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Xbox Live and PSN: the digital disparity between the tortoise and the hare

Tuesday, 17 December 2013 08:21 GMT By Stace Harman

Stace Harman examines the strengths and pitfalls of Microsoft’s ID@Xbox scheme on Xbox One and the free-wheeling but potentially lackadaisical approach Sony’s PS4 digital strategy.

”It seems bizarre that Microsoft should wait until three months before Xbox One’s worldwide launch to announce such a programme and open it up to developers. While some developers were no doubt included in the consultations process, it opens Microsoft up to the wider criticism that it’s simply reacting to Sony’s own initiatives.”

The announcement of the ID@Xbox programme at Gamescom this year constituted a strong statement of intent from Microsoft. On paper, the scheme has a number of very positive perks: along with the licence to self-publish on Xbox One come a number of free development kits and zero fees for the certification process or for the deployment of applications and updates.

Developers can now publish without the requirement of a pre-existing retail deal and while established teams will be most readily brought on board, ultimately anyone can apply and accepted on to the scheme.

What’s more, the toolset that’s made available to a behemoth digital team at Ubisoft will be the same that’s on offer to a two-person team in Uzbekistan. Trending, recommendations and Spotlight options are available to help aid discoverability through the community, while Kinect, Smartglass and Cloud functionality can be incorporated into any project. To top it all off, developers with an existing Unity licence will be given the Xbox One deployment add-on for free.

This embarrassment of riches highlights why ID@Xbox constitutes genuine progress on Microsoft’s part. In theory, the scheme will be a boon for the platform holder, for development teams of all sizes and for gamers, who can expect to see the breadth and depth of Xbox Live’s digital offering increase exponentially.

But not yet. And that’s the rub, because the output of the scheme will not start to materialise until 2014 and beyond, which begs the question: why wasn’t this all put in place sooner?

When VG247’s own Patrick Garratt spoke with Microsoft’s Phil Harrison shortly after the announcement of ID@Xbox, the corporate VP said that the scheme had been a part of the firm’s plans “…since the earliest architectural decisions on Xbox One, because we designed our platform, hardware, operating system, Cloud, Live services with this in mind”.

This sentiment was later echoed by digital portfolio director Chris Charla, when he refuted the notion that ID@Xbox was conceived in response to Sony’s high-profile drive to court indies, “We’ve been planning this for a long time”, Charla said back in September.

That being the case, it seems bizarre that Microsoft should wait until three months before Xbox One’s worldwide launch to announce such a programme and open it up to developers. While some developers were no doubt included in the consultations process, it opens Microsoft up to the wider criticism that it’s simply reacting to Sony’s own initiatives; a storm that the Redmond giant’s global PR teams have been weathering throughout much of this year.

It also suggests that independent publishing is low down on the list of priorities, which in turn could be interpreted as Microsoft being reluctant to give up its role as omnipotent gatekeeper of Xbox Live.

This is indicative of the biggest problem with Microsoft’s approach as of right now because it has propagated the perception that while it has been busy getting its house in order, putting teams in place to facilitate this positive programme and publicising its far-reaching plans for ID@Xbox, Sony has been busy getting things done.

Now, just a few short weeks after two strong console launches, the disparity between the breadth of offerings available for PS4 on PSN and those available on XBL for Xbox One is already quite striking. As Compulsion Games founder Guillaume Provost commented to Dave Cook a couple of weeks ago when discussing the release of PS Plus offering, Contrast, “I think there was a realisation at Sony that if they wanted to capture independent developers they needed to break down the perceived barriers of entry.”

Provost went on to say, “Being a small team we try to do one thing at a time. It’s just the reality that Sony was more proactive in wanting to get us on their platform for launch, and that’s mostly the reason we went for the PS4”

So, Sony’s concerted efforts to be more developer-friendly seem to have paid off, in the short term at least. However, there’s something else here that Provost alludes to and that is highlighted by the release of Contrast on PC, PS4, PS3 and Xbox 360, but not Xbox One.

Several developers have been very vocal about a particular clause in the ID@Xbox contract that states that where no specific exclusivity deal exists with another platform holder, Microsoft requires launch day parity. Basically, to be allowed to develop your title as part of the scheme, you have to have the Xbox One version ready to go at the same time as the others.

For me, this is a curious barrier to entry and while on the surface it may sound like a broadly reasonable stipulation, there are several problems with it. Not least of these are to do with Microsoft’s past publishing policies and the eleventh hour nature of the ID@Xbox announcement, which means indies might have been more likely to start work on other versions of their games under the assumption that the rules for publishing on Xbox One would be the same as for 360.

