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Developers weigh in with early ID@Xbox impressions Exclusive
Developers weigh in with early ID@Xbox impressions
December 5, 2013 | By Mike Rose

December 5, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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    15 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



Well then, 2013 has seen quite the turnaround for indies on game consoles.

At the start of the year, the idea of self-publishing your game for a Microsoft console was limited to Xbox Live Indie Games, while Sony and Nintendo were just beginning to dabble in the practice of allowing developers to self-publish.

Fast-forward to the present, and self-publishing is the soup of the day, everyday. Microsoft in particular has made a massive U-turn on self-publishing, with its ID@Xbox program a wonderful step in the right direction.

The company revealed the first batch of developers that are utilizing the program earlier this week -- a raft of around 50 studios ranging from tiny indie devs to large-scale companies like Crytek.

What the announcement didn't really give much information on is how these developers were chosen, what the program is like, and how easy (or difficult) it is for studios to get involved. Gamasutra got in touch with a few different studios to get a general impression of how ID@Xbox is currently faring.

"The team is responsive and proactive and most of the business aspects are honest and fair."

Vlambeer was one of the studio's named as part of the announcement. Previously the studio has created games for PC, PlayStation and mobile, so a jump to Xbox sees the team covering even more bases.

"ID@Xbox is exactly what Microsoft promised," says Rami Ismail of Vlambeer. "It's a simple, formalized way to self-publish on Xbox One. It's obviously somewhat limited now in numbers, and I feel that the current pool of developers is sort of a pilot program Microsoft is running to see how [ID@Xbox director] Chris Charla and his team operate."

Ismail says that development through ID@Xbox has proven perfectly reasonable up to this point. "So far, we've been happy - aside from some small logistical delays everything has been as planned, the team is responsive and proactive and most of the business aspects are honest and fair," he adds.

wasteland kings.jpgThere's been one sticking point for the Vlambeer team, which Ismail has tried to talk Microsoft out of -- Microsoft's "launch parity" clause: If a game is being developed for Xbox One and PS4, Microsoft requires the Xbox One version to launch at the same time as the PS4 version, as not to give competitors a window of exclusivity. (Microsoft does not require exclusivity.)

Devs must follow that clause -- unless they signed an exclusive deal with someone else before the original ID@Xbox announcement was made, as Vlambeer did with Sony and Nuclear Throne. But other studios haven't been so lucky.

It's worth noting that this may well also be on a case-by-case basis, such that Microsoft may drop the clause for some developers -- plus, developers are still able to find a publisher at this point for Xbox One if they so choose.

"The launch parity thing obviously is a bit of a nuisance for developers that do not have the resources to develop for multiple platforms at once," admits Ismail, "and we've been trying to convince ID@Xbox to get rid of it."

Evolution on the fly

Other developers that we talked to noted that Microsoft is still very much evolving the ID@Xbox program as it goes along, working out the kinks depending on what developers say.

"The ID@XBox program is so new, and they are still figuring out a lot of it on the fly," says Iron Galaxy's Dave Lang. "But all signs point to it being a really great option for indie publishing."

"Probably the thing I'm happiest with so far is that I've gotten to deal with Charla a lot directly, and he definitely gets what indie devs want ID@XBox to be," he adds.

Indeed, much of the correspondence we received back was positive, including from CryEngine studio Crytek. Carl Jones, director of business development at Crytek, told Gamasutra that its own dealings with ID@Xbox will allow the company to publish its own games on Xbox One, while also providing opportunities for third-party developers to self-publish CryEngine games through ID@Xbox.

And Jetpack Joyride studio Halfbrick also told us that all signs are currently positive for ID@Xbox. "The cumbersome publishing and marketplace problems that were associated with the Xbox 360 are gone," said Halfbrick's Phil Larsen. "Xbox Live Indie Games was created to remedy that but we are all aware of how that turned out."

"From what we can see, everything is clear and on an even playing field," he added. "Developers big and small can get involved with the program and start making games. It allows a level of freedom with a lot of potential for success in the market without having labels that immediately have a certain perception like XBLA, Indie Games etc. Quality should be king here, so we're proud to be a part of it."

It's worth noting, too, that this initial announcement was far from the only 50 studios that Microsoft has onboard. As noted on the unofficial Xbox One Indie Devs Facebook page, Michelle Juett Silva from Ska Studios confirmed that her company is also developing for ID@Xbox, but was left out of the announcement.

And plenty of other developers have responded to say they are onboard too, although it's questionable what "onboard" actually means -- many studios appear to be claiming they have been accepted by ID@Xbox, but haven't actually received dev kits, and are instead waiting until Microsoft updates retail Xbox One consoles for development use.

What's certain is that Microsoft is taking the right steps. We'll continue to see what happens in 2014 and beyond, as Microsoft drives towards its goal to open up Xbox One retail units as dev kits.


