Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Microsoft 'punishes' indie developers with Xbox One's strict parity clause

The stringent policies contained in the Xbox One’s indie dev program ID@Xbox have put constraints on Witch Beam Games, forcing them to delay their multi-platform title in order to secure a launch on Microsoft’s next-gen console.

The ID@Xbox program has been touted by Microsoft as a means for indie devs to bring their content to the Xbox One, but one indie studio has revealed the somewhat tedious nature of a specific policy clause.

Santana Mishra of Witch Beam Games told Eurogamer about his experiences with this irksome regulation, shedding light on the program’s “day one parity clause” that has stepped in the way of a smooth launch for their game Assault Android Cactus.

Assault Android Cactus*has a planned launch for Wii U, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but thanks to Microsoft’s stringent policies, they were forced to delay the game’s release in order to ensure a release on the new Xbox.

The day one parity clause basically states that developers can release their game on the Xbox One as long as they haven’t already been released on another console. But if you self-publish on Xbox One at the same time as other platforms, everything’s fine.

Assault Android Cactus is a twin-stick shoot-em-up that puts emphasis on tons of on-screen action.

Mishra explains how the clause itself was established after they had already begun developing for other consoles before the self-publishing ID@Xbox program had been announced:
“The simple answer is that our plans wouldn’t meet the launch day parity requirement of the ID@Xbox program.

“We started development on our other console versions long before self-publishing was an option for Xbox One, and the only way we could meet that requirement would be to delay the other versions of Assault Android Cactus.”

Microsoft does, however, extend the option to forgo the parity clause if developers have signed an Xbox One exclusivity agreement before ID@Xbox was made public. As Witch Beam hadn’t set up any exclusive deals beforehand this doesn’t help Mishra and his fellow devs:
“We didn’t have an exclusivity agreement in place with another console platform before the ID@Xbox program was announced, which could have allowed us to get a waiver.”

Even with the frustration of having to delay his game, Mishra believes that Microsoft is on the right track–but unfortunately their policies often work against them and the indie devs themselves.
*”Overall I think think the ID program is very developer friendly and light years ahead of what Microsoft were doing even six months ago.

“But it’s also coming in late with a clause that punishes those who have been developing on other platforms that were readily available for the past year, and that’s something they need to fix before it’s a viable option.”

It’ll be interesting to hear what Mishra has to say about his experiences with Sony’s indie policies for the PlayStation 4–and if the Japanese console-maker will take advantage of this opportunity to offer incentive to developers to cross-over to their side.

Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program sounds great in theory, but Sony might end up winning out on the indie front if the parity clause stays in place.

A good portion of Sony’s next-gen campaign was focused on indie game support, and although Microsoft has made waves with their Unity-supported ID@Xbox program, Sony has matched their stride by securing*indies of their own.

Interestingly enough, a few months ago Mishra was quoted saying that the PS4′s enhanced GPU made it “the most powerful console in the world,” and fellow indie devs like*Anton Yudintsev of Gaijin Games further praised the console.

Microsoft has the scope of their self-publishing program visualized well, but when it comes time to practical applications, it seems that the regulatory red-tape often gets in the way. To be fair, though, every platform has its own regulations that are set in place for a good reason–and Microsoft has made some pretty big leaps in progress from XNA Creator’s Club/Xbox LIVE Arcade to the self-publishing ID@Xbox program.

Even still, if Microsoft doesn’t change these policies then gamers might miss out on some pretty snazzy indies simply because of a regulation–and given that the Xbox One is still building up its library of content, it needs as much variation as it can muster.

Via Eurogamer

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