The first that many of them would have heard contrary to this would have been in August, by which time they would have had a console project that’s part way through development. Then they’re faced with the choice of delaying their project to start work on an Xbox One version or forge ahead and forego that version entirely.

There is a caveat that states that those that have a timed exclusivity deal in place on another platform will be addressed on a “case-by-case basis” by Chris Charla and his team but, perversely, this means that if you haven’t formally tied yourself to another platform then you’re going to find it harder to bring your game to this one.

As Sanatana Mishra of Aussie developer Witch Beam recently summed-up, “Overall I think the ID program is very developer friendly and light years ahead of what Microsoft were doing even six months ago. But it’s also coming in late with a clause that punishes those who have been developing on other platforms that were readily available for the past year, and that’s something they need to fix before it’s a viable option.”

While many developers have spoken out in support of the strides that Microsoft has taken to make their lives easier, it seems that there are more dissenting voices heard in response to Microsoft’s policies in this area than there to Sony’s. Indeed, Ridiculous Fishing developer Vlambeer noted in the comments thread of this news article that Sony has no such equivalent of the launch day parity clause.

Microsoft finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s clearly working hard to improve the viability of getting more content on to XBL, with 32 developers recently signed-up to ID@Xbox during the first round of approvals and yet many of its problems appear to be of its own making. Until the dust settles on the finer points of its ID@Xbox scheme and we start to see the results next year we’re left assessing Microsoft’s intentions and wondering aloud at its direction, rather than evaluating the fruits of its labour.

On a brighter note, Microsoft’s work now should pay dividends in the future. The ID@Xbox scheme is a fundamentally strong and positive programme that has the capacity to be a more transparent and streamlined process than Sony’s seemingly ad hoc approach. As interest in publishing on both platforms grows, Sony is going to need a robust system in place in order to efficiently handle the influx of requests and it’s unlikely that it will be able to continue to go out and court developers solely on a one-to-one basis.

ID@Xbox has all the makings of strong long term plan, then, it’s just one that has begun slowly and has been somewhat left in the dust of Sony’s speedy start, but that’s very much the here and now of it. This generation is just beginning and Microsoft has a very long time in which to capitalise on the solid groundwork that it is laying and to turn a slow and steady start into longer term success.

There’s room for each platform’s digital offerings to flourish and no reason why both shouldn’t emerge winners but in an industry obsessed with competition, metrics and who won what, Sony would be wise to heed the tale of the tortoise and the hare.

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12 Comments

  1. dsr

    Please look up info about “release parity” on MS platforms and why indies are running away from it.
    Then look at your sad article again.
    You are welcome.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. melonbuster1

    What ton of indie games on the ps4.. that is just over hype again with them.. Nothing amazing is there.. Nothing not on other systems. . It’s a joke really. We all know xbox1 will have a better ecosystem for the indie development .. sony ps4 will be a ps3 clone

    #2 1 year ago
  3. Lv01

    @2 not a ton..?
    what about:
    Contrast,
    DCUO,
    Warframe,
    War Thunder,
    Blacklight Retribution,
    Super Motherload,
    Tiny Brains,
    Trine 2,
    flOw,
    Flower,
    Doki Doki Universe…

    i admit that a lot of those are available on other systems (although mainly only PC), but to say that there arent a ton of indie games… wrong.

    o, and i forgot one. one that isnt on any other system, and wipes the floor with your, ‘nothing amazing is there’ comment.

    resogun.

    case closed.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. Major Mayhem 70

    She makes a valid point. I guess some of y’all never read the tale of the tortoise and the hare.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. melonbuster1

    Crimson dragon. .
    killer instinct
    power golf
    peggle 2
    loco cycle
    those games are only on xbox1. . Ps4 has that defender wanna be. . That I got for the system is good but there isn’t this great exclusive indie world on the ps4..but it is on the xbox1

    #5 1 year ago
  6. Dirk

    @5

    You need to check what indie actually means. Peggle 2 is an EA game, that’s not indie. I’m pretty sure Killer Instinct isn’t an indie game either.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. Clupula

    @6 – he’s just a giant fanboy. Probably didn’t even read the article, but had to come here to defend his precious Microsoft.

    Although…DCU is not an indie game either.

