Developers Losing Ratings, Money & Patience
Without the ability to advertise beyond word-of-mouth and viral campaigns, the vast majority of Xbox Live Indie developers rely on the star rating system to draw players to their games. However, hundreds of minimum ratings have been pouring into the top-rated titles and causing them to slip down into obscurity... and bizarrely, it seems that fanatical Lacrosse fans may be behind it.
Several days ago, Zeboyd Games' Robert Boyd discovered that his recent Indie hit, Cthulhu Saves The World, was rapidly slipping down the rankings due to a massive influx of 1-star ratings. Other developers quickly reported similar attacks targeting their games as well, which would require several hundred negative ratings over a short space of time.
A little detective work revealed that one particular game, College Lacrosse 2011, was rising through the rankings and encouraging their 170,000 fans to create free Xbox accounts to positively rate their title (without having even played it). It's fairly obvious that several of these well-meaning supporters have been downvoting the competition to stay on top, probably using several alternate free accounts to do so.
College Lacrosse 2011 is already the 4th top rated Indie Game! Help lax become #1 - Rate CL11 five stars! (Non-Xbox owners who want to help can sign up for a free account here http://www.xbox.com/ and rate the game five stars here) You guys rock!
Whilst the developers themselves probably aren't at fault (and have sportingly edited the above statement to ask fans not to negatively rate other games), the damage may have already been done. We've had our fair share of Nintendo, PS3, Xbox and even PS3 fanboys here... but Lacrosse fanboys? That's a new one. [App Hub]
It's evident, therefore, that something needs to be done about the ratings system - but it's just one of countless problems that wrack the Xbox Live Indie marketplace at the moment. It's a fantastic endavour and one that I personally believe to be the Xbox 360's most important unique selling point, but our sensational recent interview has made several damning criticisms of the way that Microsoft treat their developers. Maybe the resident MVP's solutions could go a long way to getting the service back on track?