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Exclusive: We discuss ID@Xbox for Windows 10 and phones with Microsoft's indie chief Chris Charla

Xbox is hitting Windows 10 in a big way later this year.

Announced back in January, Xbox will receive a dedicated app for Windows 10, providing Game DVR for all PC games, access to your Xbox One social features and game streaming across devices in your home network. In addition to this, independent developers will be able to include Xbox APIs into their games that appear in the Windows app store via the ID@Xbox program, currently available only on Xbox One.

I caught up with ID@Xbox head Chris Charla to discuss how the program has been faring so far, ID@Xbox for Windows 10 (phones too!), and more!

JC: Indie development has risen to prominence in the console industry narrative. Back in the 360 days, independent devs were critical of Microsoft's indie game store that was buried within several menus, and there's been that whole 'parity clause' fracas in the wider gaming media.

Do you find that indie devs are satisfied with the policies and processes of working with ID@Xbox now? How are devs reacting to the program?

CC: There's really two answers to this question. On Xbox One, we took the stand that a game is a game is a game. That's a reflection of our firm belief that games from independent studios are just as important and just as artistically valid as any other game! I think it's working pretty well in terms of making sure players see great diverse content every time they turn on their Xbox One and ID@Xbox games have been getting great support in our store. Bottom line, Xbox players are smart and it's easy for them to see the value proposition in all our games, from blockbusters like "Call of Duty" to the amazing games we have from ID@Xbox developers like "The Escapists" or "Ziggurat."

With that said, from our perspective, there's always more work to be done! To make our store better, to make our Dashboard UI better, to make our environment better for players and developers. That's what gets us up in the morning! You can see that in the monthly updates we do on Xbox One, taking player and developer feedback to heart. We don't ever think we're done, and I think you'll see us keep working to make things better for players and developers in the months and years to come.

JC: To what extent will ID@Xbox quality control indie games appearing under the Xbox banner as we move towards Windows 10/Xbox store convergence? For example, there are a lot of Flappy Bird clones in the Windows Store. Could you comment on balancing openness with the 'quality' gamers associate with the Xbox brand?

Well, on Xbox One, a game is a game, so whether the game comes to Xbox One as a Windows 10 Universal Application, or a game made with a dev kit, we expect all games on Xbox One to follow the same technical requirements, and to go through the same certification process, etc. That's part of the promise we make to players when they get their Xbox One.

We've always said that we're not trying to be censors, but we also don't think fans want to see a "fart app" with 1000 Gamerscore on the Xbox Store. We're committed to applying a similar philosophy for ID@Xbox games on Windows 10.

JC: As you may know, WindowsCentral.com was originally Windows Phone Central, and a lot of our core readership are firm Windows Phone fans. Can you give us some details on how developers can target Windows tablets and phones via ID@Xbox? Will they have access to Xbox Live, achievements, Halo Spartan Assault-like cloud saves allowing progression regardless of the device, and so on? Will there be a limit on the amount of achievement points a mobile title can deliver vs. a console version for example?

CC: So first off, if a developer wants to create games for any Windows 10 device, including phones, they should head over the Windows Dev Center and sign up! If they want to use Xbox Live – Achievements, Gamerscore, etc. – they should also get in touch with us at xbox.com/id (opens in new tab).

We're finalizing the processes now so that we can help developers get full access to Xbox Live on Windows 10 across all devices, which, of course, includes Windows Phone. We think Xbox Live is going to be a really exciting feature for developers to include on Windows 10 and we're excited that ID@Xbox is expanding to Windows 10 to help developers take advantage of the full features of Live – Gamerscore, achievements, cloud saves, etc. – on all Windows 10 devices. What specific devices a developer targets is up to them. So a game that targets the small touchscreen of a phone or a phablet can access Xbox Live, have Achievements and 1000 Gamerscore, etc.

JC: What are your favourite ID@Xbox games in development so far? Are there any flying under the media radar you'd like to make note of?

