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Braid and the future of XBLA

Mad style

It’s heartening to see that the gathering storm that was swirling around Braid’s fifteen dollar price (or 1200 Microsoft Space Bucks) hasn’t seemed to hurt its sales. It’s due in no small part, I’m sure, to an overwhelmingly positive critical response that thankfully avoided the tasteless orgy which greeted GTA IV, whose luster faded faster than Barack Obama’s hair color.

For my part, as soon as that little dinosaur recommended I buy the game at the end of the demo, I immediately said “yes, please,” and kissed that astronomical fifteen dollars goodbye. And while Braid hardly redefines gaming, or even platform gaming, it is a quality experience that kept me enthralled for three or four hours — the kind of mental and visual escape that allowed games to steal my heart in the first place.

However, what thrills me the most about gamers embracing this title at its scandalous price is what it could mean to the future of XBLA development. Up until now, XBLA has been a library of mostly forgettable games and ports punctuated by the occasional gem. What Microsoft has done with its oh-so-savvy “Summer of Arcade” marketing blitz is take what was easily its strongest month’s worth of titles so far and make a push to expand the service’s potential, perhaps in response to the highly-desirable lineup on the PSN.

Once they couple the success of Braid with the pending success of Castle Crashers, I imagine Microsoft will be quite pleased with its little gambit. More developers with more capital will be encouraged to drop more adventurous IPs onto XBLA, with Braid having set the precedent for the cerebral and Castle Crashers arguing for action. But most importantly, all that nonsense about a supposed and undeclared ten dollar price cap on XBLA games has been smashed and when any marketplace — digital or brick and mortar — is freed from shackles such as that, consumers stand to benefit.

So sure, fifteen bucks may seem a bit steep for a short-and-sweet rendezvous, but many of us were willing to take the plunge and we’ll all be richer for it.

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