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Windows Phone’s Angry Birds Dilemma–The Gift And Curse Of Xbox Live Titles

What do you do after you complete Angry Birds and then go back and get three stars on all levels? Well if you have a Windows Phone that means you find a new game to play. Both iPhone and Android have three versions of Angry Birds – the classic, Rio and Seasons.  But don’t expect Rovio to just dump two more versions of Angry Birds into the Windows Phone Marketplace. As you probably know, the profitable titles are all Xbox Live titles and therein lies the dilemma, and it’s not just Rovio’s dilemma.

A few months ago Microsoft confirmed that Xbox Live games are less than 1% of all titles yet account for 30% of all game downloads and 70% of all revenue. The lesson learned is that if it’s not an Xbox title then the Windows Phone Marketplace may not be the place to publish apps. Neither the App Store or Android Market have this type of a tiered system. Xbox Live tie-ins are clearly a big hit with consumers and it’s led to successful titles. But as we’ve seen the major publishes have yet to deliver titles that are not Xbox Live titles. And since Xbox Live titles only come about once a week, you shouldn’t expect to see a large number of top tier games published at once. But releasing an Xbox Live title is said to be a lot more complicated with more levels of certification and time involved. It’s not just producing the game, but it has to be qualified by Microsoft at a higher level. While that’s deserved, it’s another impediment to the WP Marketplace. In the end, there are less top tier games in the WP Marketplace.

So where does this lead? I’m a fan of promoting Xbox Live titles but Microsoft needs to step back and start promoting non-Xbox Live titles to the same degree. The Marketplace has to be a profitable one for Indie devs and the major studios alike and that means that top tier non-XBL titles needs to get the same level of push and promotion that Microsoft is giving XBL titles. This is good for end users, who get more quality games, and for developers, and that benefits everyone in the end.

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