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Prison Architect dev outs Microsoft’s costly approach to indie developers

Monday, 29 October 2012 08:22 GMT By Dave Cook

Prison Architect developer Introversion Software has spoken out against Microsoft’s costly Xbox Live Arcade certification process, and has suggested that big change is needed for the publisher to compete with Steam.

As part of a VG247 interview, Introversion co-founder Mark Morris discussed the reasons why it would not be pursuing Xbox Live Arcade or PSN for Prison Architect, based on its costly experience of trying to publish Darwinia+ on Microsoft’s platform.

“If you look at our position: we’re two guys basically – although we’re a little big bigger than that – working on a game we’ve launched ourselves. We’re in alpha, we’re seeing money now, which is enabling us to carry on developing it.

“Hopefully we’ll get a Steam deal – I’m pretty confident we will as we have a great relationship with Valve – and then we’re exposed to Valve’s market of 20 million people. Alternatively we could spin out a team of probably ten people, we need to pay Microsoft $10,000 a go for a development kit.”

Steam is the end goal of Morris and Introversion, and the game is currently in an alpha 2 phase, allowing gamers to buy the game and invest in it at the same time – similar to Notch’s approach to Minecraft funding. Regardless, Morris feels Microsoft needs to change tact.

On the $10,000 figure stated above, Morris added, “It’s ridiculous, and it’s non-refundable once you’ve bought it. You’ve got to pay – I think our quality assurance bill was $30,000 for testing with Darwinia+, and it took four years to get the game certified to a standard that Microsoft wanted. It then sold rubbish. We hardly shipped any units on Xbox 360, compared to PC.

“There is a strong indie community now on PC that doesn’t exist within the console world, and they’ve tried various ways to tap into that with Live Arcade and Xbox Indie Games, and they just never managed it in the way Steam has.”

Although Morris is down on the idea of self-publishing Prison Architect on Xbox 360, he is open to the idea of outsourcing the work. “We’ve got no interest in working with any of the big console owners now with Prison Architect. The only think we might do, once the game’s out there, is license it to another developer to do the port on our behalf.

“But Microsoft and Sony come along and they say, ‘Well we don’t want to have your game second, we want to be first.’ Well, they can’t be first. We’re on PC because they’ve made it too hard. Also, they want exclusive content, well piss off.

“You’re not delivering the amount of sales, you’re making us work harder, and ultimately we’re getting paid less than what we do on PC. So I think they’re definitely – in the indie world – second class customers.

“If they want to work with us – and if they want indie games on their systems – they’re going to have to change quite a lot to make it attractive.”

You can buy Prison Architect alpha 2 now over at the official Prison Architect site. Stay tuned for our full interview soon.

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22 Comments

  1. FabioPal

    Well, “welcome to the real world” where indie games don’t sell that much on consoles and where developing for a console is much more complicated than doing it on the pc.

    Enough rants, please.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. DaveDogg

    I remember playing the demo for this game and to be honest it wasn’t great it looked like it was five years old when it came out & it just didnt play that well either. it was a full arcade release rather than an indie and i just couldnt say it was worth 800 points or whatever it was. i also remember the gentleman in question being interviewed at the time saying that the build he had taken to certification first time round failed because it kept crashing and it took them 4 years to get to a point where it ran consistantly

    #2 2 years ago
  3. ShakaCarnage

    Also, What happened to all the dev kits they have for Darwinia?

    #3 2 years ago
  4. OrbitMonkey

    Huh, sounds like MS & Sony only want triple A indie titles…

    #4 2 years ago
  5. FabioPal

    @4 No, they want something that meets a set standard of quality (in terms of bugs and crashes) and that they think can sell well.

    As any other publisher in the world does. Because, yes, when MS and Sony put something on THEIR online store they’re acting as a publisher, ans having a publisher is at the opposite of being indie (with the obvious exceptions that you will all point out :p)

    Edit: “requires a set” -> “meets a set”

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Dave Cook

    @5 correct, but $10k for a dev kit has no bearing on the game’s quality. They should bend a little depending on studio size and budget.

    Say the game is of triple-a standard but the studio doesn’t have the cash for a dev kit, why should they be penalised?

    It’s a tricky area to be sure.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. FabioPal

    @6 If a game IS of triple-a standard the studio does have 10k to buy a dev–kit.