    But you’re totally right on the rest of the list and his list is just nonsense, that shows he has no idea what the definition of indie is. Killer Instinct?!? How exactly is that indie? Even Crimson Dragon. There’s nothing indie about it.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. Clupula

    As for the article, it’s not bizarre at all. This is Microsoft simply reacting to the response to Sony’s backing of indie gaming. The fact that they’d put the console parity clause in their contract shows that they’re still sticking to the same old shit as always. They’re just putting on a friendlier mask while doing it.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. Ilovesony

    all you sockbox one fanboys out there… your just as dumb as microsoft wants you to be…. Killer instinct is not a indie game… it was developed by rare and they sold the license to microsoft… you guys will always defend your sockbox ones… even when you know you have an inferior system.. because “Thats how Xbox people are” – Stan Marsh

    #9 1 year ago
  10. game_on

    @9
    Spoken like a true fanboy…

    #10 1 year ago
  11. antraxsuicide

    The only reason either of these companies is doing anything with indies is because it’s cheap (edit: and trendy). Sony doesn’t have to money to do anything else, and MS doesn’t wanna look like they don’t have that support (since buying indie support takes like $500).

    #11 1 year ago
  12. andreaaragon77

    you make 76 bucks per hour that great going girl good for you! My story is that I quit working at Shoprite to work online, seriously I couldn’t be happier I work when I want and where I want. And with a little effort I easily bring in $35h and sometimes even as much as 85 euro/hr… heres a good example of what i’m doing, http://goo.gl/j869zd

    #12 1 year ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Sony is hosting another Flash Sale on the North American store with plenty of action games, and some films, to help get your weekend started. The list is super long, so here’s a few highlights: Army of TWO The Devil’s Cartel Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Bayonetta Beyond Good & Evil HD Castlevania: Harmony of Despair […]

  • A new expansion for Postal 2 called Paradise Lost was released today

    It appears Postal 2 has a new add-on available. No, it’s not for the 2003 version, but the Complete Edition which was greenlit on Steam 10 years later. Called Paradise Lost, the add-on stars the Dude and contains a new single-player story campaign and new areas featuring free-roam gameplay. The original voice actor for the […]

  • GTA 5 patch 1.01 is now available for PC, fixes launcher and framerate issues

    Rockstar has released patch 1.01 for the PC version of GTA 5 and along with a fix to the character’s facial features changing when transferring to PC, the launcher will no longer drain your CPU and crash. Here are the full patch notes: Fixed an issue where the GTAV Launcher would use an abnormally high […]

  • Ultra Street Fighter 4 will arrive on the PS Store for PS4 in May

    Ultra Street Fighter 4 will be released on PlayStation 4 in May, Capcom has announced. All characters, levels and previous DLC will be included in the PS4 version, including a fix to input lag found in the PS3 version’s controls. The fighting game will be released digitally on the PS Store May 26 for $24.99 […]

  • Upcoming Dark Souls 2 patch to fix weapon degradation glitch

    Weapon degradation wan’t an intentional feature in Dark Souls 2, and now that it has carried over into Scholar of the First Sin, the glitch will be patched out in an upcoming update. The glitch also affected the framerate of Dark Souls 2 on PC, and on all platforms with Scholar of the First Sin. […]

  • Star Wars: Battlefront is now available for pre-order on Origin, Amazon, others

    Star Wars: Battlefront is now available for pre-order through EA’s Origin service as well as Amazon and GameStop. Star Wars: Battlefront pre-orders, as previously reported, will include early access to the free Battle of Jakku DLC. The planet is included in the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and finds the New Republic coming […]

  • Star Wars: Battlefront – watch the lovely reveal trailer here

    The first trailer for Star Wars: Battlefront was released today after much anticipation. Watch the lovely game reveal below, all captured on PlayStation 4. The trailer was revealed during an EA panel today at the Star Wars Celebration, and featured Lucasfilm concept artist Doug Chiang, the game’s senior producer Sigurlina Ingvarsdottir, and other members of […]

  • Star Wars: Battlefront has 40-player battles, play as Darth Vader and Boba Fett

    Star Wars: Battlefront will take place during the original film trilogy’s timeline, according to a report from the Associated Press. It appears the information was posted ahead of time, (via Kotaku) as the report is written in past tense. According to the report, players will take part in “frenzied shoot-outs between up to 40 players” […]

  • Microsoft confirms departure of Xbox Europe VP Phil Harrison

    Microsoft has confirmed the departure of Phil Harrison, its corporate VP of Xbox in Europe. According to a statement, Harrison left to pursue interests outside of the company, Xbox boss Phil Spencer told GI.biz. “Following a successful tenure as Corporate Vice President in Xbox in Europe, Phil Harrison has chosen to pursue business interests outside […]

  • Battlefield Hardline Rent-a-Server option coming to both last and current-gen consoles