CC: I don't have a favorite! I did have a blast recently playing "Ziggurat." It's old school and simple, but it just has a nice difficulty curve, and kind of lets you go back to the 90's and just enjoy the simple pleasures circle-strafing! Rogue-like plus fantasy FPS is just a really nice combo too. It's definitely a "ok one more time!" type of game for me. In terms of upcoming games, the number of really fantastic games that are coming is just too long to list out, but I will say that "Beyond Eyes" blows me away, and there are a couple of unannounced games coming that are really, really cool.

JC: ID@Xbox has been a source of innovation for Kinect, with games like Blue Estate, D4, Crabitron and Commander Cherry all utilizing the tech in diverse ways. Could you comment on why indies seem more willing to take on new tech vs. the big 'Triple A' devs? Could ID@Xbox be a source of innovation for HoloLens?

CC: I think independent developers sometimes have more freedom to experiment and try new things. Honestly a lot of people become independent developers is exactly so they can experiment and try new things! There's a lot of nimbleness and agility in the independent scene which is one of the reasons why it's so interesting. So, it's no surprise to me that we've seen a lot of innovation with Kinect from independent devs, and I expect we'll see more in the future!

Personally I think all game devs are going to be poised to make cool apps for Microsoft HoloLens, whether they are making games or not, and I'd encourage interested devs to go to hololens.com (opens in new tab) and sign up to get more info about the system. We'll be sharing more at Build, too!

JC: If I were to ask a ridiculous question like what's your favourite game of all time - what is the first thing that comes to mind and why?

CC: The first thing that comes to mind is "I hate that question!" Seriously to me games are so tied into what I was doing when I played them that it's hard to just have one favorite. It's like, what blew me away, or challenged me, or was an awesome game to play with friends around?

But the first game I ever really got into was "Zork" on the Apple II, so that holds a really special place in my heart, but so does "Metroid" on NES, "Phantasy Star 2" and "Sonic 2" on Genesis/Megadrive, "Bushido Blade," "Tail of the Sun," "Ape Escape," "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater," and "Rage Racer" on PS1. "Test Drive Le Mans" on Dreamcast, "Steambot Chronicles" on PS2… "Animal Crossing"… the list of favorite games gets long quickly! I will say on 360, my favorite game of the generation was probably "Fez" or "Castle Crashers," but I definitely spent the most hours playing "Geometry Wars 2" (and I still don't have the Smile Achievement!) and I play a ton of dungeon crawlers on DS.

JC: How can a prospective developers get in touch with you guys?

CC: If a dev wants to get in touch with us directly, they can reach out at id@xbox.com.

Thanks for reading!

I just want to say a big thanks to Chris Charla and Xbox for setting this up for us. I'm looking forward to the potential benefits ID@Xbox will bring to Windows Phone when it finally hits general release. If iOS and Android developers can see the benefits of targeting Windows tablets, PCs and phones simultaneously under the Xbox brand, fingers crossed, it could lead to a mobile gaming renaissance for fans of Xbox for Windows Phone. We'll have to wait for Build and E3 to find out more.

If you're a developer with the ID@Xbox program and would like to get your game featured on WC, be sure to drop me a line to jez@windowscentral.com!

