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Harrison on ID@Xbox: “All games are equal”

Tuesday, 20 August 2013 10:30 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Microsoft announced and detailed its ID@Xbox programme for indie Xbox One developers at gamescom this morning. Patrick Garratt speaks to Phil Harrison on self-publishing and much more.

ID@Xbox – Xbox One’s indie dev programme

ID@Xbox is the name of Xbox One’s indie developer initiative, announced this morning at gamescom in Germany.

Applications open today: anyone, be it a single coder or a studio of hundreds can sign up to publish their products without the need for a deal with a retail publisher, as was the case on Xbox 360.

Dev kits are free, and there are no charges for applications, certification or title updating.

Beginning this autumn, Microsoft will host ID@Xbox events in London, Seattle and San Francisco “for participants interested in the program to learn more about developing for Xbox One.”

The official ID@Xbox site.

The Xbox One ID@Xbox programme has been announced this morning at gamescom in Cologne, a format by which Microsoft is claiming everyone, eventually, which have the opportunity to become an independent developer on its next gen console.

Applications for dev kits (which, helpfully, are free) are open as of today as part of an initiative which apparently “enables qualified game developers to build, publish and make their games available digitally on Xbox One.”

Following a storm of criticism around E3 this year – during which Microsoft claim clean on some ostensibly disastrous choices regarding self-publishing on Xbox One and leading indies calling for senior heads to roll – it seems as though Redmond may have finally picked up the phone: anyone can apply for an ID@Xbox license; there are no fees for certification, patching or applications; the long-term goal is that any Xbox One will be usable as a dev kit; Kinect, Cloud, SmartGlass, GamerScore and every other Xbox One feature are available to all developers; discoverability is top of the agenda, with a suite of tools, such as Trending and Spotlight functions, potentially affording glory to any developer no matter its size; and, most importantly, developers will now be able to publish their own Xbox One titles without the need of a deal with a retail games publisher.

Sounds good? It does. Real world operation is different to bullet-points in a presentation, but it does appear that Microsoft is finally on the right indie track. I spoke to corporate VP Phil Harrison about the programme on the phone last week.

VG247: Firstly, how long has ID@Xbox actually been in development?

Phil Harrison: Fundamentally since the earliest architectural decisions on Xbox One, because we designed our platform, hardware, operating system, Cloud, Live services with this in mind. We wanted to enable our platform to be opened up to digital publishing in the truest sense, and really create a 21st Century digital platform.

To be blunt, this is a pretty big policy shift for the Xbox project. This is the first time – as far as I’m aware; correct me if I’m wrong – that independent developers have been allowed to self-publish on the Xbox platform. What’s caused this change in approach? Was it E3?

Well, I’m not sure that’s technically the case. We’ve enjoyed a strong heritage of what is typically called independent games and development and publishing over the life of the Xbox platform, going back ten years. Over 200 developers have launched over 400 games, representing over a billion dollars in sales. I think we’ve proven over our history a very strong commitment to this type of developer. But this programme definitely moves it forward, and definitely moves it forward in a very exciting way, based on the feedback that we got from the community and developers, what they were looking for in a platform. We’ve worked hard to level the playing field: all games are equal. We’ve built into the platform some very advanced discoverability functions which allow games to connect with gamers in the fastest way with the least friction. All of which, I think, is going to help developers build strong communities around their products. That’s what people wanted. That’s what they told us they wanted to do.

Was discoverability the main take-home from speaking to developers? Certainly when I speak to, for instance, iOS developers, it’s all they ever talk about. It’s a huge thing.

“All games are games. There will not be an indie channel. We have made it very clear that our store will treat games equally, irrespective of the size of the developer of the location of the developer.”

It is. I don’t think there’s anything else as frustrating for a developer than building a really magical experience and not being able to connect it to the widest audience. What we have done with our platform, with features like trending and recommendations and spotlight, allow those experiences to surface through the community, surface through what your friends are playing, to be able to surface through the games that we as curators and editors of the store think are magical. But then to also put a lot of power into the hands of the player, through game DVR and upload, which allows players to share and socialise the games they’re playing and for their friends and people outside to be able to see what they’re playing and say, ‘That looks cool. I want to play the game and have a very simple way of getting hold of the experience.’ All of those are great steps forward and we have more to come.