    Battlefield Hardline players will be able to take part in the Rent-a-Server program, similar to the one in Battlefield 4, when the first patch for the shooter is released. Rental servers will come to both last and current-gen consoles, and CPU issues will be addressed in the patch as well, which PC players will be […]

  • Chip’s Challenge and unreleased sequel Chip’s Challenge 2 arrive on Steam next month

    Chip’s Challenge, the 1989 top-down tile-based puzzler created by Chuck Sommerville, is heading to Steam along with the unreleased sequel Chip’s Challenge 2. After the release of the first game, Sommerville spent two years developing the sequel, only to find the trademark had been sold. The trademark’s new owners wanted him to fund the publishing, […]

  • Pillars of Eternity patch betas hitting Steam, update 1.05 to drop in May

    Patch 1.04 for Pillars of Eternity dropped yesterday, and according to Obsidian Entertainment, players can expect the next round of fixes to arrive in May. According to a post on the Kickstarter page, patch 1.04 contained quite a bit of fixes, and going forward, the team plans to continue squishing bugs, adding additional polish and […]

  • Goat Simulator comes to Xbox platforms

    Goat Simulator continues its plan to dominate all platforms under the sun by releasing on Xbox consoles. Goat Simulator has been released on Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The store page for the Xbox One version is now live, but the 360 one is lagging behind. Don’t know what this game is or what it’s […]

  • Alienation: first co-op footage revealed

    We have our first look at gameplay footage from Housemarque’s Alienation. Housemarque has finally given us a look at their upcoming shooter project, Alienation. The twin-stick shooter will feature co-op and the new video shows it in action. It’s a short one but still manages to demo several environments. The game was shown off at […]

  • ReShade SweetFX supports GTA 5, user-made presets begin popping up

    GTA 5 modders started making presets for ReShade SweetFX as soon as they realised the tool supports it. To the modding community’s delightful surprise, shader-altering tool ReShade SweetFX was discovered to support GTA 5. What this means is that anyone can download the tool, mess around with the post-processing options, and inject them into GTA […]

  • Project Cars goes gold, full track list revealed

    Project Cars has finally gone gold. Project Cars developer Slightly Mad has announced that the racer has reached gold master milestone. “We know the wait for the game to be released was worth it, as we’re confident the quality and realism level we have achieved will provide our fans with the game they are all […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes has a stupid subtitle in the West

    The Western release of Dragon Quest Heroes has been given the most absurd subtitle. Square Enix announced a while back that Dragon Quest Heroes will come to North America and Europe this year. Unlike in Japan, it will launch only on PlayStation 4. Earlier today, the Japanese publisher revealed what the game’s logo will look […]

  • Minecraft vulnerability allows users to crash servers remotely [UPDATE]

    A security flaw discovered in Minecraft’s code that could give perpetrators the ability to crash servers remotely has been fixed via a patch by Mojang. Update: Mojang has released an update to Minecraft patch 1.8, listed as version 1.8.4, and it is available now. It fixes reported security issues, in addition to some other minor […]

  • Official Bloodborne merchandise now available, including a limited edition statue

    The PlayStation gear store has added a new section dedicated to Bloodborne merchandise. The first set of items is as good as you’d expect. If you’re a fan of Bloodborne and want to make sure everyone around you knows it, you’ll be happy to know that Sony has added a few pieces of Bloodborne-branded gear […]

  • Destiny Xur update: should you buy The Last Word?

    Xur is selling one of Destiny’s top hand cannons today: The Last Word. Is it worth grinding the coins for? The answer is a resounding YES. The Last Word is one of Destiny’s best Exotics, and one of the best Hand Cannons in the game. Our Destiny expert Alex notes that it’s one of the […]

  • Destiny: Xur location and inventory for April 17, 18 – The Last Word edition

    What did our good buddy Xur bring for us this week? Xur: Agent of the Nine, Destiny’s weekend vendor is back with more Exotic offers. Xur is your guy if you’re after Exotic weapons or armour, provided you have the Strange Coins for them. Head over to the lounge in the Tower Hangar, you’ll find […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt discounted for Gold members, pre-load now live

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt files are now live on the Xbox Store. Xbox One owners with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt pre-orders can start downloading the full game to be ready for launch. The file size was confirmed earlier to be just over 25GB. Those who have yet to pre-order can do so at […]

  • GTA 5 files accessed by modders, reveal horses, zombies, more

    Modders have managed to pry GTA 5′s file lock open and expose many of its interesting innards. GTA community modders have gained access to several of GTA 5′s archives on PC. These files were previously believed to be inaccessible. Popular modding tool OpenIV, which was used in editing files in GTA 4 (hence the name), […]

