Meat Boy dev attacks Microsoft support

"We just kind of got pushed to the side," says Team Meat

Team Meat, the indie studio behind hit platformer Super Meat Boy, has launched a bitter attack on Microsoft for not following through on marketing promises it made for the game's Xbox Live Arcade launch.

Speaking at the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco today, co-CEO Tommy Refenes explained that, as part of the platform's Game Feast promotion last October, Super Meat Boy had been promised the release schedule to itself for the week.

However, as it turned out, Double Fine's Costume Quest was added to their launch week at the last minute.

"We were just like 'what the f***? Everyone else gets a free week except for us?'," recalled co-founder Tommy Refenes.

When Refenes turned on his 360 on launch day, things got worse. Team Meat had been told the game would get top billing in the Spotlight feed on the Xbox 360 dashboard, but there was no sign of any promotion for the title whatsoever.

In a state of panic, he immediately fired off an email to the studio's producer at Microsoft.

"I was like 'What's the deal? Are you guys pulling out? Where's our stuff?'," he explained.

"It finally went up half way through our launch day. It was the number four spot; it wasn't number one. The 'spooktacular sale', which was a whole bunch of other games that already came out that was the number one slot.

"An ad for a Mazda 3 was the number two slot because you all go on Xbox to figure out what car you want, right?

"We were number four and we stayed number four the entire week," he continued.

Microsoft then apparently told Team Meat that the better the game performed, the more promotion it would receive. However, despite outselling other Game Feast titles Comic Jumper and Hydrophobia by a significant margin, and racking up great reviews, no further marketing support came.

"We just kind of got pushed to the side, and that's basically how the Xbox Live launch went. The only reason the game sold well was because of how we promoted it. The help from Microsoft was there in a very limited capacity," Refenes insisted.

"It's not supposed to hurt your feelings because it's business, but it totally f**king hurt my feelings. Me and Ed just killed ourselves trying to get this game done and now we're just pushed to the side.

"It was a f****** mindf***," added the other half of Team Meat, Edmund McMillen.

"It was really confusing. At that point I think we were so f***** up in our heads from development, it almost felt like 'are these people out to get us? What's happening here? Did we do something wrong? Are they trying to screw us because we did something wrong?'"

Later on in the presentation, McMillen tempered the attack a little, insisting that "working with the creative side of Microsoft was great.

"Everybody that we could talk to were great; the people who we couldn't talk to were the problem. So everyone who we worked with was wonderful. Everyone who was making decisions, not so much."

Thankfully for Team Meat, there was a happy ending. The Steam launch went much more smoothly, with PC sales easily outstripping those on Xbox 360. Refenes revealed that the game is now closing in on 400,000 sales across all platforms.

Latest comments (12)

James Park Field Engineer, Unity Technologies7 years ago
Glad the game sold well, it's a great game.
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Martin Mathers Copywriter/Journalist 7 years ago
To be fair, SMB is one of the game being sold on rack as a physical card - it's not been forgotten completely. In truth, the range of cards surprised me with the games picked, as there are some genuinely good ones there (Trials HD, Monday Night Combat, Limbo and, of course, SMB). Shame it's only half the rack, as the rest is filled with Halo and CoD maps...
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Rene Laurent7 years ago
Microsoft like most of the big fish will wine and dine devs to get exclusivity or your 'amazing products' on their platform(s). Unfortunately once they have your commitment they move swiftly on to the next suckers who've been promised massive exposure & a free TV ;)

The treat devs like a beautiful girl they just want to bang once and then leave before she wakes up. Then they tell the other girls that they've had you, those girls want in on the action and the cycle continues :D

As long as all parties get what they want I guess the system works fine. The Meat Guys just made the mistake of taking it personally. I guess the slip-up was a lot more grievous to them than to MS.

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Show all comments (12)
Tim Ceesay Game Manager, Smashmouth Games Ltd7 years ago
I'm surprised MS is too tight to promote SMB more considering every review has been positive, not to mention the awards its picking up. I downloaded it on XBLA and spent the next 20+ hours of my life playing the game. It's absolutely brilliant :D.

I'm tempted to buy the Steam version, but mainly for the level editor.
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Charles Dawkins7 years ago
Funny I saw advertisements way before launch and even Major Nelson advertised the game in a video prior to launch. Sounds like a lot of hot air to me. Sure you didn't get number 1 spot does it really matter if your # 4. The game sold very well anyways. Greed!!
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Brian Allen Social Game Producer, GameLoft7 years ago
I believe it's likely because the game is kind of...edgy. Crazy they didn't get promoted though, superb game.
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James Lindsey7 years ago
I don't think their issue is so much with what they got, but with what they were promised versus what they got. If I told you I was selling you a sports car with a V8 engine in it, but instead sold you the same car at the same price with a V6 engine, I'll bet you'd feel about the same way. Sure, you'd still have a good car. It might be the best car you've ever had up to that point. But it wasn't what was promised, and every single time you turn the ignition key you'll be reminded of that. I think their only mistake was not getting said promises in writing or some kind of legally binding sense.
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Teri Thom Owner / Artist, KrabbitSoft Studios Inc.7 years ago
Surprised to see MB so vocal about this as indies are often 'pushed to the side' in favor of the bigger clients. It's hard not to take it personally when you sink your life into it. Hopefully they won't get slammed too hard for speaking out.
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John Tearle Founder, CEO, Flix Interactive7 years ago
Well said James. It's a real shame that MS acted the way they did, plus the terms seem really counter intuitive "we'll give you more exposure the better the game sells..." - isn't decent promotion meant to help sell more games in the first place?
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Shane Sweeney Academic 7 years ago
I would hope Team Meat wont side step the PS3 either, as there it has always been a bit of an indie darlings from the beginnings with Flow and Everyday Shooter.
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Private Industry 7 years ago
I would not worry about that Teri, there is still the PC and plenty of mobile devices and maybe they can even bring stuff to the PS3 with a more indie friendly environment (indie as in they want to develop and sell the game normally and not trough XNA). Sure Sony would welcome them and besides MS can`t refuse releasing future projects just because they say what`s on their mind and if they didn`t stick to their promise there is not that much to lose for Team Meat.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 7 years ago
It's a shame MS backed out on their part of the deal, but I suspect this happens quite often, and I agree with James that Team Meat probably should have got a contract with these terms clearly mapped out.

Regardless, it's good to see the game do well, and I'd like to see it make the leap to other platforms - in particular PS3, as I don't have regular access to a 360!
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