There was an impressive show of new and updated technology – in particular the voice and body language recognition of the new Kinect processors – on display at the announcement presentation of Microsoft’s next-generation console, the Xbox One, but when it comes to the more difficult – and more frequently-asked – questions, getting a definitive response has been a bit more challenging, and the answers aren’t always good.
We’ve collected together some of the facts that weren’t mentioned in the presentation, such as the fact that Microsoft will charge fees for traded, borrowed or used games, that the Xbox One will heavily rely on a strong internet connection, that it won’t be backwards compatible, that it requires a Kinect sensor in order to function and that Xbox 360 controllers and accessories won’t be compatible with the new technology.
If you were looking forward to using the Xbox One for independent games, don’t hold your breath. Presumably in an effort to make their console distinct from the PlayStation 4 – for which Sony is eagerly chasing independent titles, and will continue to allow developers to self-publish through the PlayStation Network – Microsoft’s general manager of Redmond Game Studios and Platforms told ShackNews that there are currently no plans to allow indie game self-publishing on the Xbox One:
“As of right now… we intend to continue to court developers in the ways that we have. I would also expect that for this new generation, that we’re going to continue to explore new business models and new ways of surfacing content. But Microsoft Studios is a publisher that works with a wide range of partners, as do a lot of other people, to bring digital content to the box.”
To make matters worse, an interview with Microsoft rep Phil Harrison over at Eurogamer revealed that the company is shutting down Xbox Live Arcade and Xbox Live Indie Games, the latter of which is currently the only way that independent developers can self-publish games for the Xbox 360. This is, ostensibly, in keeping with the Xbox One’s philosophy of having everything in one place – including games:
“In the past we had retail games which came on disc, we had Xbox Live Arcade and we had Indie Games, and they had their own discrete channels or discrete silos. With Xbox One and the new marketplace, they’re games. We don’t make a distinction between whether a game is a 50-hour RPG epic or whether it is a puzzle game or whether it is something that fits halfway between the two.”
Unless Microsoft changes their mind on this matter, they’ll find themselves at a troubling disadvantage compared to their direct competitors. As mentioned above, Sony already encourages indie developers to publish on the PlayStation Network, as does Nintendo for the Nintendo Network, and Steam largely made its name as a download platform for independent titles.
Some independent studios, like Mojang, are in talks with Microsoft or other studios to try and negotiate an Xbox One release for their games, but the fact that studios are required to strike a third party publishing deal before people can play their titles on the Xbox One simply increases the chance of PS4 and Wii U exclusives, whilst diminishing the potential number of exclusives for the Xbox One, and means that quite a few independent titles may be available on all platforms except for the Xbox One.
Does this affect your decision of which next-gen console you’re going to buy, or are you holding out on a decision until after E3?
The Xbox One will be available to buy in the fall.