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Indie Developers Tentatively Happy Following Microsoft’s Self-publishing Announcement
Microsoft made news this week by announcing that indie developers would be allowed to self-publish their games on the Xbox One and every Xbox One retail console could be used as a dev kit for development. This is a major change from their previous Xbox 360 policy that didn’t allow indie developers to self-publish their titles. It was also this policy that began the friction between Microsoft and indie developers like Jonathon Blow. So how are indie developers responding to this news? The answer is with cautious optimism.
In an interview with GameSpot, the minds that brought you games like Limbo, Thomas Was Alone, Jack Lumber, and Halo all commented on this change of attitude by Microsoft and how it will affect not only the game industry but their relationship with indie developers.
Dino Patti – CEO of Limbo studio Playdead said: “We would welcome such an option. To be honest, we wouldn’t let anything stop us from hitting a desired platform anyways, but a self-publishing option is attractive as we probably won’t be forced to give exclusivity and a share of the royalties for basic services like QA, rating, and localization. Those services should instead be offered through certified partners at a fixed price or payment model tailored to the specific developer.
Making publishing a frictionless process for the developers is important if you want content. Discoverability is of course big a concern, but I’m sure that is also a concern for Microsoft as well. I would hate to see our next game get mixed with a sea of Free2Play and casino games.”
Alex Schwartz – Founder of Owlchemy Labs (Jack Lumber) said: “For Owlchemy, Unity’s announcement of a comprehensive partnership with Microsoft was almost as important as this announcement. Knowing that our tech will be fully supported on Xbox One and that the software and hardware may be subsidized through this partnership is huge for us. Now that we know that self-publishing is possible, it does open some doors but I can’t say that we’re ready to jump into bed with Microsoft just yet solely due to this announcement. Choosing partners for our products is a huge decision that we don’t take lightly, almost like picking a pre-school for your baby boy or girl. You want to know that they’re in good hands.
Also, we saw the writing on the wall years ago that any new console would fail if they did not allow self-publishing. I think it was the largest policy mistake of the previous generation to require publishers to be able to gain ‘slots’ — a very seedy way, in my opinion, of creating artificial demand. I’m sure Microsoft has been told thousands of times by now that self-publishing will only be a positive for them, and it’s great to hear that they’re listening to developers in that regard.”
Mike Bithell – Thomas Was Alone creator said, “It’s definitely welcome news. I want as many people to be able to play my games as possible, and I don’t see why Xbox One players should be left out. Console as dev kit also makes it a nicely risk free proposition. There are still a ton of questions we need answered about the processes, and crucially the visibility.
Sony have demonstrated the support and marketing clout they’re willing to throw behind indie titles time and again, while Microsoft obviously only has the ill-fated XBLIG. We’ll see, I remain optimistic. More games for more people can only be a positive thing!”
Alex Seropian – Industrial Toys CEO and Bungie founder said, “I think this is a great move by Microsoft. It’s good for the industry, great for developers and most importantly will be a win for gamers. It means more games, different kinds of games, and a direct relationship between gamer and developer. Everyone wins! We are certainly excited about the emergence of new digital platforms, but our focus right now remains on mobile.”
I can see why they’re excited. Microsoft‘s previous policy on the Xbox 360 made it incredibly difficult for indie developers to publish their titles on the console. It’s also a complete turn around from the Xbox One policy which stated that indie developers would have to have a publishing partner in order to put their games on the Xbox One. That meant that indie developers would either have to partner with Microsoft themselves or a third party, something which further alienated the company from the developers and gamers. But this is a new Microsoft, a humbler Microsoft that has embarked on a PR campaign to repair extensive damage done to the Xbox One with confusing announcements and bad policies that allowed Sony to take advantage and gain massive momentum for the PlayStation 4. But while this is good news for indie gamers who want to buy an Xbox One and the developers themselves, let’s just see who signs on to Microsoft now.