    By the way the console manufacturers don’t earn something (or plan to) on the dev-kits, even because they’re never “sold” but “borrowed” as the owner keeps on being the manufacturer and the studio is paying even the assistance provided by the manufacturer. Don’t forget that the dev kits are dedicated hardware: it’s not just a console with more memory.

    It’s like the 100 bucks to get in the Steam Greenlight, their business plan contemplates that if somebody doesn’t have (or is not willing to spend) that amount of money to jump in that studio is simply “not worth it”.

    It’s market people, just don’t make a case out of something that is like that since years (and will always be).

    Should we all blame and shout at Apple because you’re forced to buy a Mac to develop and ship an iOS app?

    #7 2 years ago
  8. FabioPal

    Oh, just a note: the latest news I’ve got about pricing of kits (yes, I work in the industry) place the kits far… far away from 10k, we’re more in the 4-5k area….

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Dave Cook

    @7 “Should we all blame and shout at Apple because you’re forced to buy a Mac to develop and ship an iOS app?”

    No not at all. What I was driving at was that triple-a quality doesn’t always mean the same thing each time. It’s not a question of monetary resources or polish any more.

    Some games are viewed by gamers as triple-a for their mechanics or ideas, that one killer hook that makes them as popular as the big consoles games of our day. I think the perception of quality is changing within that scene.

    So say if someone like Notch made Minecraft on a shoestring budget and didn’t fund the game at alpha as he did, but wanted to publish it on XBLA as he knew he was on to a big thing – he’d be denied sale on XBLA as he didn’t have 10k to spare. That would have been a grave injustice.

    That’s more what I was driving at :)

    #9 2 years ago
  10. FabioPal

    I got what you were driving at, the problem is the perspective.

    I don’t see that as an “injustice” from MS/Nintendo/Sony, because if I cannot afford a Mac and I’ve got an awesome idea that will change the world of mobile gaming it’s an injustice from Apple as well.

    I just thing that should’ve they said “we ain’t got the money to buy an xbox dev kit” instead of “blaming Microsoft for putting barriers” they’d have had my approval and respect.

    For “begging” (pass me the term, English is not my native language :p) there’s Kickstarter and all the other sites.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Dave Cook

    @10 “I just thing that should’ve they said “we ain’t got the money to buy an xbox dev kit” instead of “blaming Microsoft for putting barriers” they’d have had my approval and respect.”

    Yeah there’s definitely a case for either side, and I see why MS need quality standards. I just wonder if we’ll see those standards lowered in future to better nurture the indie space on consoles.

    Wii U has Unity now, so that could be the first step to something bigger.

    Thanks for your feedback :)

    #11 2 years ago
  12. DrDamn

    @8
    PS3 kits for this sort of thing can be had for ~$2k too. Seems he’s a bit out of date in some respects.

    @9
    AAA does have direct connotations for budget though. I know what you are getting at – what about really great indie games without the budget?

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Old MacDonald

    Fabio, you can defend it all you want but the end result is that Xbox 360 gamers are missing out on great games because of this. It’s that simple.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. FabioPal

    @13 and PC gamers are losing Red Dead Redemption, XBox gamers are losing Uncharted and PS3 gamers are losing Halo.

    So?

    There’s a space for everything, Nintendo/Microsoft/Sony don’t like or have not understood the power of Indie development.

    Again: so?

    #14 2 years ago
  15. DrDamn

    @14
    I think they understand, but to an extent they are happy to cherry pick. They all encourage a certain amount of indie development in their own way. It’s very focused on meeting the console manufacturers needs and ideals too though. Whilst providing the end user with more of an consolised indie experience. Certain aspects of indie development can only happen on a PC-like platform, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Old MacDonald

    14: So, it kinda sucks.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. FabioPal

    @11 Dave, the WiiU has got Unity (that is awesome, try it if you can!) but WITH the dev kit, and if Nintendo keeps its policy of pricing for the kits… well… it’s gonna be pricey! (9k€ for a Wii kit 4 y ago)

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Cobra951

    I’m not sure you appreciate nitpicks like this, but since you are a journalist, I figure you might. You mention a cost of 10,000 pounds sterling, and two paragraphs below, you reference it as 10,000 dollars. I see from a quick lookup that Introversion is British, so the first must be correct.

    Edit: But then again, Microsoft is American. So which is correct?

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Gadzooks!

    You can release games on XBLIG using nothing but a PC and a $99 license fee. Barrier = gone.