I want to be clear on this. The ID@Xbox games are going to be presented in the same way as the bigger titles from large publishers like EA and Ubisoft. They’re going to be in the same place. Is that correct?

All games are games.

Right. Will there be an indie channel?

There will not be an indie channel. We have made it very clear that our store will treat games equally, irrespective of the size of the developer of the location of the developer. Whether you are a one man band, one or just a few people building a game – Chris Hecker is the name that immediately springs to mind – all the way up to a company like Crytek with hundreds of employees and everybody inbetween, that’s the full scope of the programme. We don’t worry about the size of the developer. That should not be an impediment to success on the platform.

What do the likes of EA and Ubisoft think about that? Have you had a positive response from them?

I would hope that any move by our platform to create more opportunities to play, and to being more games onto the platform to make it more successful on a global basis, is going to be well received by the entire industry. And I think one of the side effects, or side benefits, of this programme is to create a new on-ramp to get into the industry, and that’s going to be super-beneficial for all companies, all publishers, whether they’re multi-billion dollar public companies or privately held. I think it’s a big challenge to our industry as to how to get new talent on-ramped into development and creation of content.

There are going to be events starting this autumn related to ID@Xbox. Obviously, for people looking to get into games development that’s going to be incredibly exciting. How are you planning on supporting those events and what sort of structure are they going to take?

More details to come, but I think that we’ll focus initially on companies that we’re targeting or have expressed interest in joining the programme. In this first phase, while we are making development kits available to developers, we do have a practical limit on how many companies we can support in this first phase. But eventually, our aspiration is that everybody can become a creator, and I would hope that the events will scale as the community scales.

Do you already have a line-up of ID@Xbox games? Do you know the first games that’ll be launching? When will we see them?

I don’t personally have that. I know that we have very strong interest from a number of companies and individuals that we spoke to through our research phase, but we make the programme officially available from August 20, and then we’ll leave it to the developers to make announcements on their products in due course.

“There’s definitely opportunities for creators to bring something that we would never have thought of, particularly in a country where we don’t have development studios. That would be really exciting. I can’t wait to see some of those innovations. I think it’s where some real beauty’s going to come from.”

Is the certification process exactly the same for ID@Xbox games as it is for games from larger publishers?

As far as I’m aware, yes. There’s no difference. I think we’re generally making efforts to streamline our certification process. As you’d expect, there are what I would describe as ‘industry standard content types’ that we will not permit on our platform, but there’s nothing that’s any different to any other platform that’s out there, certainly, in the commercial market. We want the broadest range of content types to come to the platform. It’s one the reasons why, very specifically, we haven’t called this a games programme: it’s an independent developers programme, specifically to encourage the broadest range of content types, not uniquely and specifically games.

What other types of content can we expect? Are you talking about productivity apps?

I think the developers will know their market and they’ll know the kind of people that’ll be buying an Xbox One, but I think there’s a lot of opportunity for applications that are clearly entertainment, but are not specifically about game or are not specifically gameplay. There’s definitely opportunities for creators to bring something that we would never have thought of, particularly in a country where we don’t have development studios. That would be really exciting. I can’t wait to see some of those innovations. I think it’s where some real beauty’s going to come from.

Will you cut different revenue deals for different games, or will everyone be exactly the same?

We don’t talk about our business model in the public domain in that way, but I will say that our model is industry standard. We do have the opportunity for us to co-market the games which we think are going to call out the features of our platform in the most compelling way. I definitely would imagine there are times when we work closely with developers to spotlight there games, and I think that’s great, helping connect the best games with gamers as efficiently as possible.

My instinct is to be excited about this. Is this a general feeling within Microsoft as well? Are you excited to be talking about it?

Yeah, it’s great. This is something that’s been planned all along. I think it’s our chance to create a new movement in the industry of developers who’re going to be building communities around their games and shortening the gap between content creator and consumer, and a lot of the architectural decisions about how we designed Xbox One were about making the machine and the platform as much suited for content creation as it was for content consumption.

