The Xbox 360 will forever be known as the platform that made small digital-only games into a familiar concept for millions of gamers. It made small studios into giants in the indie scene, created many beloved games and characters, and fueled a creative renaissance that is still unfolding today. This was all thanks to Xbox Live Arcade, a platform that helped draw the boundaries and transition people into accepting games like Super Meat Boy and Castle Crashers. However, you still needed a publisher for XBLA, and eventually Microsoft provided a less restrictive place for independent companies to put up their projects. Thus, Xbox Live Indie Games was born.
Over the course of its life, because of the nature of its open door policy, it became known more for its insane games than its unique titles. Nevertheless, it was the proving ground for many developers, and games still being released today originated on the surface. Games such as Mount Your Friends, Magnetic by Nature and Shutshimi were originally on XBLIG. Silver Dollar Games created the excellent One Finger Death Punch after selling a number of more questionable games on the service. It always felt like a strange community, full of amateur developers toiling away for a tiny audience. Microsoft left it to its own devices for most of its lifespan for better or worse, but the releases have slowed to a crawl in recent months, and it’s time for the service to gradually come to a close.
Microsoft has stated that new game submissions will not be accepted after September 9th, 2016, giving developers one more year to get their games in. A year after that, in September of 2017, the marketplace itself will be shuttered, and no more games can be purchased after that point. Developers will receive a final payout at that point, and any customers who have purchased games will still be able to access them in a similar fashion to other games removed from Microsoft’s download services. They also states that they are working with “game preservationists” in order to ensure that the games that were exclusive to XBLIG will be available in some form after the marketplace goes down for good.
As someone who still followed the releases on XBLIG (mostly thanks to the excellent work of YouTuber supergreatfriend), I am saddened that the madness had to end. However, I am very happy that Microsoft is treating this often forgotten service with the respect it deserves, announcing this far ahead of time and working to ensure that games aren’t lost to time.
XBLIG is full of obtuse and strange games, stuff that wouldn’t have been released anywhere else. In some ways, it even foreshadowed the discoverability and quality problems that Steam and iOS would face with their open marketplaces. For its unique place in history, I’m glad that it existed, and I look forward to seeing what the XBLIG community will release for one final hurrah.