BLOG – Where Have All the XBLA Games Gone?

I love the XBLA.  For a fraction of the price of a retail game, Arcade titles can offer just as much entertainment, if not even more so, than games sold at your local store.  In fact, developers are willing to take more risks in this market and the result is more unique games.

While I did not purchase my 360 on day one, I was a very early adopter of Microsoft’s new console.  And the Xbox Live Arcade was much different when the console first launched.

Remember the BLADE system?

Today, it would actually be uncommon to NOT see either 800 or 1200 MS Point game become available.  Most XBLA games also carry a beefy file size, some taking up a couple gigs of space.

But did you know that Microsoft actually had a file size limit on Arcade titles when the 360 first launched?  It’s true.  Microsoft basically held developers to a small file size, I believe it was under 50mb, for all Arcade titles.  Castlevania Symphony of the Night was the first game given the green light to exceed the original file size limit.  Also, the original 20gb harddrive that shipped with the earliest units did not allow for much wiggle room.  Microsoft also wanted to police the XBLA by going with the “arcade games should be played in quick bursts, unlike full console releases.”   This is kind of funny because the Arcade nowadays is the exact opposite of this philosophy.

The current day XBLA is a very different place.  Back then, it was unheard of to see 1200 MS Point games and was even a rarity to see 800 point games.  Games like Frogger, Time Pilot, Joust, Geometry Wars and Smash TV dominated the downloadable scene with their then-typical 400 MS Point download price.

It wasn’t until years later when Microsoft introduced the Gold Member exclusive, Deal Of the Week (DotW) promotion.  Here, XBLA games, as well as other DLC, would go on sale for one week only.  When this marketing promotion first became a prominent force on the Live Dashboard, my mind started to crave weekly deals.

To be honest, there are many XBLA games that I would buy if the price was lowered.  Again, referencing that experimental mentality behind the XBLA, there are many games that strike my fancy but I do not purchase mostly because of cost (and time).  But anything can be sold if the price is right.

There are two games in particular that I would buy for 200 MS Points, 50% off from their original price:  Root Beer Tapper and Double Dragon.  These are ports of their original coin-op versions but outfitted with online co-op play and achievements.  So when I heard about the DotW program, I waited for these classic arcade games, as well as games like Frogger, to go on sale for 200 MS Points.  And then I continued to wait.  And then I waited some more…

My deal has never come.  It has been years since these games were released but they have never gone on sale.

Giving up all hope, I decided it was time to purchase the full version of these games without my sale; I figure if they have not dropped in price in several years, they were not going to.

So I scrolled through my vast list of Arcade demos until I found Double Dragon.  Instead of clicking on “play trial” I selected “unlock full version.”  To my surprise, Xbox Live told me that the full version was free!  I could not believe.  The reason why these games never went on sale was because Microsoft now had them available for free!  With a new sense of excitement, I quickly selected the “unlock full version now” option and waited for the unlock pop up message to appear.  Excitement, however, quickly changed to disappointment when instead I received an error message complete with a long and random error code.  Both Double Dragon and Root Beer tapper did this.

Double Dragon on XBLA with Co-op!

No matter how hard I tried, I could not unlock the full version of the game; I could not do it from the Xbox dashboard nor could I do it from booting up the game itself.

Trying to prove to myself that I was not crazy, I went to the game marketplace and searched games by title.  As it turns out, Double Dragon and Root Beer tapper are not even available any more.  Neither is the original Doom.  WTF!??

I don’t understand how, or even why, these games were removed from the Xbox Live Marketplace.  It makes me wonder what other titles have been removed from Microsoft’s service.

I remember reading an article long ago saying that Microsoft was going to remove some content from Xbox Live because harddrives were small and it was becoming difficult to sort and search for content with the exponentially growing marketplace.   Even if this was true, harddrives are now nearing a terabyte and searching for content has never been easier thanks to upgraded dashboard designs and firmware upgrades.  So if this content was removed, why can’t it be brought back??

I want to play co-op Root Beer tapper for 200 MS Points, dammit!

Man, doesn't this game look awesome?

There are probably reasons that I am not taking into consideration, like the closing of Midway Games (developer of Root Beer tapper), but the game is already made so why not still have it available for download.  Sure it is old and forgotten, but there are hardcore dudes out there like me who wants a chance at owning these classic games, or more importantly, my chance at playing these classic games online in a modern environment.   I am sure I am missing details why these games went off the market…

In a sea of 1200 MS Point releases, having a weeklong 200 Point classic arcade DotW would see a high volume of downloads.  And isn’t this the original goal of the XBLA, to bring a Live experience to Arcade-style games?   If Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, DigDug, and Rally-X were 200 points, you would seriously considering purchasing them too, wouldn’t you?  Granted, some of these Namco are on compilation discs, but I am sure a wide audience would appreciate these games at a bargain price.

Microsoft, where have all the downloads gone?  At least provide the public with a list of games that are no longer available.

…Oh well, I guess I will just have to look forward to something else to get my Double Dragon fix.

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