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2 Comments

  1. DeyDoDoughDontDeyDough

    “This is something that’s been planned all along”

    And that… would be a lie then…

    *claps*

    #1 1 year ago
  2. Sini

    not even one ps3 to xbone move joke, disappointed.

    #2 1 year ago

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    To no one’s surprise, Exo Zombies mode in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has some Easter eggs. The first Exo Zombies Easter egg, of surely many more to come, has been discovered. It’s a musical one that involves Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. How you unlock it is not as convoluted as you might […]

  • Dying Light is sub-1080p on Xbox One, full 1080p on PS4 – report

    Early analysis of Dying Light on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One has revealed a few technical details about both ports. Digital Foundry has produced some analysis of both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ports of Dying Light based on some early testing. Both versions manage a solid 30 frames-per-second, only dipping below that in […]

  • Battlefield 4 Second Assault DLC free to all EA Access members

    EA is offering Battlefield 4′s Second Assault expansion free to anyone with an active EA Access subscription. Anyone with an active subscription to EA Access can download the Second Assault expansion pack for Battlefield 4 starting January 29 and through February 28, free of charge. All you need to do is find it on the […]

  • The Witcher 3 is getting optimised, but no visual downgrade

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is in the final stages of development and developer CD Projekt RED is making sure optimisation work doesn’t impact the game’s visuals. The Witcher 3 art producer, Michal Stec, spoke to Eternity in an interview and was asked whether the team will downgrade the visuals to get better performance. “No. […]

  • Can’t download Dying Light on PS4? Here’s a fix

    If you’ve bought Dying Light on PS4 and you’re having trouble downloading it, you’re not alone. Here’s how to beat the bug. Techland’s Dying Light is stumbling out of the blocks a little this week, with many PS4 users experiencing problems with their full-game downloads. A bug’s to blame. Your console thinks you’ve already installed […]

  • What The Witcher 3 owes to Skyrim – and how it surpasses it

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt owes more than a nod to Bethesda’s Skyrim. I went to see The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and had a great time. I went in a fan of the books but not very experienced with the first two games. I came out with The Witcher 3 top of my gaming […]

  • Dragon’s Dogma Online has great monsters

    Dragon’s Dogma Online looks pretty rad – an undesirable quality in a game unlikely to come west, from our perspective. The first Dragon’s Dogma trailer was released this afternoon; admire its beauty below. The free to play online RPG was announced for PC, PlayStation 3 and PS4 overnight, but Capcom doesn’t intend to bring it […]

  • Xenoblade Chronicles X map about five times the size of last game’s

    Xenoblade Chronicles X is not a small game. This week’s Famitsu has a feature on Xenoblade Chronicles X giving some details on Monolith Soft’s next RPG and first Wii U game. According to Siliconera‘s translation of reports on the feature, the game’s map is about five times the size of that in Xenoblade Chronicles. The […]

  • Take on Mars expected to hit beta in April

    Take on Mars, the space sim from Bohemia Interactive will soon be reader for wider consumption. According to a new Take on Mars development roadmap, the sim will go into beta at the start of April, with full release expected in June. The project is currently available via Steam early Access, but between now and […]

  • Can you guess the next Mortal Kombat X character reveal from this fatality audio clip?

    Mortal Kombat X will have at least one very liquid-sounding fatality. NetherRealm is revealing Mortal Kombat X’s cats one character at a time, and has promised a new reveal during a community Twitch stream tomorrow. It also provided the following teaser video – it’s audio only, and apparently taken from a fatality sequence. What’s your […]

  • Nintendo Creators Program now recruiting YouTubers – PewDiePie, others weigh-in

    Nintendo has opened a Creators Program designed to ensure creators get a slice of ad revenue from videos featuring Nintendo assets, and some prominent YouTubers aren’t pleased with the company. Update “What Nintendo are missing out on completely is the free exposure and publicity that they get from YouTube,” wrote Felix Kjellberg (PewDiePie) on his […]

  • Xbox Live issues under investigation

    Can’t sign into Xbox Live? Microsoft is on the case. Xbox 360 and Xbox One users report being unable to sign in to Xbox Live. Microsoft is already aware of and working on the problem. “Our team is hard at work right now trying to get this resolved. Thank you for staying patient while we […]