    What this entitled douche is saying is that he wants the digital shelf space, promotion, QA and potential revenue of an XBLA title but he doesn’t want to put the time or money into making it fit for release because he isn’t confident his game is any good.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Dave Cook

    @18 I do appreciate it mate :)

    We work so fast here that mistakes do happen, so we appreciate whenever someone point this out. It was dollars. As they are a UK studio buying from the US branch.

    Thanks, I’ll edit that now.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. FabioPal

    @19 that’s not exactly the same thing as if you’re going for XBLIG you’re bound to use XNA that is strictly C#, no C++.

    It may sound like a small difference but, trust me, it’s not the same thing as programming in C++…

    #21 2 years ago
  22. Lahanas

    Indie developers share a crucial characteristic with PC gamers: they are whiners.

    MS and Sony are right to demand a certain level of quality. Especially in Microsoft’s case, this practice has made XBLA alone a reason for buying the Xbox 360.

    The AAA model, yes with its flaws, is the top tier of video games, and consoles should stick with it. Leave the indie and crowdfunding crap to PC.

    #22 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will include a year’s worth of paid DLC from the PC version of the game for free. The new-gen version of the game will be available June 2015, and includes almost all of the paid and free DLC released so far for Overkill’s popular first-person shooter. That DLC includes The Big […]

  • Yes, Mortal Kombat X will require Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus

    Mortal Kombat X won’t bypass Microsoft and Sony’s premium online play requirements. Reports that Mortal Kombat X wouldn’t require PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold started circling earlier this week thanks to a communications error. Answering fan questions on Twitter, producer Shaun Himmerick accidentally gave the impression that premium console subs would not be required […]

  • This is what Destiny players most want next

    Destiny patch 1.1.1 has resolved or at least addressed a number of complaints voiced by the community, but there are plenty more. des Destiny community manage David “Deej” Dague has put out a call for Guardians to share their concerns – or rather, what they think the community is most concerned about. “Set aside your […]

  • Google AI can play games now, so we’re probably all going to die

    Google has brought us one step closer to our inevitable slaughter or enslavement by machine overlords. Google has developed an AI that can learn to play video games and devise brand new strategies. Let me just rephrase that: Google has created an AI that can teach itself new skills, including how to play video games. […]

  • First footage of Renowned Explorers: International Society surfaces

    Renowned Explorers: International Society is a turn-based strategy game from the team behind Reus, and it looks great. Renowned Explorers was announced almost a full year ago, but has been pretty quiet since then. Developer Abbey games has now announced that the game has hit alpha, and will be open to select testers soon. You […]

  • Cities: Skylines developer commits to mod support

    Cities: Skylines will fully support the modding community. Hailing from famously mod-friendly publisher Paradox, Cities: Skylines is a no-brainer for mod support – especially as a lack of mod support is one of the things SimCity was so heavily criticised for when it firts launched. In the developer diary below, Paradox’s Jakob Munthe is joined […]

  • Nosgoth update adds Vanguard, many fixes

    Nosgoth, the free-to-play multiplayer brawler set in the Legacy of Kain universe, has been given a significant makeover. The major feature of the latest Nosogth game update is a new playable human character called the Vanguard. “Equipped with mighty throwing axes and a shield, the Vanguard can take more punishment than any human class that […]

  • Xbox Live Gold 12 month sub $40 on Microsoft store

    Microsoft is offering $20 off 12 month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions at the moment. An Xbox Live Gold 12 month subscription will normally set you back $60, but a Microsoft Store promotion has it on offer for $40. The offer is restricted to the US store. Although you can opt to grab your sub as […]

  • Tomb Raider movie script to be penned by TMNT writer

    Tomb Raider will be Evan Daugherty’s second reboot of an established universe. The Tomb Raider movie reboot has signed on a writer and a distributor. Deadline reports Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent, Snow White And The Huntsman and G.I. Joe 3 writer Daugherty will write the film. Additionally, Warner Bros. has signed on to distribute, […]

  • Shelter 2 pre-orders open, launch trailer debuts early

    Shelter 2 is a game in which you are a mother lynx and must protect a den of kittens. Yes, it’s delightful. Shelter 2 is coming to Mac and PC on March 9. Pre-orders are now available on Steam at 10% off or on GOG.com with a free skin and soundtrack, or 20% off if […]

