When the Xbox One gaming console was first announced, long-time fans of the platform were excited to find out that users would have the ability to self publish games on the console’s dedicated marketplace. Many years and disappointed customers later, it looks like Microsoft is finally making good on its promise. The software giant announced last week that it will soon allow all users to sell games on the marketplace, a move that has left many people curious as to why the company is finally embracing user generated content.
Traditionally, making and selling video games has been strictly the domain of large studios and media conglomerates. It was considered common sense that video game consumers wanted flashy, gargantuan, Ziegfeld-esque productions, and the only companies that could produce the accompanying amounts of programming and marketing content had at the very least hundreds of employees at their disposal.
This game-making model has significant advantages. Creating and interweaving the assets, coding, and writing that go into big-budget games is a process that requires a lot of care and attention to detail, a requirement which is well satisfied by the many levels of oversight already built into large media companies. Large studios can also broker more advantageous contracts with distributors, which meant that they often have almost exclusive access to customers who buy their games physically, rather than online.
These factors kept large production games lucrative, even though they were massively expensive to produce. Big studios offset costs by claiming the lion’s share of the market, until small-budget indie games began to catch up. These games were less polished and more humble in scope, but could be produced quickly and therefore better matched consumer tastes upon publication.
The success and subsequently growing market share attributed to indie games have put larger game studios on the back foot. Microsoft’s latest announcement is emblematic of the efforts larger game studios are making to integrate independent game making into their media production strategies as they look toward the future of game design.