Updated at 1:45 p.m. with confirmation from Microsoft.
Microsoft is a giant corporation, but it is apparently capable of making major adjustments like an agile startup.
The multimedia conglomerate announced that developers will have the option to publish their own games to Xbox Live.
Microsoft confirmed the Game Informer report about indie self-publishing in a statement provided to GamesBeat from corporate vice president of Xbox Marc Whitten:
“Our 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 discoverability on Xbox Live. We’ll have more details on the program and the timeline at Gamescom in August.”
Microsoft previously announced that even games built with the Unity development kit would require “publishing partners” for developers to release games on Xbox One. That’s the policy Microsoft had with the Xbox 360, and it was widely assumed the company planned to continue it moving forward with something similar in the future. The antiquated standard drew criticism from independent developers and the hardcore gamers that support them for forcing small studios to split revenue with unnecessary publishers in the name of quality control.
Sony and Nintendo both feature self-publishing on their consoles. PlayStation Network and the Wii U and the 3DS eShops do not suffer from an abundance of buggy, low-quality games.
Microsoft is reportedly going even further than just offering self-publishing. The Game Informer report claims that Microsoft will completely rework its certification process for new digital games that mirror’s Apple’s approval process on iOS. The company wants a two-week testing period to look for major game-breaking bugs and violations of the developer submission agreement. After those 14 days, the game can go live, and it’s up to the developers to fix bugs and offer updates.
Finally, Microsoft has the capability to turn any retail Xbox One into a development kit. Previously, with nearly all console releases, anyone looking to release a game on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and even the Wii U, has to go to the publishers and purchase or borrow an expensive development kit. That process requires significant paperwork and an investment of cash up front.
Apple upended that model when it introduced a free development kit that anyone could download for its iOS operating system. That enabled any individual with an iPhone to begin making and releasing games. Nintendo and Sony still require developers to purchase the dev kit, and that’s still a significant barrier for many small studios. With the ability for Microsoft to turn any Xbox One into a debug unit, it suddenly has the most developer-friendly next-gen console.