  • Make money from your non-Valve mods with Steam Workshop

    Valve has opened the money-making side of Steam Workshop to third-party titles, giving enterprising modders more ways to make money. Steam now hosts curated Workshops for Dungeon Defenders: Eternity and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, the first non-Valve games to support the scheme. What that means is that community members can create, vote on and eventually even […]

  • Check out DmC: Devil May Cry’s new manual lock-on

    DmC: Devil may Cry developer Ninja Theory has released a video showing off the new, controversial lock-on mode. The new manual lock-on is causing quite a stir, although its reception is probably better than the white-wigged Dante who makes fans even more upset than the original makeover. “The primary purpose of this video is to […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes looks pretty fun

    Dragon Quest Heroes is yet another Omega Force take on an existing property – like Hyrule Warriors or the One Piece games. And it looks pretty sweet. We haven’t heard much from Dragon Quest Heroes here in the west because it hasn’t been confirmed for release outside Japan. This isn’t terribly surprising as we still […]

  • Square Enix to reveal new PS4 game this weekend

    Square Enix is doing something pretty mysterious right now. The Final Fantasy publisher is teasing something called Project Code Z. The project, which Square Enix is tweeting about in Japanese, English and German, is due for reveal at Tokaigi 2015 on Saturday. It’s a PS4 game, but that’s all we know. There’s a website you […]

  • Tetris has crowned its first known western Grand Master

    Tetris fans have a new western champion. Tetris is one of those gaming obsessions that goes much deeper than you might expect. For example, did you know that some versions of the game assess your performance and over you the chance to become a “grand master”? Turns out that’s a thing, and according to Polygon […]

  • Ken Levine’s next game teased as “sci-fi-ish” small, open-world RPG

    A series of tweets from BioShock creator Ken Levine has shed a sliver of light upon his next project. According to Levine he and his team are considering something a bit sci-fi and contemplating first-person mode. The team is developing the game for PC with a large in scope, expandable, systems-based narrative where more can […]

  • Become a lynx in new Shelter 2 trailer

    Shelter 2 casts players in the role of a lynx, which makes for quite a different experience to the badger of the first game. The first Shelter game had you evading predators, but in the second, you becomes one yourself. That doesn’t mean there are no dangers to face, of course. Judging by the trailer […]

  • Why King of Fighters 13 isn’t coming back to Evo

    Evo, the premiere western fighting game tournament, has dropped support for a few previously favoured titles. King of Fighters 13 had a loyal following, but isn’t featured in the Evo 2015 line-up. “Many things go into what games makes it to Evo, but the most obvious one is, ‘Is the community playing this game?’” Evo […]

  • An average Evolve match takes less than ten minutes

    Evolve players are pretty quick at hunting each other down. Evolve developer Turtle Rock has released an infographic brimming with statistics garnered from its recent beta test. One of the key takeaways is that all three monsters, and all four classes, are working as intended – their performance in game matches Turtle Rock’s designs. If […]

  • Super Mario Amiibo can be pre-ordered on Nintendo UK, Mario and Peach sold out

    The latest set of Amiibo in the Super Mario series is now available for pre-purchase through the Nintendo UK Store. Each of the following sports a red base and will run you £10.99: Bowser, Luigi, Mario, Peach, Toad and Yoshi. It looks like Peach and Mario are both sold out, though. All six can be […]

  • The Music of League of Legends Vol. 1 free to download now

    League of Legends has excellent music, and now you can have it too. The Music of League of Legends Vol. 1 collects 15 tracks from the MOBA’s history, and is available for free. You can grab the music from iTunes, Google Play or via direct download. Tere’s an example track below to get you in […]

  • Super Bowl 49 update arrives on Madden NFL Mobile

    With Super Bowl 49 occurring this coming Sunday, February 1, EA Sports has updated Madden NFL Mobile with new feature enhancements and Super Bowl-themed Live Events. Updates include: League vs League Tournaments Obstacle Course Super Bowl Bonus Players Tom Brady and Richard Sherman Super Bowl Legends Super Bowl Moments Upgraded Auction House The Super Bowl […]