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

55 Comments
  • Excited to see more games come out of the program. Great interview guys! 
  • Welcome back!
  • Sabri!!!!
  • Hey, Sam... Give us what we want... You know what we want.... Either that, or just go away... Lol.
    Just joking. Nice to "see" you.
  • Cheers!
  • Good to see you, Sam. I miss your articles and Windows Central misses your touch greatly.. That, and you weren't deleting people's comments just because you could..
  • Caugh, caugh... D.Rubino.... Delete-Delete-Delete...
    .......
    He'll probably delete this.. Lol.
  • Hey Sam, nice to see you back! :)
  • This guy looks kinda funny.. Lol.
    .........
    Anyways, ever since WP came out we, and I speak for every WP fan in the world, have wondered why MS never put XBOWP front and center, and used it as a major differentiator. Maybe that shows they never had faith in it from the get go, or it was just blatant stupidity, but we always wanted a strong marketing push for it.... We thought for sure XBOWP would crush the competition, and we were seriously wrong..
    .........
    Now, with W10, and all this universal game talk, the question is will MS be much more serious about selling WP as a standalone extension to XBox❓ Will MS do what we all thought they were going to do, and make gamers fell like they simply have no choice but to use a WP device, because, well, it's a no brainer❓ Should we back track and raise our expectations once again❓
  • Are you having a drink?
  • Maybe, maybe not.... But, maybe.
  • I kinda felt the same way, I asked Tuula Rytila about it (Lumia marketing VP). I think part of it stems from the fact the two teams come from very different worlds, but it is getting better, as you can see above!
  • Yeah, the synergy is definitely 200% better... I posted more above⬆..
  • I think part of the reason they don't put it front and centre is that they can't guarantee devs will use the APIs, Gameloft for example seems to ignore them to start with, and then puts them in later on when everyone is bored of the game to try and re-ignite interest. Hopefully ID@Xbox can simplify the process for indie devs.
  • Are you familiar with the 3-5 part series WPC (at the time) did about Xbox on WP, and how MS can fix it❓
  • Afraid not! I'm new in town, I'll check it out.
  • Yes. Ask Daniel about it, or search it.. It's probably the best read in tech EVER❗ LOL.
  • I totally told you about my 7-part series, Mr. Forgetful.
  • @Jez Corden, Also don't forget the certification process is just.... "unbearable" to put it politely lol.
  • Yeah, WPC touched on that in a whole segment..
  • I've talked to developers about this, some say its unbearable and others say its fine, although they're under crazy strict I'll-sue-your-ass NDAs when it comes to discussing the particulars. I'd previously wondered if it was just quality control, but there's some seriously awful buggy, broken games flying the Xbox banner in the Windows/Phone stores.
  • Jez, please read that 5 series article on Xbox on windows phone by Paul on windowscentral. It was a thoroughly researched and enlightening articles, of all people you should be the first one to read those articles as you are a gaming writer here.
  • You late, main... Already referred him to that.. Lol.
  • Ok, i searched and found it for you, here is the link for all articles on save xbox on windows phone, you will be enlightened after reading this: http://www.windowscentral.com/tag/how-save-xbox-wp
  • Yeah, that is a big issue... MS can't just have Xbox on anything..
  • For the Xbox WP devs, it was never bearable. It has always been a huge hassle that continues to limit the # of Xbox WP games we get to this day. It's a bit different than console development, as far as hurdles go.
  • Maybe it's time you do a follow up to your 7 part series... Well, after we see what Build has in store next week.
  • Yeah, it sounds like the whole game is about to change as far as Xbox games on WP. We'll see if they get their act together enough to get me interested in phone games again!
  • Sounds good.. So, when are you guys heading to Build, Monday❓
  • I would like to know if the new Microsoft Hello hardware (camera) will be integrated with the Xbox app and be used as Kinect (well in some way). Think of its use with phones
  • Yeah, we need more things like this with phones.. They better add voice recognition to Lumia Camera.
  • How a camera can recognize voices?
  • The phone will have the voice recognition.. The camera will just be compatible with it..
  • Just like a few WP apps already do,, you can say "take picture" from a distance, and it will do so... I think Camera 360 does this.
