Microsoft Vows To Support Indie Developers On Xbox One

Microsoft Vows To Support Indie Developers On Xbox One

A report last week that the next Xbox console won’t allow independent game developers to self-publish on the Xbox One gave people yet another next-gen Xbox thing to stew about. But Microsoft’s Xbox chief says that Xbox One will have some sort of indie-friendly program.

We’re not necessarily in contradiction territory here but rather in — stop me if you’ve read this one before — more-details-to-come territory.

“We’re going to have an independent creator program,” Don Mattrick, Microsoft’s head of interactive entertainment (read: he’s in charge of the Xbox), told me last week. “We’re going to sponsor it. We’re going to give people tools. We’re going to give more information.”

Mattrick mentioned this during my brief interview with him regarding the future of game consoles. We didn’t get into self-publishing and he declined to share specifics just yet. He did, at least, praise the success of Minecraft and other indie-developed games and cited his own career trajectory. He may be an executive now, but back in the day, he was a game designer, starting young with racing games such as Test Drive.

“That is something we think — I think — is important,” he said of an indie program. “That’s how I started in the industry. There’s no way we’re going to build a box that doesn’t support that.”

Mattrick: “We’re going to have an independent creator program… There’s no way we’re going to build a box that doesn’t support that.”

Last week, ShackNews had reported that Xbox exec Matt Booty, who works under Mattrick, said that indie developers would not be able to self-publish games on the Xbox One. Mattrick made his comments to me about indies on the same day.

Microsoft’s current console, the Xbox 360, saw significant support from indie developers early on which resulted in a slew of critically-acclaimed indie-made games such as Braid, Limbo and Castle Crashers all published in partnership with Microsoft and therefore not classic examples of self-publishing. Microsoft also launched an indie games channel that allowed amateur creators to post peer-reviewed games. That channel did not host many hits, though, as Microsoft buried it in their dashboard and lost the attention of many indie creators and potential fans to the indie movements thriving on PC, iOS, and Android.

Self-publishing is a way for independent game creators to get their work out there without, presumably, the potential meddling of a publisher or even the need to get a publisher to OK a game. Publishers, of course, can provide financial and production support, enabling and/or polishing a game. Indie creators simply don’t always want or need a publisher. But, traditionally, game console makers have required developers to have publishers. That’s been changing. Sony and Nintendo both allow for self-publishing on their current consoles, though both do require game developers meet console-specific certification standards.

Indie developers regularly praise Sony and, to a lesser extent, Nintendo, about how easy they are to work with. Sony is aggressively courting indie developers and even had one of them, Braid-maker Jonathan Blow, present his next game, The Witness, at their PS4 unveiling.

“Indie creators exist right inside our ecosystem,” Mattrick had told me, referring to the Xbox 360 and some of its Xbox Live Arcade hits. “Probably the best example of a huge success is Minecraft. The work that Notch did [was] pretty amazing in the PC space.” That game was brought to XBLA by the Notch-approved team 4JStudios and was given special exceptions by Microsoft to enable rapid post-release updates to the game. The game has sold six million copies on the 360. Mattrick said he loves indie creators. “We’re going to support those guys,” he said.

Looks like we’ll have to wait for more info. Maybe to E3? Then we’ll find out how well Microsoft really will support indie creators. One caveat: Steven Spielberg was featured in the Xbox reveal last week: maybe when Mattrick said we’d see indie developers, he meant Indy developers. [This is where you laugh.]

Picture: Stephen Brashear/Invision/AP


  • I think the two most commonly heard phrases in the Microsoft offices this week have been “back-peddle” and “damage control”.

  • “We’re going to support those guys,”

    But only if they do it our way, meet our criteria and do it only for us. Yeah that ain’t going to work this time around.

    • I am going to interpret this announcement as one telling how the XBone will have an Indiana Jones exclusive television series with aliens.

      • Yes I run Windows 8, but honestly, what choice do I have. I don’t own a Mac, so the only two choices I have are Windows or Linux.

        I would happily use Linux instead of Windows if it weren’t for the fact that a lot of programs just aren’t compatible with Linux, not to mention most of the 154 games in my steam library.

  • This isn’t at all surprising. All they really said was that they’d be canning the XBLIG part, which, quite frankly, was a disaster from many standpoints. From the sounds of it, all they’re going to do is add some quality control, which is where XBLIG really fell down (also the lack of prominence in the 360’s system, but that can be applied to all games, really).

