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Xbox One retail units acting as development kits still 'in the roadmap,' not a priority


It's been over a year since Microsoft first announced plans to help democratize game development on Xbox One. The plan at the time was to enable retail units to double as development kits. The effect of that move is twofold: it brings down the cost of dev kits (which are often thousands of dollars), and it opens up the possibility of console game development to a much broader audience. College students, for instance.

The functionality was said to arrive not long after last November's Xbox One launch. Over a year later, that functionality still hasn't hit the Xbox One. Microsoft's head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, says it's still in the cards. When, however, is still unknown.

"I know, I know, I know," Spencer told us in an interview this week at Gamescom, the annual gigantic game show in Cologne, Germany. "I don't love that it was a year ago that we talked about it here and it's still not available." He said it's still "in the roadmap," but there are a variety of priorities ahead of it. Those priorities, he said, are driven by developers' requests.

"There's been such a great response to [the Xbox indies program] that the request from the community so far hasn't been the retail-to-dev kits," Spencer said. That program, dubbed "ID@Xbox," offers developers two free dev kits and direct access to Microsoft's console support staff. Indies can harness all the same bells and whistles on the Xbox One that the big studios can. All that said, the ability to turn retail Xbox One consoles into development kits took the indie program another full step up: anyone could become a console game developer.

"I just want to listen and take the feedback and not just do something because I wanna go do it," Spencer said. In so many words, Spencer doesn't want his team to spend resources (time/money/etc.) delivering a service that developers aren't asking for. "I wanna do something because the consumer -- developers in this case -- get what they're asking for."

At the same time, this initiative wouldn't impact existing devs as much as it would impact students and the general public. We can't know who's upset that this doesn't exist yet because the folks who would use it may not even know they want to develop games just yet. Perhaps they'd be inclined if their Xbox One would assist in the process. For now, though, it sounds like we're depending on the ID@Xbox program for indies on Xbox One.

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