The Xbox One launch parity requirement has caused a lot of friction within the games development community. Microsoft’s policy, which states that all games released via the console's ID@Xbox platform must launch on the Xbox One either before or at the same time as other devices, is meant to keep Microsoft’s console at the forefront of gaming and give its customers first rights to new releases. As Xbox head Phil Spencer states, the company wants Xbox owners to “feel like they're first-class.”
However, the independent development community sees the requirement as something else entirely. Rather than protecting Xbox customers, indie developers feel that the policy is restrictive. Indie studios have said that creating a game with launch parity is often beyond their time and financial restraints, particularly when development teams are often incredibly small. Critics of the policy include Phil Fish and Gone Home developer Steve Gaynor. Developer Free Games Lives has even said that Broforce was released as a PS4 exclusive because of the parity requirement.
There are signs that Microsoft has softened its hardline stance on indie games, however. Phil Spencer has previously cited examples where workarounds have been made for developers with limited timelines and no resources to work on multiple devices at once. Now, Spencer has been joined by another Xbox executive. Speaking with Gamespot, Chris Charla has revealed that Microsoft's parity requirement is not as black and white as it seems.
Charla, who is head of the ID@Xbox self-publishing platform, said that Xbox has previously found workarounds for developers struggling to keep to the controversial policy. Indeed, the Xbox executive revealed that there are certain caveats in place for indie developers who tell Microsoft about the struggle they may have to release on Xbox One at the same time as PlayStation 4 or Wii U. Charla said that developers "should just come talk" to the company to find a middle ground.
The head of ID@Xbox revealed that the company is more diplomatic than its parity requirement suggests. "If it's a situation where a developer needs to ship serially on console because they don't have the resources to simultaneously ship, we totally get that," Charla said. However, there is less leeway for developers who choose to release for another console before the Xbox One. In those cases, Xbox would ask for the developer to "add something to the game that makes it fresh for Xbox players" before its release.
Microsoft's indie games initiative is also making the move to PC. During a conference at the GDC, it was revealed that Windows 10 would see an ID@Xbox variant. Charla, however, was able to state that the Windows version would not have any kind of parity requirement, and that Windows as "an open platform" for development.