Microsoft Apparently Still Confused About The Long Tail Concept

from the there's-no-shelf-space dept

The concept of "The Long Tail" seems so common to be almost a cliche these days. While it used to be a part of nearly every startup's VC pitch, it's long passed the point where VCs now roll their eyes when they hear about a "long tail" company. However, it appears that plenty of folks are still unfamiliar with the concept. For example, Microsoft seems to be killing off Xbox Live games that aren't performing well, even if they have some audience. Microsoft claims that it's because it's too confusing to find games, but as Chris Kohler points out in the link above, that's a problem of Microsoft's Xbox Live interface -- not the fact that there are too many games. Cutting off the games doesn't make much sense. It doesn't "cost" Microsoft much to keep them on the shelves, and these unwanted games can bring in plenty of revenue in the aggregate. The real problem is that Microsoft needs to fix its UI.

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  1. identicon
    Joshua, May 27th, 2008 @ 7:50pm

    I disagree

    Image counts. For a while there were so many "meh" games compared to games I would buy coming out on live that I just stopped downloading the trial versions because it wasn't worth my time to sort through the crap to get to the good stuff.

    It's not their interface that's the problem, it's actually not bad and has everything set up in nice categories that are easy to understand and navigate. The problem is that there is no way in hell they are going to set up a "good" game section and a "bad" game section. They have to offer both good and bad at the same place making it harder for people to find a good game.

    By removing the bad sellers (which is pretty much the only good/bad metric they have), they are making it easier to find the good games and thus make it easier for me to justify spending my time to find a game that is worth spending money on.

    If I owned a candy store and had 50 types of candy that almost everyone liked and 50 types that only 5% of my customers liked (and everybody else hated), I would need to get rid of that second fifty types of candy simply because if a new customer comes in and tries a few of the non-popular candies before trying a popular one, there is no real incentive for that potential customer to keep trying what have so far been bad candies until he comes across one of the 50 good ones. The customer would just give up after the first 2 or 3, making me lose what would have been a sale.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2008 @ 8:01pm

    Re: I disagree

    They could impliment a 'metascore' system like Steam. Steam doesn't make it THAT easy to find the games, but the metascores tend to weed out the majority of the crap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Paul (profile), May 27th, 2008 @ 8:11pm

    Re: I disagree

    I agree with the anon commenter above. If they introduce a rating system, it would pretty much fix the problem. So, maybe the interface is pretty good, but it can always be better. Once you're past the category level, it just pretty much becomes a big list of games in alphabetical order. If you could rank it by rating, so be it. I can't recall if they have a way to rank by number of downloads, but if they do, then its the user's fault they can't figure out what they're doing. And if MS doesn't want to blame the user, then it comes back to the interface not being intuitive enough for those users.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    strickjh2005, May 27th, 2008 @ 8:32pm

    Here, it is more important to ensure brand quality.

    Allowing crumby games to be sold through x-box live only hurts x-box. Unlike PC games where people realize that Dell wasn't responsible for battle field 2 sucking, just because it was played on a Dell computer. Console customers are different, the console is what they are playing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Jimmy the Geek, May 27th, 2008 @ 8:43pm

    Have an archive of old games

    Keep the interface the same as the current popular games, but as they drop in popularity below a set minimum, they get put onto the archive server.

    If the popularity drops below another set point, then remove them. That way you can limit what people see on the main server, but let people play the games they like, even if they are less popular.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Joshua, May 27th, 2008 @ 9:03pm

    Re: Re: I disagree

    What's the point of having a ratings system? Having a list by rating option is just going to clutter up the interface more and it will make it even less likely that people are going to try out and buy the poorly rated games in the first place.

    A rating system wouldn't fix this because then, instead of bad games being ignored and cluttering up the interface, you have the few top good games masking the less well known (but still not poorly selling) and newer games making them less likely to be tried and turning them into "bad" games. Which creates a sort of self fulfilling prophecy of failure for those games that with just a bit more exposure would have done well.

    Other than a ratings system (which I think would be a bad idea), I can't think of anything to try to adjust, add, or remove from the interface, OTHER than the bad games, to keep it from just becoming a long list of games. There aren't all that many ways of categorizing games that you can use before you just make it hard to know where to find the kind of game you want,

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Joshua, May 27th, 2008 @ 9:06pm

    Re: Have an archive of old games

    I really like this solution. It combines the good points of a ratings system (making it easy to find the good games), while avoiding the pitfalls of one (making it hard to find newer and not quite as popular games).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    PaulT (profile), May 28th, 2008 @ 12:22am

    Re: Re: I disagree

    You're all making one huge assumption there - that the quality of the game has a direct bearing on its financial success. there's plenty of great games with mediocre sales and vice versa.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, May 28th, 2008 @ 6:36am

    It's better than that

    They will still have the games available for download if you have already downloaded it or if you get a "share this game" invitation from a friend. This won't free up space or help noticeably with their bandwidth, they will just lose a source of revenue.

    They say they are removing the games to help with ease of use, but I'd bet it's just to make their numbers look good. I agree with Jimmy the Geek on his separate category for old games.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Eliot, May 28th, 2008 @ 6:39am

    Great Games, Bad Games...

    There are so many games out there that are great games that I wish were still available, but they aren't because prettier games came on the market, but they ultimately aren't as much fun to play as that old game that I wanted.

    Someone mentioned that there shouldn't be a good games and a bad games section, but I think that's bogus. It would be no challenge for someone to implement a popularity ranking (most downloaded) or some sort of manual rating done by the people after they play the game. This seems natural for any download site to implement.

    When I go to Apple's site, for example, to download a widget for ... weather (for instance), I don't grab the first one I see, I don't even want to waste my team reading through the feature list or downloading all of them to test them out. I'm going to grab the most popular or best rated one and go from there, if it stinks, I'll go back and try the next most popular. However, if I'm looking for one particular feature, and someone tells me that a crappy little widget that some 12 year old whipped out in a few minutes has that feature, I don't care if its unpopular, I want to be able to download that tool.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Tripp Fenderson, May 28th, 2008 @ 7:37am

    Some games need to go.

    This is not strictly a UI issue.

    Anyone here remember Yaris?

    It's time for games like that to go. They clutter the menu and let's be frank, no one plays them. This isn't a question of the long tail or disk space - it's about quality and some of the games in the Xbox Live Arcade are, to put it nicely, crap.

    Ideally, as an Xbox Live member, I'd like to see the number of times a game was downloaded over time and more importantly, how many people are still playing online now, as a purchasing aid. No sense in downloading the game Undertow to play in the online multiplayer if only a handful of people play. Finding a game will be next to impossible, a waste of my money, and will reflect poorly on the overall experience of the Xbox Live Arcade as I'll be less likely to purchase another game in the future.

    It's a pipe dream that MS would include that information -- but they do have it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    some random guy, May 28th, 2008 @ 9:35am

    add a recommendation list

    or a top favorites list, or whatever, so people with little imagination or patience can quickly find games that "other people like".

    But there's no need to remove quirky games that only *I* like. True fans wouldn't mind multi-clicking/scrolling down to some "most loser-iffic games ever" page, if that's what it takes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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