Xbox One self-publishing: there’s work to be done

Tuesday, 30 July 2013 11:56 GMT By Dave Cook

Xbox One will now allow self-publishing following another policy u-turn from Microsoft, but what do the developers think? VG247′s Dave Cook speaks with inXile, Hello Games, Vostok & Bossa to find out.

To say that Microsoft’s rolled-out reveal of all things Xbox One has been rocky so far is to put it kindly. First we saw immense scorn from all corners of the industry following the company’s heavy-handed DRM policies, which were then quickly revoked.

Then Microsoft came under pressure from the independent sector following confirmation that Sony will allow self-publishing on PS4. The development community became quite vocal on the matter, slamming the company for not giving a hoot about the small-to-mid-tier scene. Oddworld co-creator Lorne Lanning said some pretty heated things to us on the matter, and suggested the Xbox team be fired for such gross oversight.

But then Microsoft performed its second big about-face by confirming self-publishing on Xbox One. Sneers and cheers were uttered from both sides of the issue but as I said in my recent opinion blog on the subject, we still don’t know the small print of the decision. From where I’m sitting there’s still little to celebrate.

We still don’t know what caveats and clauses lurk below the sentiment, so I decided to ask a group of independent studios what they thought of Microsoft’s sentiment. Some of these teams operate in the consoles space, while others are PC developers. Given how PS4 is encouraging many PC teams to bring their games to Sony’s machine, I thought this was apt.

Here we go, and please note that these are simple transcripts without any headline-grabbing editing or paraphrasing. I wanted to give an accurate portrayal of what these studios think on the matter, so that’s all you’ll hear from me in this piece. Now then, over to the developers:

Brian Fargo: inXile Entertainment

(currently working on Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera)

“Microsoft has been locked into a retail mindset for some time and up until now you needed to be a boxed games publisher in order to be on XBLA. Every entertainment industry has moved over towards a more open model in which having a rich and diverse selection of content is a killer app in itself. Every indie deserves a shot at the same audience as the big guys.”

Sean Murray: Hello Games

(Currently working on Joe Danger and Project Skyscraper)

“We’ve been talking to Microsoft about this for a while. The things that have been leaked is that you could self-publish on 360, and use your machine as a dev-kit. I guess that’s what XBLIG already was on the current 360. Microsoft didn’t properly support that, and it became a kind of wasteland.
“So while this is totally a good move, it only works if Microsoft promote self-published games equally with their own and with those of EA/Ubisoft or whatever. I think that’s what Steam and iOS are doing really well. If they don’t learn that lesson and indie games are hidden away, then self-published games will again end up in a little cul-de-sac that people won’t know about or be able to discover the best games in.
“I really appreciate Microsoft listening to developers and making this happen, but giving access is only the start of making something that can help bring amazing games to their console.”

Henrique Olifiers: Bossa Studios

(Currently working on Surgeon Simulator 2013)

“Microsoft’s self-publishing announcements is good news indeed. Any steps towards removing barriers between game creators and their players will boost creativity and the availability of original content for us all. It certainly fuels our interest in the platform, I’m now curious about the details that are hopefully surfacing shortly.

“Unfortunately, this is not the core issue we should be talking about. The elephant in the room is discoverability, and it remains to be solved by both Sony and Microsoft. There’s no point in allowing indies getting their games on the platform if no one is going to find them.

“If the digital stores remain editorial, run by a team wielding the ultimate power over who gets exposure and who is forgotten, this will all be in vain because editors will never get it custom-tailored for each individual player as it should be like.

“Every time a digital store wastes ‘shelf space’ by offering me to buy a game I already own, I die a little bit inside. If this is a result of lack of vision or sheer laziness to check it against my library, I honestly don’t know.

“But I’m certain that in this day and age there’s no excuse: look up the games I play before suggesting me something new; pool what my friends are buying and playing as I’m likely to get into that too; peer into my achievements to find out what kinds of games I enjoy the most. And for all that’s sacred, please, don’t push me a DLC of a game I don’t have.

