Better late than never I suppose: following their much publicized reversals on the Xbox One used game policy and their removal of patch fees, it appears that Microsoft will also backtrack on their unpopular policies regarding indie developers and self-publishing on Xbox Live.
According to Game Informer, Microsoft will soon allow independent developers to self-publish their games on Xbox Live. Under Microsoft’s new publishing policies, indie developers will be able to set their own release dates and prices for their games. Microsoft is also overhauling their certification process, reducing the amount of time it takes between submission and approval down to just two weeks.
Previously, indie developers had to pitch their games to Microsoft or one of the big third party publishers in order to get them distributed over Xbox Live, a policy which drove many independent developers away from Microsoft platforms. Oddworld Inhabitant’s Lorne Lanning described Microsoft’s previous indie policy as “making it very clear they’re not interested [in indie games],” and following a number of disputes over Microsoft’s certification process, Fez developer Phil Fish made it clear that he won’t release his games on Microsoft platforms in the future.
Microsoft is the last of the “Big Three” to allow indies to self publish on the platform: Sony has actively been courting independent developers for most of the current gen (they even dedicated a huge chunk of their E3 press conference this year to showcasing some upcoming indie titles,) and even the traditionally out of touch Nintendo has been allowing indies to self publish (well, except for the Japanese ones, strangely enough) for the last few years. According to Retro City Rampage developer Brian Provinciano, he’s been allowed to publish his games on Nintendo platforms with a free license and “no pitching, no negotiation,” but comparatively described his experience with Microsoft as “It’s just so needlessly difficult to get your game out on XBLA…The XBLA one was over a year total of work, and I don’t know how many man-months of work, but it was a lot of time and money. The Xbox sales really got hurt by Microsoft’s policies.”
Microsoft has been the gaming industry’s biggest pariah ever since the disastrous Xbox One reveal before E3, and while I think the company honestly deserves a lot of the hate and criticism that they’ve received over the last few months, I think they should be applauded for their recent series of policy reversals. They’re clearly aware that they’ve screwed up in a lot of areas, and it seems like they’re actually listening to everyone’s complaints and are actively trying to fix things. This is definitely good news for anyone who was planning to get an Xbox One or who’s simply interested in indie games in general.
I’m still not entirely sold on the Xbox One yet (the higher price will still probably lead me to buy a PS4 first,) but thanks to a lot of Microsoft’s recent policy changes, the system now looks like a possible contender instead of the monumental, dead-on-arrival disaster that it originally looked like it was going to be.