Double Buffered

A Programmer’s View of Game Design, Development, and Culture

$400 console, $5 games

Posted by Ben Zeigler on August 11, 2006

I recently acquired an Xbox 360, and have been checking it out. The two physical games I purchased (Burnout Revenge and Table Tennis) are both solid, but they haven’t been the highlights. I’ve frankly had way more fun playing with Xbox Live Arcade games. All of the games have extensive demo versions, the interfaces are generally excellent, and the game designs are simple and focused. The games are a great complement to the complexity of modern console games, and I think they alone are worth the purchase price of the console.

As an example of the care put into Arcade, I was playing the demo of Outpost Kaloki X. It’s basically a casual building sim, where you have to satisfy various needs of your customers, and I quite like it. Anyway, I made it to the end of the demo, and it told me that I would have to purchase the full game to save my progress or continue. There was a link to buy the game, so I tried it out. I figured it would take me out of the game to the main menu. Instead, it brought up the Live Marketplace overlay, where the game was listed for 800 points. However, I didn’t have any points, so I had to add some. I entered my credit card information to buy 2000 points, and I purchased the full version of the game using my new points. I figured the system would reset or something to install the new software.

Instead, it returned me to the trial version. Which had magically become the full version. I was able to save my progress in the game, and it automatically added the achievements I had unlocked to my Xbox profile. Nothing went wrong. Amazing. After struggling with annoying shareware, complicated MMORPG billing, and buggy PC software, this was inconceivable. I was immediately convinced to go buy another game I had tried earlier (Marble Blast Ultra). The purchase process was so enjoyable, I felt the need to go buy more stuff. And it was only $10. Every part of the process made me happy, and wanting more.

In conclusion, you should go buy an Xbox 360 if you have the money. But, don’t feel pressured to by any $60 games to go along with it. Buy $60 worth of Xbox Live Arcade games, and I think that’ll be enough until the Xbox 1080 comes out. Oh, and if you’re too cheap for even that, the trial version of Smash TV includes the entire game. I spent a good 2 hours playing that last night, and it was great. Of course, because it was free, I didn’t buy the full version. Oh well, they can’t get everything right.

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