Microsoft's Xbox One is getting decidedly more indie-friendly with today's confirmation from Microsoft that its forthcoming game console will double as a developer debug unit. In so many words, each $500 unit purchased at retail this holiday will also run in-progress game code, enabling developers to get in on the action all the more affordably (debug versions of game consoles cost far more than retail game consoles, and tend to look slightly different from their retail counterparts). "Our vision is that every person can be a creator. That every Xbox One can be used for development," Xbox corporate VP Marc Whitten said in a statement.
Of course, such a move wouldn't make much sense without eased publishing regulations -- the Xbox 360 allows for self-publishing only in its ghettoized "indies" section, and all other games require a Microsoft-certified publisher to distribute physically or digitally. Going forward with the Xbox One, developers can publish their own games; Microsoft's looking at a quick turnaround on that code certification as well, according to reports, though we're told there'll be more info at Gamescom come late August. The full statement from Whitten can be found just below the break.
Update: We've also added responses from indies to today's news below.Microsoft's VP of Xbox Marc Whitten said:
"Our vision is that every person can be a creator. That every Xbox One can be used for development. That every game and experience can take advantage of all of the features of Xbox One and Xbox LIVE. This means self-publishing. This means Kinect, the cloud, achievements. This means great discoverability on Xbox LIVE. We'll have more details on the program and the timeline at gamescom in August."
We also reached out to a handful of indie developers who have been outspoken on the issue. The first one to respond was Retro City Rampage developer Brian Provinciano, who ported his game to Xbox Live Arcade on the Xbox 360 as well as a variety of other platforms. His response to today's news:
"I'm very happy to see this. After all of the developers have spoken out, they're finally listening. However, this is yet another example of them changing policy, but it sounding better than it is when the whole story is revealed. Make no mistake; while this is a great thing, it's again not the equivalent to what other platforms offer. On PS4, for example, developers can tap right into the system; use every bit of RAM and all of its power. Indies have access to everything that the AAA studios do, from platform support to development and release. The indication on Xbox One is that it's essentially XBLIG 2.0. Instead of XNA, it's Windows 8. Windows 8, which is already struggling to gain developer interest, will gain a boost from developers wishing to target the console. However, it won't be as full-fledged as published games on the system.
After my experience working with them to release on Xbox 360, I have no interest in even buying an Xbox One, let alone developing for it. The policy changes are great, but they don't undo the experience I had. I'm not ready to forget what I went through. Working with Microsoft was the unhappiest point of my career. Policies are one thing, but developer relations are another.
It's important to me that consumers don't see things as black and white. There are still strings attached to this policy change."
Octodad developer Young Horse Games is one of the studios working on a game currently for Sony's PlayStation 4 -- Octodad: Dadliest Catch (yes, it looks as delightful as it sounds). President and community manager Philip Tibitoski told us:
"For me I'm waiting to hear more details about the self-publishing on Xbox One before making any sort of decision as to whether it's a great thing or maybe just something that's only okay. I want to be able to see the visual setup of the store and how they're going to be handling discoverability. They recently said everything would be in the same store, but how will that store be organized and what does it take to get banner space or notoriety?
What are the technical requirements of this? Is there potential to interface with them on marketing and things of that nature? Or will you just be another app in the same way that things released on the iOS appstore can so easily be overlooked? I think it's a step in the right direction, but it's too early to know how large of a step."
Monaco developer Andy Schatz of Pocketwatch Games went with Xbox Live Arcade exclusivity for the launch of his team's top-down espionage game. He's since spoken about the game's sales struggles on XBLA, though his response to today's news doesn't sound like he's given up all hope of Xbox development:
"Open platforms are good for the health of the industry and unquestionably good for gamers. Until I hear the details of exactly what Microsoft plans, though, I'm not yet ready to celebrate. For a more substantial answer from me you'll have to wait until there's more substantial news!"
Rami Ismail of Super Crate Box and Ridiculous Fishing developer Vlambeer is currently working on Luftrausers for PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3 and PC. He told us:
"Of course, this is great news and Vlambeer is happy to hear that. Obviously, we'll have to wait until gamescom to hear all the details and figure out whether limitations are in place. We've been discussing this exact issue with Microsoft for a while and to see them following Sony's lead in an open indie strategy is great for the industry. Anything is better than nothing."