Some of the best games in history have been created by little known developers, who, without the financial backing or marketing support of a big behemoth publisher, like EA or Activision, have still managed to create brilliant games that gamers, despite not knowing much about the teams behind them, have still loved. Look at how games like Journey, a wonderfully crafted tale about travelling pieces of fabric, from a publisher with a couple of little known (but critically acclaimed) titles, have taken their place in the hall of gaming fame amongst even the biggest and most expensive to make, triple A titles. You could even cast your sights to Angry Birds, which came out of nowhere to become one of the most popular mobile titles of all time. Imagine the future of gaming, on consoles or off, where no restrictions whatsoever are put on indies’ abilities to publish their works. Sony is already doing this right with PSN, letting indies publish their titles without publishers, but now, Microsoft have revealed that they too will be jumping on the indie bandwagon by letting indies do the same on their upcoming next generation console, the Xbox One.
When Microsoft first announced the Xbox One, some months after Sony had announced their own next-gen offering, PS4, plenty criticized Microsoft for a failure to support indies, so much so that some developers made statements that they would not be developing games for the console as Microsoft seemed to be leaving indies out in the cold. This was mostly down to the lack of indies fronting the Xbox One’s line up (the PS4, in contrast showcased at least 5 indie titles during the Sony E3 presser) but Microsoft are hoping that this new announcement will make amends. Marc Whitten, Microsoft’s Xbox corporate VP, said this “[Microsoft’s] vision is that every person can be a creator. That every Xbox One can be used for development. That every game and experience can take advantage of all of the features of Xbox One and Xbox Live. This means self-publishing. This means Kinect, the cloud, achievements. This means great discover ability on Xbox Live.”
Another way that Microsoft seem to be heralding the indies, is that, as mentioned in the above quote, every single Xbox One will be capable of being a development unit, meaning that anyone and everyone with the know how, will be able to turn their retail Xbox One console into a debug unit, allowing them to use it to make their own game. In contrast, the PS4 and the Wii U (Nintendo’s attempt at next generation gaming) both require that you pay for a developer unit in order to make games for the consoles. This is an advantage for Microsoft as now, there is just a tiny cost for developers to make games for the Xbox One, indie developers and big development studios alike.
However, some issues come in the form of curating the content. While Sony does an excellent job of keeping the riff raff out, Microsoft may not have the same luck. For one, those decreased development barriers, in terms of cost, mean that now both serious bedroom developers and casual devs who are just coding for fun, will now have a chance to have their games played by the world. While the lack of a publisher can mean that more innovative and original titles get played by the masses, it can also mean that some ideas, which aren’t good at all, will also be played by a fair few.
Microsoft have announced an approval plan, however, saying that while developers can set their own pricing and even the release date for their games, their titles will be subject to a 14 day approval process, meaning that they can go from submission to playable Xbox Live game in just two weeks.
While it definitely sounds promising for the future of the Xbox One and the future of its software, we won’t know more until Microsoft discuss the plan at European games conference, Gamescom, later this month, so we’ll keep you posted.