Let no one say Microsoft can’t change its tune like the Pied Piper drop-shifting from a mesmeric lilt into Journey’s “Any Way You Want It.”
The Xbox One began life as a rule-riddled media box, frustrating conventions and upending player expectations with its draconian usage strictures and restrictive content sharing policies. But hallelujah, the scales have fallen from the company’s eyes: Xbox One will no longer require an Internet connection to play games, won’t require the use of Kinect, and when it comes to reselling disc-based content, Xbox One games will work just as Xbox 360 games do today.
Thank the PS4? Sony highlighted the stark differences between what it and Microsoft were up to with their respective next-gen platforms at E3 in June, turning both critical and consumer sentiment against Redmond.
To its credit, Microsoft listened, collapsing the Xbox One’s policy bugaboos like so many dominoes, and it’s apparently listening still: at Gamescom, currently underway in Cologne, the company rolled back the details on its Xbox One indie development program, or as the company now calls it, ID@Xbox.
The key takeaway from the new program is that Microsoft is shifting the Xbox One to a self-publishing model, allowing indie developers access to the same perks bigger-ticket games enjoy. According to Chris Charla, ID@Xbox’s director, the program was put together with feedback from more than 50 developers and will offer indie developers access to development kits at no charge:
Games that come through this program will be able to access the exact same features as any other large game company on Xbox One: Achievements, Gamerscore, Kinect, Xbox SmartGlass, Xbox cloud services and more. What’s also exciting is that these games will be available in the exact same marketplace (Xbox One Store) as every other game on Xbox One, making discovery for players easier by using all the curation and discovery tools that Xbox One will offer, including Spotlight, Trending, Recommendations and great social discovery with features like Game DVR and Upload.
Once you’ve been accepted into the program — you still have to meet certain requirements — the company says it’ll send you not one but two Xbox One development kits, along with access to the development program’s bells and whistles, developer forums and so forth. Microsoft pitch-man Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb adds that the program will have no fees, no certification and no activation process, and that indie developers will have access to the entire Xbox ecosystem, from Xbox One and Xbox Live to SmartGlass and all the analytics tools surrounding those architectures.
How simple is it really? According to Microsoft, this simple:
So what does it take to get Microsoft to accept you as an indie developer? In its ID@Xbox FAQ, the company states that while it’ll evaluate each application “on its own merits,” at the outset it’ll be “looking for professional independent game developers who have a proven track record of shipping games on console, PC, mobile, or tablet.”
Self-publishing won’t be available from the get-go, but long term, the company promises that “anyone with a retail Xbox One will be able to develop, publish, and sell their game on Xbox Live.”
Yes, Microsoft’s a little late to the “we love indie developers” party, but the system’s still months off, and you know what they say about actions and words. Microsoft deserves plaudits for revamping its indie program and laying the foundation for a system that caters to any would-be creator. The only thing missing at this point: details on when, specifically, the self-publishing angle be live.