  • That Batman: Arkham Knight trailer is full of codes

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s trailer is like a Transformer – there’s more than meets the eye. The new Batman: Arkham Knight trailer contains a number of codes. Eagle-eyed users have spotted four so far, and work on cracking their meaning is progressing. According to an /r/games thread rounding up results so far, the codes pertain to […]

  • Assassin’s Creed haystacks won’t save you from a fall

    Assassin’s Creed fans, don’t try this at home. Assassin’s Creed characters can survive falls of almost any distance as long as they aim for the haystacks scattered handily throughout the environment. As you probably deduced from your familiarity with common sense, this isn’t a real thing: falling from heights kills you, the same way a […]

  • Why are people buying PS4 and not Xbox One?

    PS4 is outselling Xbox One – but why? A new report may have the answer. Last month, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in the US again, returning it to the top of the charts after just two months away. Why? What has caused this reversal in fortunes in Microsoft’s home territory? According to a […]

  • Toejam and Earl are back with a new Kickstarter

    The early 90′s are alive and well in a new bid to bring back Toejam and Earl. Toejam and Earl released for Mega Drive (Genesis, Americans) in 1991, and the eponymous characters went on to count among Sega’s best-known characters. They appeared in a platformer, a light gun shooter and finally a 2002 Xbox game […]

  • New Wander trailer shows off Azertash form

    Wander is a collaborative, non-combat MMO in which you can take on a number of unique forms. Wander players begin as an ambulant tree called an Oren and can progress through several different bodies as they explore the environment, learning its secrets. One of these, which we’d not seen before this trailer, is the amphibious […]

  • SOMA approaching beta phase on PC and PS4

    SOMA, the new horror game from the Amnesia: The Dark Descent crew, is getting close to playable. Frictional Games has apologised for its recent silence over the project, but said it’s focused on reaching beta. Sorry all for the silence! We're closing in on Beta and everyone's working hard to get there. Once that's done, […]

  • Square Enix does not condone Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest HD Remaster

    Square Enix has said it’s not involved with a fan remake of Final Fantasy spin-off Mystic Quest. 1992 SNES game Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is being remade by Dark Design as Mystic Quest HD Remaster. The developer is even taking pre-orders for the project. Unfortunately, it looks like it is in no position to be […]

  • New Hunger teaser released by LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers

    LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers Tarsier Studios have released a teaser trailer for Hunger, which was announced in May 2014 at the Nordic Game Conference. The game has been rumored to be the firm’s unannounced Sony project since 2010. Platforms are still to be announced, but the studio became a first-party SCE developer a few years back, […]

  • Here’s two Mario Party 10 overview videos, one featuring amiibo

    Overview videos for Mario Party 10 and the amiibo which work with the title have been released by Nintendo Japan. Obviously each one is in Japanese, but you get the gist all the same. Mario Party 10 releases on Wii U March 20 in North America and Europe. Thanks, AGB.

  • Clan Raids announced for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App

    Activision has announced a new Clan Raids mode will be made available through the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App. According to the CoD community blog, raids are time-based challenges where success earns you a spot on the Clan Raids leaderboards and new Clan Raid-exclusive in-game gear like the Equilibrium set. Clan members will […]

  • Play Battlefield Hardline starting March 12 through EA Access

    Xbox One users with an EA Access subscription will be able to play 10 hours worth of Battlefield Hardline starting March 12. EA Access members will are being granted access to the game five days before the street date, with full multiplayer and all saves transferring over into the main game. It was announced yesterday […]

  • This video summarizes the contents of Destiny patch 1.1.1

    With Destiny patch 1.1.1 now available, here’s a video summary of what to expect. In the video above, Arekkz Gaming gives you a rundown of the important bits in the update. Subscribe to Arekkz Gaming for more Destiny tips and trick through the link.

