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Prison Architect dev outs Microsoft's costly approach to indie developers

Prison Architect developer Introversion Software has spoken out against Microsoft's costly Xbox Live Arcade certification process, and has suggested that big change is needed for the publisher to compete with Steam.

As part of a VG247 interview, Introversion co-founder Mark Morris discussed the reasons why it would not be pursuing Xbox Live Arcade or PSN for Prison Architect, based on its costly experience of trying to publish Darwinia+ on Microsoft's platform.

"If you look at our position: we’re two guys basically – although we’re a little big bigger than that – working on a game we’ve launched ourselves. We’re in alpha, we’re seeing money now, which is enabling us to carry on developing it.

"Hopefully we’ll get a Steam deal – I’m pretty confident we will as we have a great relationship with Valve – and then we’re exposed to Valve’s market of 20 million people. Alternatively we could spin out a team of probably ten people, we need to pay Microsoft $10,000 a go for a development kit."

Steam is the end goal of Morris and Introversion, and the game is currently in an alpha 2 phase, allowing gamers to buy the game and invest in it at the same time - similar to Notch's approach to Minecraft funding. Regardless, Morris feels Microsoft needs to change tact.

On the $10,000 figure stated above, Morris added, "It’s ridiculous, and it’s non-refundable once you’ve bought it. You’ve got to pay – I think our quality assurance bill was $30,000 for testing with Darwinia+, and it took four years to get the game certified to a standard that Microsoft wanted. It then sold rubbish. We hardly shipped any units on Xbox 360, compared to PC.

"There is a strong indie community now on PC that doesn’t exist within the console world, and they’ve tried various ways to tap into that with Live Arcade and Xbox Indie Games, and they just never managed it in the way Steam has."

Although Morris is down on the idea of self-publishing Prison Architect on Xbox 360, he is open to the idea of outsourcing the work. "We’ve got no interest in working with any of the big console owners now with Prison Architect. The only think we might do, once the game’s out there, is license it to another developer to do the port on our behalf.

"But Microsoft and Sony come along and they say, ‘Well we don’t want to have your game second, we want to be first.’ Well, they can’t be first. We’re on PC because they’ve made it too hard. Also, they want exclusive content, well p**s off.

"You’re not delivering the amount of sales, you’re making us work harder, and ultimately we’re getting paid less than what we do on PC. So I think they’re definitely – in the indie world – second class customers.

"If they want to work with us – and if they want indie games on their systems – they’re going to have to change quite a lot to make it attractive."

You can buy Prison Architect alpha 2 now over at the official Prison Architect site. Stay tuned for our full interview soon.

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