With the release of the Xbox One, Microsoft decided to try a few new and different things in the way they market and sell games. Sure, they released a slew of full-priced retail games at launch, but they also offered up a handful of XBLA titles for their new system, as a way to draw gamers in to their marketplace and prove to skeptics that they too, like Sony, are serious about the independent and arcade game titles.
Unfortunately, when you browse the XBLA store, you are shown page after page of tiles, featuring all the games that Microsoft deemed important enough to catch your eye and demand your attention - and more importantly, your money. If Microsoft didn't determine a game to be important enough or hyped enough, you can't find it on the marketplace page. They don't even have a list of all games available to download, that I have found at least. If you are looking for a game that isn't "featured," you have to use the search function. That in itself is fine and dandy, especially if you know what you are looking for specifically. But for the common Xbox One owners who aren't browsing video game news websites and such on a regular basis, who isn't in tun with the newest and coolest games, they will never find and discover games that aren't Microsoft-loved. This is a sad and scary thought for independent developers, unless they are in good with Microsoft and can get prime advertising space in the store.
One of the games that is featured on the store's home page is Killer Instinct, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone considering they have been leaning on the return of this franchise to hype the launch of the console since they announced it at E3. Make no mistake about it, however, that Killer Instinct is no small, independent game, but rather a long, established franchise worthy of the Microsoft spotlight. Besides, Killer Instinct was a game they wanted to try a new type of payment plan for.
You see, you can download the game for free. Just go to the store, hit download and it's all yours, free of charge. Don't get too excited, though, as while you get the whole game for free, you only get one character to play as. Essentially, you are downloading a demo, albeit an elaborate one. They want you to try out the game, hope that you like it enough to pay for more, and bet on you buying the character pack, which gives you the other five characters and the promise of two more to come.
Yes, this game only features eight characters. A stark difference from most fighting games, although when you think about it, the fewer amount of characters might give the player more of an opportunity to try and master each character. The balance for all characters could be awesome as well, as each one could have different traits and abilities, instead of a huge roster having several similar characters.
Of course, I haven't actually gave them any money yet. While I have enjoyed what I played so far, I simply have way too many games to play and enjoy before I spend time and money on, of all things, a fighting game. We all know how I feel about fighting games.
Anyway, I like the idea that Microsoft has for this payment system for this game, and it's intriguing to speculate what else they can do with ideas similar to this one. My only concern at this point is how they plan on marketing the independent games to grace their new platform. Will they continue to allow smaller games fall into the cracks of their marketplace? Let's hope not.
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