Microsoft has unveiled its digital self-publishing indie developer program for the Xbox One, essentially enabling developers to self-publish their work for consumers to enjoy on their consoles. The program is titled Independent Developers @ Xbox ([email protected] - www.xbox.com/id) and the company promises a smooth experience regarding actual development, distribution and discovery of titles on the Xbox One digital store. Registration has opened today.
Chris Charla will be heading up [email protected] and has been curating Xbox Live Arcade games as the portfolio director since 2010. Working on really creating a solid bridge with indie developers, the new team reportedly met with over 50 developers to work out exactly what they would want out of a self-publishing program. Here's what Chris Hecker, developer behind Spy Party had to say on Microsoft's initiative:
"I'm really excited that Microsoft has listened to feedback from developers and created this program. As an independent developer, I want Spy Party to be available to as many players as possible, and it feels like Microsoft is interested in not only removing roadblocks for indies to get their games on Xbox One, but they're also genuinely interested in finding ways to bring new and innovative indie games to their platform to help games reach their potential as an art and entertainment form."
The above is matched by support from other video game studios, including Splash Damage, Other Ocean, Team 17 and Dlala, each pleased with the approach Microsoft is taking. This isn't anything groundbreaking, though as competitors already offer such a service on their own platforms, but it's great to finally see Redmond taking indie development seriously.
Breaking down some walls
As noted above, [email protected] kicks off today with registration opening up for developers to apply at the website. Should developers qualify, they'll be a registered Xbox One developer. Microsoft has stated there are no application fees, nor are any charges present for certification or updates. The company isn't accepting everyone into the program just yet.
Charla told Gamasutra that the team will "evaluate each application on a case by case basis. Making a console game isn't trivial so we want to be sure that they'll be able to create great content. However, our plan for the program is to eventually open up the platform to all creators. We want Xbox One to be a great place to not only consume content but to also create it." Sounds like a plan that will also be a bonus for consumers.
Developers who register with [email protected] will receive two Xbox One development kits (at no extra cost) and will receive access to the console's full features, as well as cloud, Kinect, Xbox Live and more. Revenue splits with published titles will be inline with what's expected throughout the industry (developers generally receive 70 percent of the cut).
As an added bonus, Microsoft doesn't require exclusivity agreements. All the company desires is day one parity with other console platforms. Not much to ask for really.
Community & game discovery
Microsoft will set up developer-facing community managers who will provide responses to submissions and offer support for the program. To build a strong community around [email protected], numerous developer events will be held with gatherings to occur in Seattle, London and San Francisco. These events are said to kick off later this year.
Letting in a lot of content can cause issues for consumers who are attempting to search through and find something they'd want to purchase and enjoy. Here's how consumers will be able to look through the catalogue of indie games on the store:
- Trending keeps your finger on the pulse of what friends and the community are playing.
- Recommendations bring forward new games, based on what you like to play.
- Spotlight showcases Editor Picks for great games across the entire store.
- With Game DVR and Upload, new games will be found as gamers capture and share their videos across the service.
- Achievements and Challenges enable developers and the community to create special events out of games.
- Moving forward
Looking forward, Microsoft's "plan is to enable any Xbox One console to be used as a development kit for self-publishing purposes. This means that any hobbyist with a great game idea can make it come to life on Xbox One." It's looking bright for indie developers on the Xbox One.