“All these scenarios are missed opportunities to allow us, gamers, to discover something special we will buy and enjoy based on our behaviour and play patterns. This is absolutely crucial to bring developers close to their players, giving big devs and indies alike a chance to successfully build their audiences based on quality, content and affinity with the fanbase — as opposed to be destined to obscurity because an editor somewhere never gave your title a chance in the limelight.”

Oleg Yavorsky & Ruslan Didenko: Vostok Games

(Currently working on Survarium)

Yavorsky: “I find it a pretty positive move, especially for a Ukrainian studio like ours who historically had it a real challenge to even start speaking with a console holder about bringing our game to the platform. I can see the tendency for new consoles potentially getting as open a development platform as PC, which is definitely great. Such moves make us consider releasing on next-gen consoles much more seriously.”

Didenko: “This is undoubtedly going to increase the number of projects available on Xbox One; it opens a possibility to take the risk to create innovative projects. At the same time it’s important to avoid the large wave of low-quality projects as that may be detrimental to the image of the console.”

Let us know what you make of the above in the comments box, and thanks to all developers who participated in our discussion.


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  1. MCTJim

    OMG what a bunch of whiners. We want to self publish but we want you to promote our game just like the big guys…then get a publisher and pay them to promote your game on xbox live…you wanna play you gotta pay. Such entitlement attitudes they have.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Lengendaryboss

    That doesn’t seem to be the attitude at Nintendo and Sony, so if MS can’t play along it then its fair to point it out.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. _LarZen_

    I think neither Sony or Microsoft are going to drop the ball on the Indie scene. Not after seeing how gamers react when Sony at E3 showed of Indie games on the press conference.

    And how developers and gamers are praising self publishing.

    So I think both Sony and Microsoft are going to make Indie games stand out on their systems. It’s the “new” big thing in the gaming world and it’s going to be even bigger in the years ahead.

    I have confidence in that XBO and PS4 is going to be great systems to play Indie games on.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Tech-N9ne

    I don’t get the point of this article, the self publish thing was leak then MS confirmed it, but they have not yet given any details. So why not wait till we get details, before we start writing such articles with assumption rather than facts.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @4 They’re commenting on what they’d like to see. No harm done.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. MCTJim

    @2 so they are entitled? pffftt to that….how much more do they want? Dev kits..check..self publish..check….free upgrades and patches..check…from this article..THIS article….they seem to think they are entitled to everything….for nothing. They already they would make it visible. How much more do they want? Self publish means just that self publish.

    as for Sony and you know their plan and how they run their infrastructure? No you dont…and neither do I.

    It really bothers me that these whiny babies think everything should be free or damn close and then demand they promote their game…PUBLISHERS do that. Far as I am concerned they can all get lost until their attitudes of entitlement are put in check.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. bitsnark

    ““Every time a digital store wastes ‘shelf space’ by offering me to buy a game I already own, I die a little bit inside. If this is a result of lack of vision or sheer laziness to check it against my library, I honestly don’t know.

    “But I’m certain that in this day and age there’s no excuse: look up the games I play before suggesting me something new; pool what my friends are buying and playing as I’m likely to get into that too; peer into my achievements to find out what kinds of games I enjoy the most. And for all that’s sacred, please, don’t push me a DLC of a game I don’t have.”

    Completely agree with this.

    Digital store fronts aren’t hemmed in by physical constraints, they should be much smarter and tailored to the individual consumer. If the Xbox Dashboard can tell me that I need a new Gold sub, than they sure as heck can suggest me games that I might like based on my history rather than showing me what I already own.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Tech-N9ne

    @5 I guess.

    I think the assumption that discovery will be an issue is a bit pre-mature, MS already allow self publishing on Window & Windows Phone 8 stores discovery and promotion of apps and games by everyone is pretty good. That’s the example we should be expecting on XB1 not the indie scene on the 360.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Kanok

    @4 Xbox One self-publishing detail that’s going to reveal at Gamecom 2013.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. tCruzin

    @tech n9ne, there is no real point to this article. This site has been riding the hate wave any chance they get.
    As you said, the info was leaked so there was really no “Second about face” but of course people jumped the gun and made it that.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Eregol

    @6 You think they’re asking for everything for free?
    They’ll have to pay for their dev kits. Sony are currently loaning them, so they’ll need to pay eventually. Using an XB1 as a dev kit? They said it could be done, but only if you engineer it to do so, essentially hacking your XB1. My guess is that if you have an XB1 and you want to develop then MS will charge you for the dev license and add that to your account.

