Last night at GDC, Team Meat took the stage to let out some of the frustrations that accompanied releasing Super Meat Boy. And those frustrations were Microsoft. Seemingly screwed over on a number of occasions, the independent dev team did not receive the promotion they were promised in return for the month-long XBLA exclusivity. Eurogamer have all the details about this screwery here. But there’s another aspect to this story. During the talk they also revealed that the game had the majority of its sales on the PC, despite the 360’s month-long head start.
The ratio of the fantastic 400,000 sales is 55:45, in favour of the PC. It may not seem an overwhelming majority, but the crucial information is that this is after the game had already been on sale for a month. And while Microsoft may not have given the game the promotion they had said they would, the game was certainly all over the internet at the time. Very high review scores from 360 outlets, and a lot of buzz, meant the indie game received perhaps even higher than usual publicity. And it was after all that, after the period during which publishers will argue the majority of their sales occur, that the PC sales started.
Its PC launch was muted too. A fraction of the giant fanfare occurred this time, the excitement at countdown clocks and Twitter buzz having all been spent a month previously. And yet, despite this, it clocked 220,000 sales on the PC, outdoing the 180,000 seen on the Xbox.
It says a lot about the PC as a space for indie developers. Microsoft has been putting some effort into trying to monetise that niche, XBLA having presented itself as a home for burgeoning developers. If the experience of Team Meat is repeated elsewhere, it may not be quite the hallowed turf some thought. Whereas the PC remains the only free format – truly free. Certainly signing up to Steam or others puts some restrictions on you, but that’s your choice, and none locks you into exclusivity. And with a potential for sales of that scale, even in a market that’s already lost a significant chunk to those who bought it on their console, it does ask a big question about the advantages of the format exclusivity forced upon developers if they want to see a prominent place on their Indie Arcade. The PC is your home, indies.