  • Loved the phone angle, there is a huge effort needed on that side of Xbox. And nice to see Sam back!
  • Hoping that ID@Xbox can extend the good work GameTroopers have been doing :)
  • Always amazed me that there wasn't more done with one of their top brands. Fortunately MS have Minecraft this time. Hopefully they will have the ability to leverage that. Skype, Office, Minecraft, Nokia knowledge, Xbox, Hololens, Azure, deep pockets etc, and much more. They really do hold a terrific set of cards, if they don't leverage improved market share with all that, then they need to give their head a shake. Loving the games on my One, and nice to see they have improved their indie mindset. And the sales they have been running are light years ahead of what the did on the 360.
  • Looking at it from the outside can seem frustrating, but Microsoft is such a huge beast, turning it around takes a severely long time. A lot of what we're seeing now was probably set in motion by Ballmer himself, HoloLens for example has been in development for years. I think things like W10 convergence was probably always a thing, but I kinda feel like Xbox is still recovering from the whole DRM u-turn, a lot of their roaming cloud based licensing ideas have been thrown into touch, especially in the UK where digital prices are often 30%+ more expensive than retail. :(
  • As a kid, we used to tell each other random stuff. One such thing was that a lightsabre could easily cut through my dad's car. Another tale was that there was once a stealth bomber or Blackbird that was flying to an airshow in the UK, but it was going so fast that it flew by and had to turn around over Sweden. That last one reminds me of the sort of issues that MS has. They are like a supertanker, that takes 3 miles to stop. I have hope though, love my One.
  • Sam never left. He just doesn't write articles anymore. On topic, looking forward to getting some more games on my WP and windows tablet
  • You could have asked why MS didn't care that much about Xbox Live on WP in the past years. Even if they already had big plans with Win 10 that's no excuse to not improve it on WP at all. You can't play the waiting game forever. The tech world won't just wait for whenever MS finally decides to improve their products. So many great opportunities have past. They tried to bring Xbox Live to PC with gfwl and didn't bother to really improve or support it. Same about Xbox Live on WP. They promised to focus on PC gaming again with Windows 8 yet they never kept this promise. It gets harder to make their customers believe in their promises each time they fail to keep one.
  • Chris Charla has nothing to do with the direction Xbox takes on WP, his job is to help independent developers bring their games to Xbox One and Xbox for Windows. Those questions would be better directed at Phil Spencer, but even then, it would require a concerted effort from both teams.
  • There are so many questions I'd love to grill Phil Spencer on. Patata Johnson above touched on some of them, like why they only half-assed their efforts with GFWL and Xbox on WP, and why he has pushed Kinect to the curb instead of promoting it, etc. I hope they've learned their lessons and will go all out on Xbox on Windows 10--make it so that all (or as many as possible) games from Xbox One come to Xbox on Windows 10, with cross-play and cross-buy. Fully unite the platforms and therefore have an edge over Steam and PS4 and iOS and Android. And, for the love of gaming, start promoting Kinect again, Phil! Anyway, ranting aside. Great interview. You asked many of the questions I'd have asked. Thanks for asking about Kinect and about Xbox on WP (also, great news on the 1000GS for Xbox mobile games!). I really like what Chris Charla has done with ID@Xbox so far. He's easily my favorite Xbox executive.
  • GFWL wasn't really Phil Spencer's responsibility, but he's always spoken about his regret for Microsoft's apathy towards PC gaming, they're throwing a bone to the PC community by adding baseline DVR to Windows 10, regardless of what platform you use to PC game. Problem with Kinect is choice, many gamers simply don't want it, forcing it on people wasn't the right thing to do. It reminds me of Sony forcing their blu-ray format and on people, which nobody would dispute now, but at the time it inflated the PS3's price to astronomical levels, at least in the UK. Microsoft had the same complacence Sony had last gen, presuming that gamers would stick with them purely because of the brand. I think Kinect's future lies in ID@Xbox, the big devs are too risk averse, even if Kinect was still bundled, I'd argue that it doesn't have broad appeal with general Xbox fans. Games like Crabitron will improve its appeal to families (and adults who want to be a giant crab...). I'd be interested to find out how well Blue Estate did, targeted firmly at adult audiences. I loved it personally.
