Microsoft has made adjustments to the way in which Indie games are rated and promoted on their Xbox LIVE! Arcade service. The old system used to allow anyone to go ahead and vote on a game, no matter whether they had actually played on it or not, this meant that a number of companies were falsely inflating their position on the charts and how they were being featured on the Microsoft service.
One of the main benefits for the Xbox LIVE Arcade Indie setup was that it would allow small time developers to create a game cheaply, get it up and running on the console and then have users who bought the game rank it, so in theory, the cream of the crop would land up at the top of the ratings board. This hasn’t happened here though and is just one of many issues developers have been having with the Indie Marketplace recently.
The change now means that only Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers can rate Indie Games via Xbox .com, though this could mean that the rating system is still open to abuse as once again, users don’t actually have to have played the games themselves.
In an update on the XNA Game Studio Team Blog, Microsoft sent a message to the set of indie developers stating:
"We’ve heard your feedback and have made some changes to the ratings system on Xbox.com. Starting today, only users with Xbox LIVE Gold subscriptions will be allowed to rate content on the Xbox.com website. By implementing this change, we believe our customers will experience more consistent ratings and a significantly reduced potential for abuse across the entire Xbox catalog. We have also investigated rolling back suspect votes, however, we determined it will not be possible to do this."
The company also said that they are now “investigating users who may have violated their user agreement during this series of events” which could now result in users/developers being banned from Xbox LIVE and having their games removed from the service.
It is a step in the right direction for the indie developers; though whether it will improve the service in the long run is anyone’s guess.