After an historic E3 in which Sony made the Xbox One look like the second coming of the Death Star, Microsoft has been slowly chipping away at their next-gen console’s restrictive policies to put it on even ground with the PlayStation 4. The first to go was the company’s confusing and draconian DRM policies; now Microsoft has made the Xbox One much more indie-friendly.
The news first made the rounds when Game Informer caught wind of the policy shift, with the publication’s internal sources telling them that independent developers will not only be allowed to self-publish, but also set their own price and release date. The new policy more closely mirrors the iTunes model for iOS games, with shorter turnaround on certification and ultimate developer control. This is a stark contrast to previous reports, when Microsoft told Shacknews that they would carry over the Xbox 360 policy of forcing indies to find a publishing parter before allowing their games on Xbox Live Arcade.
Furthermore, Game Informer’s sources told them that every retail Xbox One would also double as a development kit. Rather than plunk down thousands of dollars per debug unit, as has been the norm on just about every other console ever, Xbox One developers wouldn’t have to pay more than the retail cost of the new console.
In a statement to Polygon, Microsoft corporate vice president Marc Whitten confirmed all of the above as true.
“Our vision is that every person can be a creator,” Whitten said. “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 discoverability on Xbox LIVE. We’ll have more details on the program and the timeline at Gamescom in August.”
Whitten claims that this is how the Xbox One was “architectured” all along, but “it won’t all be there at launch.”
Perhaps just as important as making development easier is visibility, and Whitten wants Microsoft to do a better job than what happened with the horrid handling of the Xbox 360′s Xbox Live Indie Games channel.
“Our intention is that there will not be an indie ghetto,” Whitten told Polygon. “I do believe in some curation and I want the best to flow to the top. But I also want to be able to see what’s trending on the surface. At the end of the day, discoverability will be driven by spotlight human curation and by usage.”
This is great news all around for indie devs and gamers alike. Few development barriers means more games get to be made, and that’s never been a bad thing. One can’t help but chuckle at Microsoft’s language, however, as they continue to insist that this was part of their plan all along. In any case, they’re moving things along in the right direction, and that’s ultimately what really counts.