  • That's the part I don't get: if Phil recognizes what a lost opportunity GFWL was, and how they all but gifted the highly lucrative PC gaming market to Valve on a silver platter, why aren't they making it abundantly clear now that they're going all in on Xbox for Windows 10? It's like they're scared to death of upsetting the Xbox console gamers, when, in reality, they'd merely be strengthening the entire Xbox experience by making it more widespread and encouraging more game development (i.e. make it a no-brainer for all developers to make Xbox One games and Xbox on Windows 10 games, cross-play + cross-buy). I am no engineer, but I'd even try to make it so that Windows 10 could literally emulate Xbox One so that Xbox One games literally simultaneously launched on Windows 10 with a truly universal Store). If they go ahead and trickle out a few games here and there ("Oh, here is Fable Legends, but you can't have Halo: MCC or Forza or Killer Instinct") to Windows 10 Xbox gamers, then they're going to just doom the entire enterprise from the start, reminding everyone about GFWL. I didn't have a problem with them unbundling Kinect. My problem is their seeming disdain for the product since the unbundling it. It was available in only one console bundle since then (the AC one), but not any of the others: Madden, Sunset Overdrive, Call of Duty, Halo MCC, etc. (the Witcher 3 one has it but in only a few markets). Worse yet, the standalone Kinect was launched with zero fanfare and has been out of stock more than in-stock at all major retailers, including the Microsoft Store. If it isn't on store shelves for people to see, it will never sell. Furthermore, even when you could find an Xbox One Kinect bundle, for all but two weeks in 2015, it was at $500, lacking the $50 price cut the non-Kinect bundle had. They were seemingly going out of their way to discourage people from buying Kinect. No new 1st part Kinect games announced, very few Kinect updates, and top Xbox executives refusing to even mention the word Kinect at events like E3 or Gamescom. Not giving gamers a choice on Kinect was a bad move. But giving them a choice actually requires gamers to have a choice--making Kinect available and comparatively discounted. I agree that Kinect's future lies with ID@Xbox. Even Microsoft is too cowardly to develop for it--hell, even when they do, they completely fail at promoting it (see Dance Central Spotlight and D4). Worse yet, when major third parties support Kinect (like Ubisoft with Fighter Within [terrible, I know, but at least they're trying], Just Dance, Shape Up, Rabbids TV, etc.], Microsoft rarely promotes the games, even when 3rd parties come out with some true Kinect gems, like Disney Interactive did with Fantasia (this is one of the greatest Kinect games ever made and Microsoft didn't promote it at all, resulting in it selling terribly, thereby alienating Disney and Harmonix). Microsoft should've been promoting the hell out of that game--commercials, set ups at every Microsoft Store, etc.--letting families know the game exists and is fun. I look forward to future ID@Xbox Kinect games too: Crabitron, Fru, etc. Glad you liked Blue Estate (I thought it was a very solid Kinect game for the $11 it cost me and was disappointed how reviewers trashed it for being too vulgar [but then hypocritically gave the much more vulgar GTA V 10/10]). I also liked Fruit Ninja Kinect 2. But, I want to see more AAA titles too. I want to see more D4. I want to see a Child of Eden port to Xbox One with updated Kinect 2 controls, or a sequel. I want to see Microsoft woo Sega, or license their IP, to make a series of Kinect games from Dreamcast games--Space Channel 5, Samba de Amigo, Seaman, and Jet Set Radio would be very promising Kinect games. The first two in particular are absolutely perfect for Kinect.
  • Test Drive Le Mans on Dreamcast for the win! Much respect for that game and those developers.
  • I think I might be more excited for Windows 10 than I was for Xbox One. 
  • Same here buddy haha, but hey, Windows 10 is coming to Xbox One as well in some form.
  • Great expectations for Windows 10. Hopefully they are met this time. We certainly can't wait!
  • Dude looks like Doug Stamper...
  • Yes Xbox is best + windows 10
  • Didn't Charla used to be a editor for ign? Just curious is all...
  • Why pc games on windows store support Xbox achievement.....other big games like assassins creed didn't support Xbox achievement on pc ???
  • Awesome! Xbox One is the best.
  • & why wouldn't we want a fart app with 1000 Gamerscore? lol