Why Microsoft Needs to Focus on XBLA to Stay on Top

In an industry where exclusives are beginning to mean less and less for Microsoft, it only seems logical that the company stop touting greater sales of multi-platform titles and focus on its truly special content. Yes, I’m talking about the stellar downloadable titles on the Xbox Live Arcade. Considering that Microsoft has, for whatever reason, stopped focusing on obtaining exclusive retail titles in exchange for boasting about how well Call of Duty sells on the Xbox 360, real reasons to own the Xbox 360 have begun to take a backseat in the company’s marketing strategy. The sad part of it all? There’s loads of great reasons to own an Xbox 360 over other consoles, and a lot of them reside on the XBLA Marketplace.

The Summer of Arcade promotion that Microsoft runs during the dry spell of the year is quite possibly one of the best things the company has done for the Xbox brand since its inception. During the barren summer release window, quality downloadable games that rarely exceed $15 are an outstanding way to spend your time and enjoy unique and engaging experiences on the cheap. Microsoft doesn’t seem to think that the SoA is all that big of a deal, considering that at this year’s E3 conference, we didn’t even see a sizzle reel for the hotly anticipated titles, some of which look genuinely outstanding.

This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has failed to capitalize on its best assets, and considering the company’s endless dedication to highlighting things that the core audience really couldn’t care less about highlights this fact all too well. What’s surprising about this, however, is that the Summer of Arcade usually brings in quite a good deal of cash for Microsoft, and some of the titles that make their way onto the Xbox Live Marketplace are regarded as being outstanding, even amongst retail titles. The likes of Braid, Limbo, and Shadow Complex all were released during the Summer of Arcade, and all of those games scored exceptionally well with critics worldwide.

Not only are many of the titles making their way to XBLA often times exclusive to the Xbox 360, they are also great examples of what the platform is capable of. Ever since Microsoft lifted the absurd file size limit, developers have viewed the XBLA platform as a means of expressing their game ideas without placing too much risk on their company. Relatively cheap, digital downloads have paved the way for innovative, fresh experiences in recent years, and the fact that Microsoft feels that their strong suits lie in deceiving consumers into thinking that Call of Duty is an Xbox 360 exclusive title and promoting shovelware Kinect titles is vastly disappointing.

While there’s no doubt that the company will continue to thrive while leaving things as they are, it’s more a matter of public opinion than financial value. When Microsoft starts taking the XBLA platform more seriously, so will those looking to pick up a console for their living room. Especially since downloadable titles and software is becoming increasingly more popular, it only seems logical to follow the trend and put XBLA titles in the spotlight, where they deserve to be featured for their admirable efforts to create fresh experiences for gamers. Considering that the PSN store still lacks the level of ambition and quality that XBLA titles routinely deliver, highlighting the downloadable gaming platform is Microsoft’s best bet at distinguishing itself from the more amorphous Playstation 3 and Wii gaming marketplaces.

Agree? Disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

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