You want to know how to get me to buy your video game? Have the platform you sell it on curate it for me. Example, Apple recently decided to highlight indie games in the App Store…and not the free to play games that litter the front page of the featured section, but premium games made by small teams. It’s something many people had asked for and when Apple finally decided to make that move, my wallet followed. In the span of a couple hours I picked up Oxenfree and The Adventures of Pip. Two games that embody the old school feel that I’ve been looking for. I’m a 16-bit kid at heart and no matter how ‘amazing’ AAA releases are, I’ll always want the games I played on Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Not to say that I won’t play new games, but when I find myself bored with what’s offered, I always find myself going back to the well of retro style games to rejuvenate me. Apple has found a way to my wallet and surprisingly, Microsoft has the opportunity to do the same.
When you are a console gamer, your view of the gaming landscape can become pretty narrow. Without a platform like Steam, you’re left playing what major media, publishers, etc. want you to play. There’s no exploration outside of the monthly AAA releases. The marketplace for both Microsoft and PlayStation are littered with the latest releases from major publishers. Smaller games are usually shuffled in, often as small pictures under a large banner for the latest Ubisoft or EA release. Or worse yet, placed at the bottom of a stack of tiles for a particular genre–never to be noticed. Yet this wasn’t the case when I went to purchase Dishonored 2 over the weekend on Xbox Live.
My original plan was to buy Dishonored 2. It is one of the few games that doesn’t follow the ‘open world and 200 hours of gameplay’ design that most games seem to follow. It was supposed to be a simple process of buying the game and waiting for the download, but that didn’t happen. It was a case of being paralyzed by choice. It was wall to wall indie games! Games and developers that I never heard of were on the front page of the Xbox Live Store. I couldn’t believe it. It was the complete opposite of the homepage of the dashboard, filled with ads for whatever the big release is to come. These were the games that I was looking for, the ones to fill that void. The retro games that focused on gameplay and story. A palette cleanse from the open world shenanigans that I’ve experienced over the last few months. Yet there was a problem; I didn’t know what games were actually worth investing the time, because I never heard of these games, buying one was essentially a gamble.
And it’s the gamble that can become a gain for Microsoft. Like Apple, Microsoft could hone in on the smaller games that fly under the radar. Going above the star system based on user rating, a team of curators could make sure the best games rise to the top, giving people like myself a sense of security in our purchase. The same peace of mind that the App Store created when I bought Oxenfree and The Adventures of Pip. I easily parted ways with my money because I knew if these games were sitting at the top of the indie section that they meet a standard of quality and entertainment that Apple was known for. The same could happen with Xbox Live. A standard of quality that would lower barriers for purchase that creates a win-win for all parties involved. Smaller companies earn more dollars, Microsoft makes its money and builds mindshare as the console platform of choice for smaller scale games and I finally get to play something that isn’t open world. Built until that day, at least I have a few iOS games to break the monotony.