  • Bethesda’s E3 invite features Dishonored, Doom, Wolfenstein… but no Fallout

    Bethesda is going first at E3 this year with a showcase of games on Sunday night. What clues can we see in the press invite? Skyrim publisher Bethesda has sent out confirmation of its E3 showcase, taking place Sunday June 14. The invite includes a number of Bethesda game characters including Wolfenstein’s BJ Blazcowicz, a […]

  • Here’s Crytek’s VR demo, because dinosaurs

    Dinosaurs! This is precisely what virtual reality is for. VR demos are all over the place and CryEngine developer Crytek has produced one of its own, showing off how the engine is flexible enough t- Look, let me level with you: I don’t care. I only care about dinosaurs. Hush now and watch the dinosaurs. […]

  • StreetPass update adds birthday collecting, VIP Miis and more

    StreetPass collecters should take advantage of an optional update. It’s International StreetPass Week, so now’s the time to break out the 3DS and go hunting. Don’t leave your home network without first checking out a new optional update, though. Kotaku reports the update prompt is available from the leftmost icon in your StreetPass Mii Plaza. […]

  • Massive Uplay sale offers cheap games in time for the weekend

    PC gamers can grab a sweet saving or two in Uplay’s Spring Sale. Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Far Cry 4, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Alien: Isolation are all on sale as part of Uplay’s Spring Sale, among many other titles. The sale offers discounts of up to 85% off digital […]

  • Fix for GTA 5 PC Windows install bug releasing today

    Rockstar is set to release a patch today that will fix a bug preventing players from installing the game. The bug is tied to Windows usernames that use certain characters not supported by Rockstar. There’s already a workaround available on the Rockstar Support site, but those waiting for an official update will be able to […]

  • Prey 2 dev’s new mobile horror Lost Within out now on iOS and Fire

    Remember Lost Within, that mobile survival horror erstwhile Prey 2 developer Human Head Studios was making with Amazon Game Studios? It’s now available on iOS and for Amazon’s Fire devices, through the appropriate App Stores. There’s a little bit of extra info on it on the AGS blog, if you’re keen; unfortunately the blog doesn’t […]

  • Let’s take a look at Blood Bowl 2′s Chaos faction

    Blood Bowl 2: The Chaos Theory is only the latest in a much loved series of games based on a game based on two other games. Blood Bowl is a popular Games Workshop tabletop game which blends the fantasy universe of Warhammer with a fantasy sport drawing inspiration from American football and related games. It’s […]

  • “Second-person” shooter Screencheat coming to PS4 and Xbox One

    Goldeneye players should be familiar with the concept of screencheating, which is what this new indie is all about. Screencheat has been on our radars for a while but has now been confirmed for PS4, sparking a new wave of interest with a trailer and PS Blog post. However, it was one of a number […]

  • World of Warcraft Timewalking will make old dungeons fun again

    World of Warcraft will soon introduce a feature called Timewalking, designed to make you feel young again. When WoW players participate in a Timewalking event, they’ll be transported to a randomly selected classic dungeon. Upon entering, their level and gear will be scaled way, way down to the Dungeon’s Heroic level – so they won’t […]

  • Bloodborne and Dark Souls messaging – in real life

    Soapstone is a cool little app that mimics the messaging system found in Bloodborne, Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls. Bloodborne and Dark Souls fans will surely agree that the asynchronous multiplayer side of things, with players leaving anonymous tips, encouragement and jokes for each other, is one of the cooler aspects of the From Software […]

  • Mass Effect fans, get a load of this My Talking Elcor plushie

    I have been waiting to write about this all day because oh my god. Mass Effect attracted a devoted fanbase and Bioware has found tons of clever ways to satisfy that fanbase’s desire for clothes, collectibles, books, comics and toys related to the future world of Commander Shepard and company. The company has been so […]

  • Homeworld Remastered Collection headed to retail

    Homeworld fans can purchase a neat little package of gloriously remastered nostalgia soon. The Homeworld Remastered Collection has been available online since the end of February, but is now on its way to retail thanks to a deal between new rights holder Gearbox and Ubisoft. The PC exclusive will launch in physical form from May […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt download size lower than predicted

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a hefty install footprint, but it’s not as bad as we expected. The Witcher 3 was expected to be a 50GB download after a note to this effect was added to the PlayStation Store. It looks like that might have been a placeholder figure, as DualShockers noted today that […]