Microsoft Makes Moves To Accommodate Indies

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Steve Anderson
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Microsoft Makes Moves To Accommodate Indies

It is impossible, anymore, to look at the concept of gaming--at any level, casual or core--without considering the indie developer in some way. Several major titles have emerged to firmly cement the indie in the gaming concept, and so, failing to consider the indie in any procedural point is a bad idea. Microsoft is showing the value of the indie clearly with some recent new decisions that make things just a little easier on the indie developer.

First, there was one report that came in that will likely prove valuable to the indie developer, as the reports indicated that Microsoft was dropping the update fee associated with titles on the Xbox 360. Earlier, payments measuring in the tens of thousands of dollars, according to reports, were required to issue patches for games that needed a little extra updating. The reports also indicate that Microsoft will be keeping its certification fee to launch a title through the initial run of Xbox certification processes, but once it's in, chances can carry on as well.

Second, a further report followed that the issue of self-publishing is still an issue that Microsoft isn't adjusting, but one thing that Microsoft is doing is boosting the support for the Unity graphics engine. While at the Build developer conference in San Francisco, Microsoft showed a new partnership with Unity that would allow for easy porting to the Microsoft Store, Windows Phone, or even to Xbox One. That gives developers using Unity a lot more room to operate, while at the same time giving Microsoft access to a much larger pool of games. Unity is also set to bring out a set of new tools for developers to support Kinect gestures and the like, as well as better multiplayer matchmaking systems, cloud-based functions, and support for the SmartGlass system. Developers, though, will still need a publisher in order to release games on the system, while Sony and Nintendo will allow developers to act as publishers.

Considering how many indie games in recent days have made it big by comparison--"Minecraft," "Angry Birds," recent hits like "State of Decay" and a massive array of others--it's not surprising that game developers would be eager to offer up a cordial and welcoming environment for these developers. As we all well know, a console without games is just a pricey paperweight, so encouraging developers should be high on the priority list for companies. While Microsoft's indie developer welcome isn't quite so robust as that offered by its competitors, it's improving, and there's always something to be said for improvement. Indeed, Microsoft may well have discovered firsthand the price of annoying indie developers with Phil Fish and the development process for "Fez," in which a particularly vicious bug would take out save games. Microsoft planned to charge Fish for the updates, and Fish refused to pay. Xbox One, therefore, would reportedly lose out on the release of "Fez 2".

Microsoft needs games. Every console maker needs games. But Microsoft here has the potential to kill two birds with one stone as its burgeoning Windows Phone market needs a way to distinguish itself from the entrenched players in the field, iOS and Android. The kind of games that could show up on Xbox as indie development in many cases--not all, but many--make good conversions for Windows Phone.

Will the relaxed indie policy be a good one for Microsoft? Or does it not go far enough to accommodate the indie developer? Only time will tell just how much good this does, or doesn't do, but the farther Microsoft goes to get the indie developer working for Microsoft, the better the results should be not only for Microsoft, but for gamers as a whole.
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