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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  1. bitsnark

    What people really shouldn’t do, is mistake this for parity with their competitors.

    The fact that MS allows self-publishing is great, but it extends to Windows 8 Apps only as Retro City Rampage’s Brian P elaborates on:

    “On PS4, for example, developers can tap right into the system; use every bit of RAM and all of its power. Indies have access to everything that the triple-A studios do, from platform support to development and release. The indication on Xbox One is that it’s essentially XBLIG 2.0. Instead of XNA, it’s Windows 8. Windows 8, which is already struggling to gain developer interest, will gain a boost from developers wishing to target the console. However, it won’t be as full-fledged as published games on the system.”

    Additionally, there is also the fact that MS tend to drop the ball mostly when it comes to their marketing of indie IP, which as Phil Fish and others will tell you, has been more than lackluster in the past.

    Don’t get me wrong, this IS good news, but reading between the lines will show you that they’re still not on an equal footing with their peers in some key respects.


    #1 2 years ago
  2. GuuR

    Well, it certainly is a step in the right direction but according to report on Eurogamer Retro City Rampage developer Brian Provinciano comments that it is far from what you get on PS4… Brian is obviously negatively biased by his earlier experiences with MS so make of it what you will.

    Now, if MS would just drop Kinect for XOne and I will be almost tempted to buy.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Dave Cook

    @1 I agree mate. The small print needs to be appealing to developers or the whole thing is knackered. The company really needs to change its frankly – piss-poor attitude – to small and indie development for this gesture to bear fruit.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. bitsnark

    @3 I honestly hope that it does. Like you believe I think, the best fight between platform holders is a competitive one! :D

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @4 +1 absolutely.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. loci

    This will have no effect on interest in the 180.
    The reasons nobody wants a 180 are:

    1: That compulsory advertisement targeting system (kinect).
    2: Nobody trusts them.
    3: Weaker hardware.
    4: The price.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Dave Cook

    @6 “The reasons nobody wants a 180 are”

    You can’t speak for everyone man sorry, and pre-orders are big for Xbox One so far. Some people do want this machine regardless.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. SplatteredHouse

    Dave, do you have or alternatively, know of, an article chronicling the fabled Xbox One launch lineup? I’m struggling to see much to get interested in, from them on that front. The most appealing things in their conference were a couple of third-party trailers.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Dave Cook


    The games shown so far(not necessarily for launch) have been Dead Rising 3 (launch I think), Project Spark, Minecraft, Quantum Break, Kinect Sports: Rivals (launch), Forza 5 (launch), Ryse: Son of Rome (launch).

    Games coming to Xbox One announced are Witcher 3, Destiny, CoD Ghosts, Thief, Wolfenstein, The Elder Scrolls Online, Titanfall, Metal Gear Solid 5 and more.

    There’s a real lack of visible mid-tier or indie games besides Minecraft.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Moonwalker1982

    Was it really such a bad thing then? Wont this mean that people can just publish the biggest crap you can imagine?

    #10 2 years ago
  11. FabioPal

    @7 +1

    Beside that, developers “complaining” about this news just make me laugh. I’m a developer myself and I just cheer whenever a platform holder tells me: “you can develop on my platform without spending thousands of dollars/euros/pounds on a dev-kit and you can even self-publish it”.

    It doesn’t matter how hard it is, or convoluted, or whatever else, they’re just telling me that I can try to sell my game on a million users machine: that’s it.

    On a side note, it’s funny how the internet is biased: Sony say “self publishing” and people pop champagne; Microsoft say “self publishing” and people complain about it.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. SplatteredHouse

    @9 Thanks for the summary :) It appears you have a similar read on the lineup as me. Out of those, my interest leaps initially at Quantum Break, which I then regard as an “outlier” due to it being really vague, but there may prove to be something there.

    Other than that, we have: Sequels. To mildly interesting series, at best. (not including Dead Rising in that. But, the direction of the latest one doesn’t look that appealing.)
    It could even be, that these sequels will offer something remarkable – I don’t want to dismiss that possibility before having seen. There would need to be drastic adjustments, though, tbh.

    Would I be mistaken to suggest that the only sequel in Sony’s announced lineup is Killzone: Shadow Fall.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Hirmetrium

    @11: It’s more than that. Sony have shown genuine interest in this. Microsoft are taking a reactive stance to everything – its incredibly dangerous, and it makes them come across as dishonest and fickle (which, history has proven, they can be sometimes).

    The point is, Sony look genuine. Microsoft looks like its pulling a PR stunt to save some face.

    Doing a U-turn is incredibly poor for your image, brand, and customers. We don’t know if anything Microsoft says this point is true, set in stone, subject to change, etc. and while its great they listen to us, there will always be that feeling of foreboding, rather than genuine interest or concern for the market/product.

