In a long string of retractions, Microsoft has recently reversed another policy, likely due to enormous backlash from gamers, critics and developers. First was their policy on used games and always-on Internet. Now their shunning of indie developers has been called off and they will now allow indie game self-publishing, something their competitors were offering.
Microsoft was listening when thralls of upset consumers announced (angrily online) that they would rather spend their money on a PS4 than deal with Microsoft’s inane and confusing Xbox One policies. Now that they’ve flipped their stance on self-publishing as well, how are indie developers reacting? Shack News collected the reactions of indie developers and for the most part, they were cautiously optimistic.
The roots of this problematic relationship with Microsoft predate this debacle and start with the Xbox 360. Andy Schatz, creator of Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine said problems with Microsoft’s platform contributed to a major delay in the game’s release on their console. Though, he said an open platform could only make things better.
“Closed platforms require that a gatekeeper vet every project long before the project is done, which means that it’s much harder to come by surprise hits, and everyone is subject to the tastes of the platform’s gatekeeper. It also requires that developers focus on the ‘pitch’ in order to get a slot, which can be a time-sink with no discernible benefit for the completed game. While I enjoyed working with [publisher Majesco], had self-publishing been an option on the Xbox 360 it would have saved me a lot of trouble in the long run, since my destination platform was in limbo until a year before launch.”
He warns other developers that if Microsoft doesn’t promote their games, it will mean problems with sales – something he had experience with when Monaco hit the Xbox Live Arcade. While it seems like self-publishing is a great first step for Microsoft, trust in the company is still a major issue.
Many other indie developers agree with Schatz, including BIT.TRIP creator Dant Rambo, and TowerFall‘s Matt Thorson who added,
“For me, lack of self-publishing makes it very difficult to consider launching on a platform. I’ve never worked with Microsoft, but I’ve heard horror stories from other indies. Fingers crossed they’re aware of the problems and are ready to put in the work to catch up to Sony. They seem to be on the right track with this and the recent removal of the XBLA patch fee.”
It’s no surprise that some indies are still holding a grudge and aren’t completely on board with Microsoft’s sudden change of heart. Jennifer Schneidereit of Nyamyam Games, who developed Tengami and is a former employee of Microsoft, says,
“Up until now Microsoft have displayed a mentality that excludes independent developers. This makes it difficult for me to trust their motives for reversing their stance now. From my time at Microsoft, I know that company goals and direction change frequently. These new plans might just be a last minute band-aid and we’ll end up with a similar situation to Xbox Live Indie Games, where Microsoft provides a system, but doesn’t give it the support it needs to be successful.”
She also points out the fact that Nintendo and Sony have been building strong relationships with independent developers for a long time and it seems they have garnered a lot of trust from the community simply because both companies factor indie games into their console’s strategies. Schneidereit also warns Microsoft that they “will have to do a lot more to gain my trust than just changing their self-publishing policy.” One bitten, twice shy, it seems.
While the reactions vary between hopeful and downright dismissive, like those from Fez creator Phil Fish who says the game’s sequel will not be coming to Xbox One, it can be agreed that Microsoft is definitely moving in the right direction. They are actively trying to give gamers what they want and attempting to rebuild relationships with the indie community. They will just have to make sure they don’t slip into their old habits or else it will be evident they are simply pandering to indies in order to gain support for the console again.
The Xbox One launches this November for $499.
Follow me on Twitter @8BitBomb.
Source: Shack News