Earlier today, Microsoft revealed it will allow indie developers to publish their own games on the upcoming Xbox One console (due out in November). On the new platform, the company will be abandoning its Xbox 360 policy that required independent studios to partner up with publishers.
Microsoft is also making developing for the Xbox One incredibly easy by allowing game makers to use retail units as development kits.
“Our vision is that every person can be a creator,” said Microsoft corporate vice president of Xbox Marc Whitten said in a statement earlier today. “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.”
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GamesBeat spoke with Whitten, who explained that Microsoft worked from the beginning to change how development worked on Xbox One compared to its last console. On Xbox 360, developers have to tap into a special service called PartnerNet to test unreleased games with Xbox Live. Only studios with access to a development kit can get on to PartnerNet, so now that the Xbox One is getting rid of that service it opens up an opportunity for Microsoft to invite in the smallest of developers.
“Now, not all of this will be available at launch,” clarified Whitten. “There’s a big difference between the scale we need for a few developers and few pieces of content and having this ready for everybody to hit the portal.”
When Microsoft does open up the system to everyone, games will still have to go through a certification process, but indie developers won’t have to adhere to a special set of rules. That’s not how it worked on Xbox 360.
Microsoft has a service called Xbox Live Indie Games on its current-gen console where people can submit very small games based on Microsoft’s now-defunct XNA coding language. The creators of those games can also only sell those games for a very small amount of money, usually around $1.
On Xbox One, the guy making a game in his bedroom will only have to abide by the same terms of service as a major publisher like Capcom.
Those terms aren’t very strict. Whitten said the company is primarily concerned with making sure that “bad things don’t happen,” but they won’t impose any contrived limitations.
“This is about everyone being able to take full advantage of the Xbox One,” said Whitten. “We don’t want to limit people’s imaginations.”
Microsoft will also allow developers to release some non-gaming applications.
“What is a game and what is not a game — those are really hard things to define anyway,” said Whitten. “I’m excited to see what people do with SmartGlass, Kinect, and the power of the Xbox One in the living room.”
Microsoft will explain its new policy in further detail at the upcoming GamesCom industry event in Cologne, Germany in late August. For now, it is leaving a number of details up in the air.
The company won’t detail the specifics of the certification process. It won’t say how long it will take to get a digital game in the store. It won’t explain the specifics of the revenue split between the developer and Microsoft. It won’t explain what fees it will charge a studio to launch a game. These are things that developers are going to want to know, but Microsoft is clearly making an effort to convince them that it is on their side.