Microsoft have been on the back foot for the past few months following the disastrous Xbox One launch back in May. Among the many criticisms it faced was the perceived lack of support for independent developers.
Sony had talked up their commitment to indie developers at both their February launch presentation and their E3 media briefing and backed it up with a healthy launch slate of high-profile indies and the mouth-watering prospect of self-publishing on PS4. They also promised to flex their significant marketing muscle to help highlight indie games and developers in a way that even the likes of Steam Greenlight couldn’t hope to match.
This was in stark comparison to Microsoft’s radio silence on the matter and it certainly didn’t help that the past UI upgrades to the Xbox 360 actually made it harder to find indie titles. Microsoft had developed an indie-unfriendly reputation and it looked like the early success of Braid and Fez on the Microsoft platform were going to be consigned to history.
But as we know a lot can change a few months.
Microsoft have been working hard now to improve the fortunes of the Xbox one as it nears its winter release with a number of fan and developer friendly decisions. First we had the huge DRM 180, then the Kinect reversal, the rumours of a AAA bundled free with new units and then earlier this month revealed that yes they will allow self publishing on Xbox One.
SEE MORE: Microsoft’s Xbox One Gets Un-Kinect-Ed
SEE MORE: XBOX One: Microsoft Backtrack On DRM
Today they revealed the full details of their new indie programme: ID@Xbox.
“The ID@Xbox program enables qualified game developers of all sizes to unleash their creativity by self-publishing digital games on Xbox One.”
Once developers are approved they will receive two Xbox One development kits and access to a full suite of developer documentation, developer forums, etc. In case you need more kits remember every retail Xbox One will soon gain the ability to be officially upgraded to a dev kit.
They will also provide devs with support on complying with ratings, regional policies and critically marketing and promotional support.
Here’s how it works:
“Our goal is to give you the tools your studio needs to maximize your success on Xbox One.”
Indie games will also receive greater visibility through the new UI’s spotlight, tending and recommendation features.
“This will have long-term benefits for the industry as a whole because it will prove to be a valuable on-ramp into the industry for talent” Phil Harrison, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft
And to ensure indies aren’t treated as an afterthought they will also get access to the full Xbox one feature set including multiplayer, Game DVR, Kinect, in-game transactions, updates, DLC, SmartGlass, etc – ensuring parity with first and third-party developers.
SEE MORE: XBOX One: Photo Gallery
“Bottom line: if a feature is supported on Xbox One, games in ID@Xbox can take advantage of it.”
After devs set the wholesale price Microsoft will set the retail price and developers are likely to receive an industry standard 70/30 split in their favour. Free to play will also be supported.
“I think that when you are building a game for a retail business model that definitely puts certain financial restriction or financial boundaries on the product because you’ve got to build a certain amount of inventory, you have to have physical distribution of your software to the retailer, all of which is very expensive.
That has an unintended consequence of impacting on the creative decisions that publishers and developers make. All of those restrictions go away with this programme. So as I said earlier this is going to be a great thing for gamers because they will get access to new and interesting content but I also think it’s a good thing for the industry, so yes, I think it’s positive all round.” Phil Harrison
So far the response from the dev community has been largely positive
It all sounds pretty good and will give smaller developers access to a potentially huge install base. This is good news for both fans and developers. Sony may have already announced their similar programme but hey better late than never!
So is the tide turning for Microsoft?
It’s still too early to tell but the gap is certainly narrowing…
Maybe Edge won’t be so hasty with their next cover!
Developers are invited to apply for ID@Xbox here
So what do you think? Let me know below!
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