    • I don’t know how they’re going to manage it when, ‘Burying Shit Under An Avalanche of Advertising’ is one of their key priorities.

    • Interesting that you say that because Michael Pachter has predicted that he’ll be the next CEO of EA

  • “We’re going to have an independent creator program,” Don Mattrick, Microsoft’s head of interactive entertainment (read: he’s in charge of the Xbox), told me last week. “We’re going to sponsor it. We’re going to give people tools. We’re going to give more information.”

    The problem wasn’t really about getting tools, though, was it? I though the problem was actually getting onto XBLA in the first place because there were only X number of slots and the slots are all allocated to big publishers. So indie developers had to find a publisher willing to publish it for them. Which is hard enough to start with for some indie games, and then made tougher by the fact that the publisher will take a not-insignificant cut of the sales for publishing it.

    Pretty disingenuous of him to use Minecraft as an example of their support for indie games, too. That game was already a massive hit on the PC before coming to 360. I’m pretty sceptical about whether it would have had so much support from MS if it was a completely new product nobody had heard of.

  • By support they mean one ms exec will hold your mouth open while another takes a dump down your throat…

  • I also thought it was the prohibitive costs to the devs. I remember Fez was a big example where a patch was required but the Dev was going to be charged in excess of 40k to push out the required patch.

    Unless Microsoft have a better solution this time round we’ll continue to see the better games become PS4 & Steam only.

  • XboxOne to everyone dont know what you want!..
    TV, Sports, TV, Sports, game, TV, Fantasy League, Sports
    * Fry cries* 😀

  • Another example of Microsoft’s failure to understand their own market. They should be bending over backwards to attract these types of developers to their platform, not treating them like second-class citizens.

    It’s no coincidence that the platforms that are booming right now (mobile, PC) have one thing in common; it’s very easy to self-publish on them.

  • This has all been one big focus test. Seriously.

    * “Well, it’s not ALL sports and TV. There’ll be games. We’re totally committed to games! We’re just saving all that for E3. That’s why we put on all the TV stuff up at 3am in parts of the world that won’t ever actually get to use it. See, we’re considerate!”

    * “Oh, actually the Kinect will be able to be turned off. And we have privacy things for when the console is in use. We’ll explain more at E3.”

    * “Once a day DRM? Well, that was actually just one possible scenario. There are a lot of potential scenarios and we haven’t really firmed that up yet. We’ll explain more at E3.”

    * “No used games sales? Well, no, you will still be able to sell your games from approved retailers. And yeah, you will be able to buy ‘used’ games from them. And we have some things in place for families and such, but we’ll explain more at E3.”

    Next up on the list:

    * “Oh, well, we said that indies won’t be able to submit things without a publisher, but we meant like, uhm… on the REGULAR game list. We’re totally going to have something in place that will be friendly to indies. Just, uh… we’ll explain more at… yeah. At E3. Oh hey, uhm… what else was there that you hated?”

    Holy shit do these fuckers have their homework.

  • Jesus Christ, MS. Get your shit together. How hard is it to give people a clear answer? Either A, tell people the relevant information or B, say you’re not allowed to give the relevant information or C, say you don’t know the relevant information. Instead they’re giving us constant half-answers and the media are trying to draw out conclusive information out of it. MS then say the conclusions are wrong and later say the conclusions weren’t “entirely” wrong and more bullshit is spun.

  • Let’s be realistic — the 360 had indie support (sure, Australia didn’t really see it due to classification issues and whether or not people agreed with the structure [though it was terrible, so good riddance ‘n hopefully something better replaces it] it existed) and they’re trying to promote the hell out of Win8 to get app developers.

    There was no indication that MS were going to stop encouraging any sort of indie development, so beyond being motivated by anti-MS/XBone sentiment… where did this idea even come from? It’s in contradiction to what they’ve been doing elsewhere, it just seems many are needlessly (or opportunistically) hysterical.

    That said, holy shit — don’t they realise how cynical people are online? They’re not doing themselves any favours by stringing people along and being vague, just gives everyone an opportunity to jump all over them. The PR guys over the past week have been woeful — one step forward with the Win8 tablet ads (at Apple’s expense) ‘n now they’re taking a dozen steps back.

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