Having established Xbox Live Arcade as the leader in downloadable content for consoles, Microsoft is looking to be the first to successfully deliver episodic and user created content as the next evolution of the service.
With retro, brand new IP and advergames already part of the offering, David Edery, worldwide games portfolio planner for XBLA, has told GamesIndustry.biz about a number of options that the company is actively pursuing to keep ahead of competition from Sony's PlayStation Network and Nintendo's Wii Ware.
"We have some really big initiatives going on right now and I can say that everyone internally is really excited about user created content," said Edery.
"Multiple internal groups are trying to think about the best way of supporting it on the console and I can tell you for sure that things are happening, I just don't know if we'll see any of them in the next 12 months," he said.
While Microsoft is working on internal architecture to deliver user generated content — whether to support its XNA Studio creations or something more playful like Sony's LittleBigPlanet — it's also encouraging potential Arcade developers to look at the true potential of episodic gaming.
"We're really excited about trying to bring episodic content to XBLA," enthused Edery. "We haven't really done it yet and we're trying to think of the best ways to do so.
"The Penny Arcade guys are going to be bringing their episodic game to Xbox Live Arcade but I think of that as only the beginning — it's just one model for episodic and there are lots of different models."
Conceding that the market hasn't yet seen episodic content in the same context as episodic TV — half an hour to an hour long shows delivered weekly — Edery says that as soon as the right quality titles come along, Microsoft wants to continue to push the boundaries of digital delivery.
"It's an obvious statement but we don't want to put out bad content. We need to see a really, really good episodic franchise before we go ahead and throw a bunch of half an hour or hourly gameplay episodes on our service.
"The day a developer comes to us with that is the day we'll sign it. We're making it clear that we're very open to this sort of thing," he said.
Edery also accepts that new delivery methods are going to be met with a little bit of trepidation, at least until they can be proven to be a reliable and convincing route to market.
"Game developers are not used to thinking and designing in this way, it's a fundamentally different process and I think it's just a learning thing where developers and ourselves need to experiment and figure out what works and what doesn't.
"There's also a certain amount of fear, frankly. If you're an independent developer betting your company on this, something that has never been done successfully before, it's scary when there are literally no good examples of successful episodic gaming," he concluded.