  • Destiny 1.1.1 patch notes out, update is live

    Destiny’s 1.1.1 patch arrives today, so if you have been kicked from activities, it means you will need to download the patch now that it’s live. We will be pushing the 1.1.1 patch for Destiny shortly. Players will be kicked from activities and required to download the patch. — Bungie Help (@BungieHelp) February 25, 2015 […]

  • Payday 2 packs based on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number coming

    Starbreeze has announced another collaboration with Dennaton Games which will see masks based on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number appear in Payday 2. The collaboration consists of two free updates when you acquire Hotline Miami 2 or its deluxe version on Steam from February 25. The two updates, called Hotline Miami Mask Pack and Jacket […]

  • Velocity 2X making its way onto Linux, Mac, PC and Xbox One

    Velocity 2X will be released on Linux, Mac, PC and Xbox One Futurlab has announced. The developer is in charge of the port, which will be published by Sierra. According to Futurlab, the deal with Sierra came about when self-publishing proved to be difficult due to spending “more time doing PR and marketing on Velocity […]

  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number finally has a release date

    A release date for Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has been announced, finally. The game will arrive on Linux, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PS4 and Vita March 10. It is now available for pre-order on GOG, Humble and Steam for 10% off for $13.49/£10.99. There’s also a Digital Special Edition available which includes tracks from […]

  • Warhammer 40,000: Dark Nexus Arena is a twin stick shooter MOBA for PC

    Warhammer 40,000: Dark Nexus Arena has been announced as a twin stick shooter MOBA blend from Whitebox Interactive. Set for a 2016 release on PC, the game’s beta will be on show at PAX East next month. An Early Access release is slated for Q2 2015 and you can already purchase early access for a […]

  • More information, videos for cancelled Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun surface

    A trailer for the cancelled Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun title from Climax which was reportedly set for an E3 2012 reveal, has surfaced. Along with the above video is another which is described as a pre-boss battle cutscene. It’s below. According to a source of NeoGAF’s Mama Robotnik, the game was being developed under […]

  • Three additional games added to Square Enix Humble Bundle

    Kane & Lynch Collection, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light and Startopia have been added to the Square Enix Humble Bundle. All three are made available when paying the average price of $7.69. Those who have already purchased the bundle will automatically be granted the titles. All three are available for PC only. The […]

  • Forza Horizon 2 gets Fast & Furious with standalone expansion

    A Fast & Furious tie-in and standalone expansion to Forza Horizon 2 will arrive for Xbox consoles next month. Titled Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious, the downloadable title does not require the base game to play. “We’ve been talking with the folks at Turn 10 for a number of years and have always […]

  • The Evil Within: The Assignment has a release date, new trailer

    The Evil Within: The Assignment will be released on March 10 in North America and March 11 in Europe, it was announced today. Along with an exact release date was a trailer detailing more information about the first set of DLC. The Assignment is the first of two DLCs centering on Detective Castellanos’ mysterious partner, […]

  • Steam and GOG cross-platform multiplayer added to AvP Classic 2000

    Steam and GOG have announced Aliens vs Predator Classic 2000 owners will be able play multiplayer with each other across both platforms. With the recent online multiplayer update for for AVP Classic 2000, Rebellion CEO Jason Kingsley has made good on his promise from June to offer cross-platform play between the Steam and GOG platforms. […]

  • OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood arrives on PS4, Vita next week

    Roll7 has announced it will release OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood next week. The developer announced the dates on Twitter this morning alongside the launch trailer. You will be able to download the game for PlayStation 4 and Vita March 3 in North America and March 4 in Europe.

  • Week 7: Play GTA Online with VG247 tonight at 8pm UK time!

    Heists got a date! Come play GTA Online with us to celebrate. We’re playing GTA Online on PS4 tonight with whoever else fancies it. That means you. This week’s playlist is Happy for Heists, because we kind of are. The six jobs involved will last about 45 minutes. Anyone can turn up. Here’s how. We’ll […]

  • Batman: Arkham Knight – first look into the story

    Batman: Arkham Knight has a new trailer available that gives us a peek into Scarecrow’s plan to unite all villains against Batman. The trailer below has a different tone to the ones showing Arkham Knight. Instead, we get a look at Scarecrow’s team of super-villains including new footage of Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. There […]

  • Vita knocks New 3DS LL out of top slot on Media Create charts

    Thanks to four new titles, one of which was God Eater 2: Rage Burst, PlayStation Vita has knocked New 3DS LL out of the top slot on the Media Create charts in Japan. The handheld, which came in thrid place last week, moved 35,203 units for the February 16-22 period, compared to 10,901 units the […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes coming west in 2015, PS4 only

    Dragon Quest Heroes will be making its way to west this year. Square Enix has announced that it’s bringing Dragon Quest Heroes to the west this year. The press release mentioned only PAL territories (Europe & Australia). Though it’s unlikely it will miss the US. The game will release on PlayStation 4, both digitally and […]