  • See Super Smash Bros.’ unused custom moves

    Super Smash Bros. was originally intended to have 16 custom moves per character. The final version of Super Smash Bros. only features 12 custom moves per fighter, but Nintendo left animations for some of the cut moves in place. A Youtuber called RED has dug these cut mvoes out of the brawler’s code, and displayed […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt contains 16 hours of sex scene mo-cap data

    Sex is nothing new to the The Witcher games, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is no exception. In fact, it contains 16 hours of sex scene motion capture data. Giggity. There’s a reason for the bedroom dalliances though, as Geralt is a flesh and blood human, or a modified human at any rate, with […]

  • Here’s the launch trailer for Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered

    A launch trailer for Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered has been released after an Amazon listing was revealed for it over the weekend. Key upgrades include: High-definition Graphics — All of the in-game textures have been meticulously recreated in HD for mobile and desktop. Widescreen Support – A true widescreen (not cropped) view strengthens the game’s […]

  • The open beta for Battlefield Hardline will be dated tomorrow

    The exact dates as well as more information on the Battlefield Hardline open beta will be shared tomorrow. This is according to the latest blog post from developer Visceral Games. “We’ll share the exact dates and info on the Battlefield Hardline open beta tomorrow,” wrote Visceral boss Steve Papoutsis. “Stay tuned, thanks again, and keep […]

  • Upcoming Hearthstone patch to apply balance change to Undertaker

    An upcoming Hearthstone patch will apply a balance change to the Undertaker card, Blizzard has announced. After the release of Goblins vs Gnomes, Blizzard said it kept an “eye on the state of game balance” as more matches were played using the additional cards. Released with The Curse of Naxxramas, Undertaker is considered an overly […]

  • February Games with Gold offers up Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

    The free games on offer in February via Xbox Live Games with Gold have been announced. Xbox Live Gold members on Xbox One can download #IDARB during February. Xbox 360 users can grab Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons from February 1-15, when it will be replaced by Sniper Elite V2 from February 16 -28. […]

  • Kinguin blames unidentified Russian for deactivated Far Cry 4 keys

    Third-party game key seller Kinguin is issuing refunds to those who found their games deactivated through Ubisoft’s Uplay service. Customers which purchased keys for Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Far Cry 4, The Crew and Watch Dogs are affected. Kinguin said 4,600 customer tickets were submitted over the last 72 hours and 35 out of 3,400 of […]

  • Video Unlimited to be re-branded as PlayStation Video starting in February

    Like Music Unlimited, Sony’s Video Unlimited service is being replaced and re-branded PlayStation Video. PlayStation Video will become part of PlayStation Network to streamline digital services for the over 64 million PSN users. PlayStation Video and PlayStation Music will be added to PSN which is already a destination point for the PlayStation Store, PlayStation Plus, […]

  • Spotify arrives on PlayStation Music this spring, Music Unlimited closing

    Spotify will launch on PlayStation Network this spring as part of a new music destination called PlayStation Music. PlayStation Music is a replacement for Music Unlimited, and those with a PSN account can link to Spotify which can be used just for music, or when playing games on PlayStation 4. Existing playlists from current Spotify […]

  • Closed beta for Alone in the Dark: Illumination starts tomorrow

    The private beta period for Alone in the Dark: Illumination starts on January 29. Those who pre-order the game via Steam, will automatically be included in the beta, enabling them to provide feedback on the first campaign in single-player mode. An additional beta period will be announced in the weeks leading up to launch. The […]

  • Majora’s Mask Special Edition New 3DS XL available once more on UK store

    UK residents who want to get their hands on the shiny Majora’s Mask Special Edition New 3DS XL can once again pre-purchase it through the Nintendo UK Store. If you want one, you better hurry because units will likely go rather fast. Only one per customer is allowed, and once you drop £209.99 on it, […]

  • Nintendo Q3: 1.9M New 3DS models sold, Wii U lifetime sales hit 9.2M

    New 3DS XL has sold 1.3 million units as of December 31, 2014, Nintendo announced in its Q3 financial results today. New 3DS moved 580,000 units by the end of the same period. Lifetime sales of both systems combined total a little under 1.9 million. Combined global sales for current 3DS models available in Europe […]