Is Xbox Live Arcade "past its prime"? That's a question World of Goo developer Ron Carmel is looking into. Carmel postulates that "XBLA's popularity among independent developers peaked last year," and adds that "Microsoft is not yet aware of this."
Polling approximately 200 independent developers, Carmel sought trends in the digital distribution scene. He found that the number of developers working on Xbox 360 has dropped, with many preferring PS3 over Microsoft's console. Plans for 2012 (graph above) show a clear preference for Sony's platform.
But why are developers leaving the iconic Xbox Live Arcade platform? According to Carmel's research (via Gamasutra), the "most influential factor" is simply the ease of working with the platform owner. A platform's install base actually comes second to that.
Working with PlayStation Network is only "so-so" according to surveyed developers, with only 27% of respondents saying it is "very easy" to work with Sony's online division. However, no one called working with Microsoft "very easy." In fact, 48% of responders called Microsoft "excruciating" to work with. Looking at these stats, "it becomes perfectly clear why XBLA, despite being a very strong channel with a large audience and huge earning potential, is dropping in popularity among these developers," Carmel concludes.
Carmel offers many improvements Microsoft could make to its XBLA platform for developers, and notes that without significant overhaul, talented developers will move on to greener pastures. Steam looks to be the most beloved destination by indies, with 64% of responders calling it "very easy" to work with. Apple's iOS platform also earned high marks. Given the growing number of options available to developers, Microsoft will have to do much more to remain competitive.