    Even worse, if MS had just paid attention in the first place, shit like this would never have happened. All they had to do was observe that indies want to self publish, and that users don’t like DRM. Two very, very simple things. Instead, we got two half assed poorly thought out decisions.

    I’m also still concerned over MS certification processes – they are widely known to be poor quality, expensive and slow. They will also continue to cripple free to play and indies unless they are also sorted out.

    This announcement is one step on a very, very long road to “perfect scenario” for a developer. Yes, its a big step, but there’s lots of work left to do for MS…

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Kanok

    That’s actually shiity policy it came from Don Mattrick.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. FabioPal

    From a business point of view, does it really matter if it was a U-turn or a previous decision?

    What I mean is: at the end of the day you get to publish your game, reaching MILLION of users, essentially for free, without having to bother with publishers’ sh*t (should you find a publisher in the first place).

    As we say in Italy: “This is people complaining about the broth being too tasty” ;)

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Lengendaryboss

    Something, something, something good side ;)

    I’m glad MS has u-turned on every decision they have: because they weren’t good for consumers and indie developers.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. bitsnark


    I think anytime any platform holder lowers/scraps the financial barriers to self-publishing, its a great thing.

    Though it is important to understand that the reason why folks treat the Sony and MS ‘free-publishing’ models differently, is because their offerings are not in parity.

    You can only publish Windows 8 Apps for free on Xbox One, whereas on PS4 you get the same, unfettered access that AAA publishers get.

    Like Provinciano said, its basically the equivalent of XBLIG 2.0.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Ekona

    Sony made huge mistakes when the PS3 came out, but did a few u-turns and it ended up doing quite well in the end. I don’t see that MS are in any worse a position now than Sony were then.

    Back to the subject, whilst of course MS should be praised for this course of action (but won’t be by the internet vocal majority), I simply don’t see indie games being the deciding factor on these consoles. To create anything meaningful costs big bucks, and anything under that can probably do just as well if not better on smaller Android and iOS devices.

    Personally I care not a jot for a single indie game released in the last few years so I know I’m biased, and I accept that my viewpoint is not good for the industry as a whole, but if (and it’s a big if) the majority of the console purchasers feel this way then does any of this matter?

    #18 2 years ago
  19. OmegaSlayer

    What’s the point of buying a console that makes things wrong then revert them because people gets angry and they finally manage to do them only half good?

    #19 2 years ago
  20. zoopdeloop

    @18 They did,the asking price was their major one.They didn’t actually do a u -turn on this one though.After a year or two they lowered the price which is the norm.It didn’t looked like a race like Microsoft is doing now

    They were judged for their mistakes,people still don’t have trust in them but they already work hard earning it back from the majority.

    Let’s see Microsoft work hard.I can’t trust them over night just because they backtracked and they are all out NOW.I want to see them still working,trying for a very long time.That’s when great things will happen.
    If they take success as granted they will have already lost and everyone who blindly supports them along with them

    #20 2 years ago
  21. FabioPal

    @19 Your post makes no sense at all dude.

    You buy a console because of the exclusives, the features, the games. Not because of the politics behind it.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. illuminatusv

    @1 & @17:
    MS didn’t share any details how the self publishing will work and how/what type of application you can develop for the XBox One. The link @1 posted is a opinion piece, so to tell people the self publishing compared to the PS4 is not the same or that you can only publish Windows 8 apps is not a fact but an opinion based on the experience on the XBox 360. I for myself prefer to discuss features of a console if we have the full picture instead on discussing not confirmed/supposed characteristics. All we know is that MS introduces self publishing within the first year after launch, that’s all.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. mornis

    This article is badly documented , this should not be published without any links to external resources ( if this is the opinion of a person then it should be marked as so ) :

    - You can self publish currently on all Microsoft platforms ( xbox360 , win7 , win8 , windows phone 7 , windows phone 8 , windows 8 RT ) so who is late or wakes up ?

    - you can develop as an indie on all their current platforms ( a bit of Google helps ” + ” )

    - MS : you can pay 500 euros and an annual fee of 99 $ to develop on XBOX
    Sony : you can pay 2k – 10k euros and no annual fee to develop for ps4 ( or you can use low performance mono game development and 99 $ annual fee and probably you will get ps4 support )

    - You can not be an indie if you can buy a 3k-10k dev kit ( at least one ) and you are part of a large group

    - Self publishing is not a good idea ( see Apple/Google/XBLA store) ,who will check the quality of the games ?

    - Doesn’t anyone feel that indie development was preplanned by Microsoft ? Usually debug and retail consoles do not share the same hardware ( no one can change the hardware specs in 1 mo )

    The list is big but no matter how many details are offered people will still complain and force their biased opinion on others .