    Once the game is on the store, both MS and Sony will take a cut of whatever sales the game(s) make. So, it’s in the interests of the devs and MS/Sony to make sure that the games get the advertising they deserve, as more sales = more moola for both sides.

    Not sure how logical business sense here is eluding you.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Dave Cook

    @10 “Hate wave?” I like my Xbox 360, I play it more than my PS3. A lot more, yet I like both formats.

    Who’s hating what now? I’m confused.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Kalain

    What I would like to know is how much it is to Self-publish on both consoles?

    Is there an initial outlay of money and a cost per update/publish you can do? Interesting to see those numbers.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Lengendaryboss

    We are talking about promoting indie games which is something i see Nintendo and Sony do this has nothing to with infrastructure

    I was talking about them promoting indie titles and having good relations with them, now please point out where i mentioned:

    “as for Sony and you know their plan and how they run their infrastructure? No you dont…and neither do I.”

    As for your last paragraph: that can be applied to any situation: Why does Microsoft and Sony promote various multiplatform titles (Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite, Assassin’s Creed 3 etc etc) even though they are not the publishers? Why does Sony and Nintendo promote various indie and AAA games on the store even though they are not publishers? Why does Microsoft do the same? Thats because its about maintaining good relationships with those publishers and small developers.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. DrDamn

    It’s not about promotion, it’s about visibility and discovery. For example Sony will help market self published titles on the PS Blog. Sony have also restructured the PSN Store to make Indie titles more visible, not to mention the prominence Sony have given indie titles at shows and through PS+.

    The point is that Indie titles are important and rather than sitting back and arrogantly waiting for them to come to you the platform holders need to go out and show why Indies should come to them. They have a lot of choice about where they make their titles available now, and if your platform isn’t attractive then they will go elsewhere. Consoles need indie games, indie developers don’t need consoles.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Kreion

    Consoles don’t NEED indie games. I’ve seen this thrown around a lot and it’s not exactly a fact. The one that has them will obviously be more popular because it has more games, but I’m willing to argue that if both Sony and Microsoft had gone against indies then they’d simple stay on the PC. Indies can be influential, but you need to take into account that most of them are not, at least when compared to massive publishers.

    Indies should be roving their merit by presenting the big companies with their work and going “there, look what we can do!” then they can become discoverable. Just because a game is made by an indie development house it doesn’t mean shit, all it means is that it hasn’t been backed by a publisher. There’s as many generic and crappy indie games as there are AAA games, if they want to be played then they should make themselves stand out. ideally by not making another side-scrolling-retro-pixel-platformer

    One more point to add to my rant, wth is this shit about the IOS making indies discoverable. It’s one of the biggest damn wastelands of crap games out there (MS indie section aside, that also has a lot of shit). At least Sony are paying attention to what they do, IOS just stick whatever up -.-

    *sigh* well regardless, all I require from a MS indie section is that they kick of broken and rubbish games and have some sort of rating. Though you might have to remove that last part, I was going to say good things would float to the top that way but I somehow doubt it.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. DreadSabot

    Henrique Olifiers: Bossa Studios – had a great comment and a great point. It is not just enough to allow self publishing, there needs to be an engine in place to allow these games to be advertised to the people that are most likely to buy them. Whichever company figures that code out to handle this properly and mind you they all have enough metadata based on your library and the amount of time you spend in each game to do this – would be the leader in the Indie scene for years to come.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Irani

    Excellent , Thanks Microsoft , You Will Victory /// Shame To Trickster Sony ///

    #18 2 years ago
  19. DrDamn

    “all it means is that it hasn’t been backed by a publisher”

    Isn’t backed by a publisher, not hasn’t. Hasn’t implies tried and failed whereas isn’t is a choice made by the developer.

    “it’s not exactly a fact.”

