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Xbox One's digital strategy overlooks popular games like DayZ Exclusive
Xbox One's digital strategy overlooks popular games like  DayZ
June 25, 2013 | By Christian Nutt

June 25, 2013 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

"I'm quite happy for DayZ to come out on any console that is indie-friendly," says Dean Hall, project lead on the game, which, springing from the runaway success of his original mod, is currently in full-on development as a standalone title.

The problem: He doesn't see any indication that Microsoft has changed its policies in a way that makes it possible for him to bring his game to the Xbox One. "As a developer, the biggest concern for me is, why doesn't Microsoft have a digital distribution model? They don't! It doesn't exist!"

"Surely it does," you say. "There are lots of digitally distributed games on the Xbox 360, let alone the upcoming Xbox One."

But, crucially, independent companies cannot self-publish, as described in this Gamasutra editorial -- which Hall said was "bang on" about the deficiencies in the platform holder's current policies.

Hall works for Bohemia Interactive -- not a bedroom operation, but one with no history of publishing for Xbox platforms. Currently, it would not be able to release DayZ as a digital download unless it also published retail games.

These policies have left Hall very frustrated. "Where is the digital distribution model? That's what I want to see. It hasn't been in any of the presentations. If we're taking how XBLA works now and translating it again, that's ridiculous. It's ridiculous!"

"The most awesome place to put your indie titles is on XBLA. It's just begging for indie titles. It just doesn't make any sense to me. I want someone to explain to me why it's like that," says Hall.

"DayZ is about digital distribution. There's no point in doing retail," Hall says. The game is currently distributed directly to its pre-alpha player base via Steam -- a practice that will continue, on PC.

"And why get a publisher involved? We don't need one. We put it on there; people buy it, low price. The consumer ends up getting hurt by just having a publisher for no apparent reason. It blows my mind. It just seems so obvious."

It's not that he's not interested in the Xbox One or its player base, either. "I like the console. It's a good console," says Hall. "DayZ is great when it has more players. The more players we can get in DayZ, the better experience we can get for everybody."

"I hope they rally and they come back."

In contrast, Hall thinks that Sony has learned from its past mistakes and he speaks of a cordial relationship with the company: a simple conversation, a signature on an NDA, and "come to us when you've got a game," says Hall. "That's the way it should be."

"From my perspective, Sony are delivering on that. And I've developed with them before, when I was at Sidhe Interactive. They have done a complete 180. And the first people to tell me that were the CCP guys: 'Look, you need to think about this stuff.'"

Notably, CCP's digital-only shooter Dust 514 has been released as a PlayStation 3 exclusive.

Hall still sees "serious problems" with Sony -- most notably that, on PlayStation 4, a paid PlayStation Plus subscription will be required for all online play. He's also still unsure that everything will work out with the publisher in the long run. But he's more optimistic about its attitude, all the same.

"We have to see whether Sony delivers. The sun doesn't shine out of their arse -- I'm definitely not saying that. In terms of indie, there is a digital distribution strategy there. So let's see one from Microsoft, and then I'll be happy."

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Nick Harris
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Well, I'll download a copy of DayZ for my PS4 whenever it becomes available. I'd much prefer to pay for PS+ than some unbalanced F2P solution and I hope Mr Hall keeps discouraging the griefers by ensuring that your protagonist spawns without a weapon.

Thomas Happ
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17-bit studios made a comment that "as a whole, it's not that Microsoft loves or even hates indies. It's just that they're an indifferent machine to it all."

I think this is probably the most true statement of all. I'd even wager that they're becoming more indifferent to their entertainment division in general (which has lost $3 billion in 10 years).

Ben Sheftel
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DayZ's got the perfect gameplay for Cloud Computing, since the Cloud can simulate the world 24/7. You could get a text while you're on the bus to tell you that your house is being overrun, etc. It also sounds like a good deal financially (from Respawn's article) which is good news for "indies". Would it be that hard to get the same deal as XBLA from a publishing perspective (get one from a big publisher)? I'm in no way condoning MS's self-publishing decision, just wondering.

Lihim Sidhe
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If the PS4's self-publishing option ends up being a huge, attractive, feature that pushes the PS4's sales WAY ahead of XBox One's then we will see Microsoft adopt a self-publishing model.

If not, they will continue on their same stubborn course.

So whether or not we ever see self-publishing on the XBox platform is really up to the awesome, indie, games that end up on the PS4. It will be an interesting process to watch unfold - I can say that much. :)