GONE. Dead. Erased from the friggin’ earth.

Nobody’s talking about this right now, I guess because they don’t care, or because it’s still pretty far off on the future. But it’s still coming. I mean, you can’t connect to Xbox Live on the original Xbox 1 anymore, can you? Can you still play Champions of Norrath on PS2 over your ridiculous ethernet adapter? It’s bad enough that the Xbox One isn’t backwards compatible, so you won’t be able to play any of your XBLA or XBLIG downloads on it; every game ever released for XBLIG will be gone.

…Unless they take away the Xbox Live restriction.

This would be the part where I’d ask you to sign a petition; but that’s dumb. If you care enough about it, you’ll find some way to contact Microsoft about it. Here’s what I’ve tried (so far):

As of this writing, the best/only response has been from the Xbox Support Twitter account. To their credit, they got back to me in like a minute; however, they only had this to say:

Which is a fair point; like I said, this is still pretty far off in the future. But why not start talking about it now?

Consider this: The Xbox One has a similar DRM restriction; it requires users to connect to Xbox Live every 24 hours in order to play any game. If you can’t connect to Xbox Live for any reason, you can’t play your games, period. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

If we let XBLIG wink out of existence now, what’s to stop it from happening again to your entire Xbox videogame collection?

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13 comments

  1. Even if they do support it for a “significant” amount of time I’m certain their definition of significant differs from mine. I still revisit 30 year old games. I’d be amazed if 360 is supported 3 years after the One comes out.

    1. Also let’s not forget, this is the company that said “If you’re backwards compatible, you’re really backwards,” so I think we’d be excused for worrying that they’ll just let these games all disappear.

    1. Exactly! And I mean, a lot of them have been ported to the PC, too, but not all of them. And, more importantly–people bought these games already, and if this comes to pass, Microsoft will essentially be taking them away, for no reason. That’s not OK. It’s one thing if a disc gets scratched or broken and stops working; it’s something else when a company just throws a killswitch on it.

  2. Given that there’ s been no real information on how exactly indies are going to be supported on the X1, other than they will be supported somehow, all this rambling about how is going to happen is just hot air. Yes, XBLIG (and XBLA) are going away on the X1; all games will be lumped together. Will XBLIG cease to exist the moment the X1 is release? Of course not. The Xbox 360 will has tons of life left in it.

    The possibility certainly exists than MS will release a new version of XNA Game Studio or some other toolset that support C# that will allow XBLIG devs to basically recompile and re-release on the X1.

    You couldn’t have just waited until after E3 is over to see what MS says before posting this? :\

    1. Of course! Microsoft’s definitely not dropping 360 support right away; I’m just looking to the future, when it eventually does. The point is that everyone’s XBLIG games that they already own will stop functioning once Microsoft does drop Xbox Live support on the 360. That’s not the case with XBLA games; you’ll still be able to play those just fine. You won’t be able to run XBLIG games at all, since they require an Xbox Live connection on start-up.

      Even if Microsoft allows developers a way to re-release games on The One, does that mean people who have already purchased the games will automatically get free downloads? And what about the people who don’t upgrade to The One–how will they play the games they already own? It’s not like they scratched a disc and it stopped working; Microsoft would essentially be throwing a kill switch on games that should otherwise work just fine. That’s why I’m hoping to get an answer now; I think this issue should be raised well before the kill switch gets thrown.

        1. Nope, they haven’t! But I’d also be very surprised if they supported Xbox Live on the 360 ad infinitum. (Happily surprised, but surprised nonetheless.)

          1. Of course they won’t support it forever. I imagine it’ll be supported for at least a year or two. Plenty of time to get through whatever games you have on it. Most gamers don’t continue playing games for more than a couple years anyway so it’s a moot point IMO.

    2. I would argue that now is the exact time to spread this “hot air”.

      If no one brings up this issue, then Microsoft would be in their right to just let Xbligs fade away and disappear. Corporations need to get a black eye over something, otherwise they will take the easiest path of inaction.

      Like you said, E3 is coming up very quickly. But speeches and presentations are being tweaked and fine tuned up until the last second. If one of their developers happens to see this, and IF he can get the ear of his boss, and his boss, and his boss’s boss, then that could be the very push that gets them to at least acknowledge that they are taking precautions to care for their back catalog rather than letting it just fade away.

      Personally, I really wish they would take a hard stance on where they stand on support of old systems. But as it stands, their LACK of a stance seems to imply the worst case scenario, and they are hoping people don’t call them out on it. Some online games have had their servers taken offline. The original Xbox’s DLC was taken offline. Microsoft has a track record of making games “disposable” rather than pieces of art that should be curated. Sometimes it is so they can sell it to you again, but a lot of the time its simply cost cutting so they can take some old validation servers offline.

      1. E3 content was done long ago. With the scope of the presentation, there’s no last minute changes going to happen.

        Bringing up the issue before E3 is useless. The reveal wasn’t for developers, it was for the non-game industry people. If they don’t announce anything about indies at E3 (or possibly Build), start posting everywhere asking what the story is.

        Crying wolf isn’t going to do any good.

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