Xbox One’s self-publishing policy: MS finally wakes up

Thursday, 25 July 2013 09:54 GMT By Dave Cook

Microsoft has confirmed that it will allow self-publishing on Xbox One, showing its senior games team is listening to developers as well as gamers. Never has the console looked more appealing, says VG247′s Dave Cook.

If Microsoft truly wishes to bring democracy to Xbox One development and publishing, it needs to wake up to the new dawn of modern games publishing. The brilliant thing about this morning is that it appears the alarm clock’s finally gone off.

Say what you will about Xbox One and its string of howlers recently, Microsoft is most certainly listening to the complaints and fears of consumers and developers alike.

First we had the seismic dropping of the console’s DRM, pre-owned and authentication policies, which, given how integral it seemed to the machine’s make-up, was a costly about-face for Microsoft’s top brass.

Now, self-publishing is being granted to developers on Xbox One, a major alteration to Xbox’s stance on releasing games in general.

I’ve seen a lot of jeers and snide remarks made about Microsoft’s second big u-turn, but the move can only be considered a plus. The opening up of publishing rights on Xbox One will mean any man, woman or relevant dog can not only push their content out on Xbox Live, but can create games on any Xbox One. Is you’re not applauding that you may want to give your goodometer a tap.

It’s an admirable stance. We saw Microsoft’s Marc Whitten even mirroring Unity’s vision of development for all last night: “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.”

Common sense

Microsoft has dropped the ball several times since Xbox One was first unveiled in Redmond, but it’s clear that whoever came up with the console’s disastrous, consumer-penalising policies – I’m looking in Don Mattrick’s general direction now – has had their master plan torn to ribbons by people who seem to actually understand common sense.

U-turns are an embarrassment, but Microsoft’s senior games team has now absorbed devastating criticism from both the development and gamer communities and has, unarguably, made Xbox One more palatable. That’s brave, expensive and smart.

Xbox One’s initial policies were completely out-of-step with modern gaming, and they underlined a serious lack of understanding of developers and consumers. They were drawn up by executives that seemed blind to everyday challenges facing large studios, indies and gamers, but these considerable shifts have gone a long way to rectifying the issue.

Questions remain unanswered, however. How much revenue share will Microsoft pull from a self-published game’s income? Will self-published teams be locked into exclusivity agreements that curb potential growth? What about placement – will Microsoft actively promote indie and self-published games on its store-front or will they be damned to obscurity beneath several UI layers? Will self-published teams get to set low prices? Will those who publish on rival formats before Xbox One have doors slammed in their faces when they approach Microsoft?

These are real issues that have been experienced by indie developers working with Microsoft before, and if we’re to see true competitiveness on the indie front with Xbox One we need a real culture change in the overseeing team. What the company now needs is someone with total indie empathy to rebuild Xbox’s bridges. Is it Phil Harrison? Fingers crossed.

Policy change is one thing, but both gamers and developers will need to read the small print at gamescom before signing their lives away. If Microsoft truly wishes to bring democracy to Xbox One development and publishing, it needs to wake up to the new dawn of modern games publishing. The brilliant thing about this morning is that it appears the alarm clock’s finally gone off.

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