Jonathan Blow's The Witness is now rated by the ESRB for the Xbox One, despite console exclusivity having been previously announced for the PlayStation 4.
Jonathan Blow, well known indie developer of Braid and co-founder of the Indie Fund, is hard at work putting the finishing touches on his upcoming game, The Witness. Tentatively scheduled for a January 26 release date, The Witness was previously announced as a PlayStation 4 timed exclusive. That was later corrected to PS4 console exclusivity, as a PC launch is also planned for Jan. 26. However, a surprise from the ESRB this morning started a bit of excitement that needs to be addressed.
Today, the ESRB published its official ratings for The Witness, a solid "E for Everyone," and right up there next to PC and PlayStation 4 in approved platforms was the Xbox One as well. Though Xbox One game players probably shouldn't be getting excited just yet.
The ESRB doesn't require the game to be running on the platforms listed, the platforms are just taken from what the developer lists on their forms. For an independent developer like Jonathan Blow, having The Witness rated for Xbox One just means not having to go through the ratings process again if for some reason the game makes its way to Xbox One.
Jonathan Blow even confirmed that was his reasoning via two different tweets:
"There are no plans right now for an XB1 version of The Witness. We just put that on the rating form so if we ever do XB1, we won't have to ... to get the game re-rated. (Provided the content is the same, which it would be).
For those unfamiliar with The Witness, Jonathan Blow has been working on it since 2008, following the launch of Braid. In The Witness' initial development phases Jonathan Blow had planned to release the game on PlayStation 3, but the game's ambition quickly grew beyond the platform. Blow reached out to Sony about releasing the game on their next console, which led to Sony eventually inviting Blow to their pre-announcement PS4 summit for developers and publishers.
In an interview with Ars Technica, Blow would go on to say how he similarly reached out to Microsoft and was rebuffed. When Blow asked his contact if Microsoft would acknowledge a next-gen Xbox, share its technical specifications, he heard back:
"I have no political path to making something like that happen for an independent developer."
The rest is, as they say, history. Blow continued to work with Sony prior to the PlayStation 4's launch and The Witness was one of the first major indie titles to dedicate itself to console exclusivity on the platform. Microsoft has since gone to great lengths to rebuild relations with indie developers after a very rough start for the Xbox One. The idea that The Witness might be launching on the Xbox One at or soon after the launch on PC and PlayStation 4 would be rather controversial.
Fortunately that doesn't appear to be what has happened. The Witness is still exclusive to PlayStation 4 and PC for the foreseeable future. It's worth noting, though, that Jonathan Blow did not discount the possibility of The Witness eventually coming to Xbox One.
The Witness releases January 26, 2016 for PC and PS4.