    #23 2 years ago
  24. Lengendaryboss

    You poor sap

    “Sony : you can pay 2k – 10k euros and no annual fee to develop for ps4 ( or you can use low performance mono game development and 99 $ annual fee and probably you will get ps4 support )

    - You can not be an indie if you can buy a 3k-10k dev kit ( at least one ) and you are part of a large group.”

    #24 2 years ago
  25. Malmer

    One important difference here is that it seems anyone can make a game and put it on Xbox One. On PS4, you might not need a publisher that takes a monetary cut, but you still need to be approved by Sony as a game they want on their platform. So pretty far from the infinitely more open app store model which it seems MS will use.

    #25 2 years ago
  26. mornis

    @24 so .. if i declare myself an indie developer they will give me a dev kit for free ? No they will not …

    Quite odd that the only thing that you found is about “loaning” dev kits .. wich it has lots of issues like warranty / NDA / return policy and such .

    #26 2 years ago
  27. Lengendaryboss

    That wasn’t the point you were making: you were talking about fees.

    Yes everyone can be an indie developer/developer on Xbox One but that wasn’t the point you were making nor was it a point i fixated on.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. Dave Cook

    @23 I think you’ve missed the point massively. This means anyone, you or me or a budding coder can be an Xbox One developer. That is the game-changer.

    #28 2 years ago
  29. mornis

    Loaning does not implicitly mean it is easy to access them and that is indie friendly . Well actually on current gen you don’t own the hardware only the right to use it so no change on sony’s end .And if they loan a couple of console for marketing purposes now it does not mean is indie friendly .. they just need a point to start . After the console launch they will forget about the console loaning since is to expensive.

    #29 2 years ago
  30. wildBoar

    the relatively low-cost entry bar doesn’t seem to have done much for the 360 at least, quite the contrary. XBLA is still a hellhole of horrible broken games. Besides that you don’t see many worthwhile games being made on a 360.. The PS4 dev kits are more expensive and propably infinitely more professional in use, it’s for serious committed devs, indie games released on PSN also get a push and visibility, any golden egg in the xbla gets drowned in a sea of shitty games. There’s no regulation and that isn’t good either, Steam doesn’t allow anyone with a computer to clog up steam with their bad ideas either.

    Sony’s targeting serious indies, it’s not really the same as what MS is doing, and it shows in the quality.

    #30 2 years ago
  31. mornis

    @28 It didnt change .. anyone can and will be able to create games on xbox platform .

    You can register for Xbox LIVE Indie Games membership to submit and manage applications for Xbox 360. Registration also allows you to access developer tools, documentation, code samples, and the forums. Annual membership is $99 USD. For more information, see membership.

    #31 2 years ago
  32. illuminatusv

    @30: I think you don’t mean XBLA but maybe XBLIG (the Indie section). XBLA is for the Arcade Games and there I have not seen many broken games at all. XBLIG, yes you are right there are many broken games. You know the rules to get the games to XBLIG?It is a peer review system, so only minimal MS involved. It is/was very open, Developers review the games and can approve/reject the games. So please check your stuff in the future before posting.

    #32 2 years ago
  33. bitsnark


    Looks like Sony are charging $2,500 for PS4 dev kits, but nobody has had to pay it yet as they’ve been able to get a free, one year loan of the machine:

    Also, for general ref, the nifty Sony developer registration site:

    #33 2 years ago
  34. hitnrun

    “Never has the console looked more appealing.”

    Well, I guess that’s technically true.

    #34 2 years ago
  35. bitsnark

    @34 :D

    #35 2 years ago
  36. Dave Cook

    @34 Yep :D

    #36 2 years ago
  37. wildBoar

    @32 Yeah I meant XBLIG, my point still remains though, Sony is targeting more professional indies, and are helping them get spotted etc. It’s a higher entry bar but there’s also more support so far, and a more desireable marketplace to be featured in. I know about the peer to peer system, I was referring to regulation from the serviceholder.
    This new Xbox policy might be great, I was just pointing out that it’s a bit of an unfair comparison as the two are clearly targeting different tiers of devs. I highly doubt major indies or companies are using debugged X1s to develop games, their professional dev kits propably cost just as much. We’ll just have to see what MS has planned and see how it stacks up then.

    #37 2 years ago
  38. bitsnark

    Looks like MS are heading towards eliminating the indie resource limit (RAM etc.).

    So that’s a good step at least.

    #38 2 years ago
  39. Kuwabara

    Just a waste of time in my opinion. We already got big budget and indie games to choose from. Why would someone play a game made by a random with a very low budget. If you think you have a game that is worth being played, you should publish it as a legit indie title. Are people going to waste time sorting through all the home made games?..

    #39 2 years ago
  40. dexfx69

    Microsoft – the experts at backtracking poorly.

    #40 2 years ago

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