    Of course not, it’s an opinion. Publishers are becoming more and more risk averse and the AAA model which worked in the past isn’t going to continue to work. For the industry to move forward it needs to evolve and part of that is through supportive self publishing schemes which encourage innovation and risk taking.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. FuntimeBen

    With all these 180′s I’m dizzy trying to remember what the hell the Xbox One is bringing to the table this holiday season. If Microsoft is being real and not just making lip service, this is exciting news. I pre-ordered a PS4 partly because of their stance on indies – Its cool to hear that microsoft is following suit.

    I will say I don’t completely believe the hype. Microsoft has a way of making their policies suit their needs rather than those of the business partners or users. If they can show a little heart – I’m excited to see what Microsoft brings to market.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Eregol

    #21 2 years ago
  22. MCTJim

    @14 its simple..yes they need infrastructure which includes policy. No matter how much MS gives these self righteous indies, they want more for free…they can all get lost with this entitlement attitude.

    MS gets paid to promote..indies want self publish..thats what self publish means. MS also said they a system to be in we know what it like Sony and Nintendo..we dont know the policy..its all vague from them all.

    When I read stuff about how THEY feel they should be on the same ground as AAA titles..all I do is laugh..the whole point of self publish is self publish and self promote.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. bradk825

    One of the quotes seems to suggest the guy wants all games promoted equally on XBL, equal to the AAA titles. I can see the desire, but I also see a big challenge with that. Have you seen the XBLIG section? There’s a shit-tonne of games on there, and must of them are definately not the next big thing. Why should they all get the same attention?

    Most of those games are either poorly made side-scollers, or one of several digging games with bad graphics trying to rip off the success of Minecraft. It reminds me of indie movies that come out shortly after a good movie. “2012″ comes out, and then “Oh shit the weather is bad” comes out two months later, made with a budget of $200, has the some storyline but with shitty acting and the special effects are a shaky camera, a hose and a big piece of sheet metal.

    Should Wal-Mart give equal shelf space and signage to “Ohe shit the weather is bad” that they gave “2012?” Nobody would agree that’s the case, no matter what feel-good “connect viewers to their audience” things they say. So on that topic, should Minecraft and Minebuilder/digger/maker/explorer all get the same treatment? Of course not.

    That being said, when an indie game hits XBLIG and it’s fantastic, original, fun, well-made, should it be promoted on the dashboard? Sure thing. I don’t have a problem with that at all, and if it looks good enough I’ll buy it, but I don’t think every Tom, Dick and Harry should get equal treatment handed to them. Make a great game and earn your place, don’t expect it to be given to you. And please quit whining about not wanting to pay a publisher, and then whining that you want advertisement.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. Lengendaryboss

    Ok what you said has absolutely no relevance to what i said and also there are a lot of flaws in your paragraphs.

    Just going to leave this here:

    What i was originally talking about.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. MCTJim

    entire article is about SELF publish and indie devs weighing in….whining they want everything for free..which they are being given…which in turn should be SELF promoted..want promotion then pay a publisher…no? then quit whining.

    nice try on your “spinster” tactics though…Self Promotion/self here:

    #25 2 years ago
  26. DrDamn

    “Have you seen the XBLIG section?”

    No I couldn’t find it … /boomtish!

    ^ Is the point

    #26 2 years ago
  27. Lengendaryboss

    What the article is about and what i’m actually saying are two different things.

    This is what i said: “now please point out where i mentioned:”
    Your words: “as for Sony and you know their plan and how they run their infrastructure? No you dont…and neither do I.” Because if you can’t do that i not spinning anything, i’m asking for proof by your exact words where i mentioned “infrastructure”.
    1. A woman who has remained single beyond the conventional age for marrying.
    2. A single woman.
    3. A person whose occupation is spinning.
    None of it technically applies to me nor does it apply to me in anyway.
    Still doesn’t apply to me but this is what you think you’re looking for: i never twisted anything is it not what you said at 6? Twisting is like this:

    “Rebecca: “I’m not that fond Jessie”. Miley tells Jessie the next day: “Um, Jessie, Rebecca says she doesn’t like you cause your ugly.”