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Comments


The Le
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I think the Launch Parity clause is perfectly reasonable. If you don't like it, don't develop for it.

Rami Ismail
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I'll prefer to see if it can be changed, and please don't tell others what to develop or not to develop for. Everybody is perfectly capable of making that choice themselves.

James Coote
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@Rami
edit: nvm, thought better of it
___

I'm in two minds about exclusivity. On the one hand, MS are offering things like free Unity licenses and being able to dev on the retail box (eventually). I don't think it's unreasonable for them to ask for something in return.

On the other hand, I have my own schedule. If a simultaneous cross-platform launch is going to cause me more problems than it's worth, then and I have every intention of not doing it (as much as it's possible to get away with)

Nuttachai Tipprasert
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How so? I see it's only reasonable for MS but not for the other parties - the indies developers and other platform holders.

This clause forces you to a) develop for X1 first, in the case that you cannot afford to launch simultaneously on all platforms, b) you must find a publisher to publish your games or c) don't port you game to X1 at all.

If you choose the a), you reward MS by unofficially putting your games as X1 time exclusives. This sounds wrong considering that MS is the only one in this gen enforcing this practice while the others let you choose freely which platform you want to prioritize first.

If you choose b), you need to go back to the 'finding publisher' route which indies developers trying to avoid in the first place.

The c) choice is the only way to go if developers really don't want to go for the others. But that means they will loose some target audience on X1 platform. MS could not careless about some indies developers don't put their games on X1, but for the developers, loosing a chance for reaching out a huge group of possible customers means a lot.

Mark Nelson
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So indie developers wishing to port IOS games (created with Unity for example) to XBone, can't since the games were out on IOS first?

And how much additional content would make such a port into a new SKU, worthy of XBone? (if at all possible)

Dave Voyles
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Where did you read this?

You can port from iOS.

**If you did not already sign a timed launch agreement with another platform (ie - PS4)**, then you must launch on One at the same time that you launch on any other platform.

Otherwise, if you DID sign an agreement with another company, then you can launch on One whenever you are accepted.

Richard Rodrigues
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The clause is almost certainly only for competitive platforms, as they've had the same policy in effect this past gen. PC isn't even considered a competitive platform, so mobile wouldn't either.

Tanner Mickelson
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What if you had a game that was already out on Wii U and PS4 then at some point decided to port to Xbox One though? Those would be competitive platforms and the game would have been released first on them.

Jaakko Maaniemi
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A personal question from an interested (former game journalist) party, totally *not* intended as a bitter remark:

Crytek, a developer with eight studios who made the Xbox One launch title Ryse, which was published by Microsoft Studios, is related to the ID@Xbox... How, exactly? Is the program not for getting dev kits to hands that don't already have them?

Tom Spilman
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> Is the program not for getting dev kits to hands that don't already have them?

The program is not about devkits... every retail XB1 is a devkit.

The program is about applying a mobile model of development and publishing on XB1. No publisher requirement, pick your own release date, minimal certification requirements, and get paid your cut directly on a monthly basis.

Think if publishing a game on console was as easy as publishing a game on iOS or Windows Phone. All developers want that... not just indies, which is probably why Crytek is participating.

IMO eventually the traditional model of console publishing will go away... including buying stupid physical media in stores.

App stores have won!

Jaakko Maaniemi
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> The program is not about devkits... every retail XB1 is a devkit.

As far as I know, retail Xbox Ones can't be used for development. Not yet anyway. If I recall, Microsoft has stated that "eventually" every retail unit can be turned into a dev kit, but a firm timetable on when that will happen has not been made public.

Making publishing more or less as easy as on mobile platforms is all well and good, and certainly the right way to go, but doesn't really change things a whole lot for the little guy if dev kits are not made available. I'm pretty sure there are hundreds of developers itching for a chance to develop and publish on Xbox One (and Playstation 4, which currently appears substantially easier to make happen).

Shahed Chowdhuri
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Hey Mike (Rose), thanks for mentioning the Xbox One Indie Devs group here!

I created the group before attending ID@Seattle, and the group has been growing ever since. There has been even more interest since the Gamasutra mention! :-)

Chris Charla, his team members and a few other MS employees have been very supportive of the group.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter via @shahedC if you have any questions about the group or Id@Xbox.

Shahed Chowdhuri
Oneksoft Games/Labs
admin/founder, Xbox One Indie Devs group

Kris Graft
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Thanks Shahed!

Shahed Chowdhuri
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Thanks, Kris! I've also followed you on Twitter. :-)

Jarod Smiley
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Indy guys, please put everything you can on PS4/PC/Mobile! From a consumer's perspective, (though I can only speak from my small social groups) MS has lost a lot of goodwill and I talk to gamers willing to jump ship all the time.

This "parity" clause, while not too damaging, seems to add on to the negativity of the company until Nintendo/Sony does the same. Not touching X1 for a while, at least until I see what Valve does.


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