    #27 2 years ago
  28. MCTJim

    @28..What the article is about and what i’m actually saying are two different things…

    I cant read your mind..I was left out of that conversation in your head.

    its implied here as I see it:
    That doesn’t seem to be the attitude at Nintendo and Sony…

    and spinster has another meaning….and I am too lazy to keep having a link war in this thread.

    So if you wish to continue, by all means knock yourself out, I am going out to lunch.

    #28 2 years ago
  29. Lengendaryboss

    Your point was centred on promoting and i responded, sure it was vague. But at @14 and 24 its clear i’m talking promotion anything after @14 its fixating on something off topic to my point.

    #29 2 years ago
  30. Eregol

    MCTJim: Where are you getting this crap from that they want everything for free?
    They don’t want to be promoted over and above their station, they just want their games to have some sort of exposure, Steam and PS3 are managing this pretty well, so why not in the next gen too?

    Indies want to self publish, as signing up to a publisher could mean losing control of their ip, which they definitely do not want. As soon as you sign up to a publisher you are no longer an indie. Kind of defeats the purpose really

    #30 2 years ago
  31. MCTJim

    @30 well everything that MS has given them for nothing..want free patching…done…want to be able to self publish…done..we want you to promote our game the same as a AA or AAA title…are you kidding me…SOME devs think it should be more and more and they want exposure for this and that just like a AA or AAA title. All this is going to accomplish is a bucket load of crap on the marketplace…yes crapware.. most indie titles are rip offs and duplicates….you want some promotion..they are giving that but its the entitlement attitudes of SOME dev’s that rub me the wrong way….it seems like its never enough…you want them to put you in the spotlight, its called get a publisher..but but we dont want to lose our IP or pay any fees to promote our IP…bunch of whiney crapware making babies.

    end rant

    #31 2 years ago
  32. Gigabomber

    people keep forgetting that MS brought indie games to consoles and there is no indie section on PSN, there’s less than 100 titles that could even be considered indie. Sony did a good zig by avoiding the press this time around, MS has tired themselves out.

    #32 2 years ago
  33. Phoenixblight


    “people keep forgetting that MS brought indie games to consoles and there is no indie section on PSN”

    That may be so. Only they just set up a section forgot about it and now for the Xbox One they are getting rid of that section along with closing down XNA. PSN has done more help with indies with PS Plus which helped the developers get brand recognition something MS didn’t do at all. There is plenty of articles talking about MS and their XBLIG and horrendous market.

    #33 2 years ago
  34. AwesomeGus

    @5 I’m sorry but i have to disagree that there is harm done. This is a popular website and a lot of people view these articles. By writing articles full of assumptions it gives a negative view of microsoft where they have supprised us with policy turn arounds allready. They are doing everything they can to try and make the perfect console for everyone which apparantly is very hard with lots of people bitching and whining about the little things when it does exactly what we want, and that is play video games.

    #34 2 years ago
  35. Eregol

    Re. free patches: You know that not only indies were crying out for this right? Konami refused to patch Silent Hill and Z.O.E collections because of the cost involved.
    You do realise that self publishing will only be in the loosest sense? They no longer have to be tied to a publisher, a good deal for the indie, but the game will still have to go through a vetting process before it’s allowed on the system, probably no dissimilar to how Steam avoids getting 101 terrible products on it’s service.
    There’s no way that just because they’re allowing self publishing that it will lead to a deluge of crapware, just more sorting of the wheat from the chaff.
    All they’re really asking for is for their games to be easily discoverable, a click or 2 away from any store front. It’s not a lot to ask and is easily do-able. These people make some great games, and making them easily available to the consumer benefits the indie div, the console maker and the consumer.

    #35 2 years ago
  36. bradk825

    @36 I kind of steered clear of the argument between you guys but just want to point out one thing. You state “All they’re really asking for is for their games to be easily discoverable, a click or 2 away from any store front. It’s not a lot to ask and is easily do-able.”

    But the article states: So while this is totally a good move, it only works if Microsoft promote self-published games equally with their own and with those of EA/Ubisoft or whatever.

    At least that dev is expecting free promotion, not just being a click or 2 away from the dashboard.

    #36 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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