Microsoft details indie game publishing for Xbox One

Small developers get some love, as MS continues its prelaunch charm offensive.

Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One console on May 21, 2013.
James Martin/CNET

Among the many groups initially turned off by the first wave of Xbox One details were indie game developers and publishers. Despite creating critical and commercial hits for the Xbox 360 (and being major players in Android, iOS, and PC gaming), the indie game community was troubled by new rules that would require all games on the upcoming console to come through a game publisher, rather than being uploaded and self-published by the developers themselves.

The issue was second only to the confusing and shifting rules for used and downloaded games in sowing discontent among gamers, and Microsoft eventually backtracked on both positions, allowing physical game discs to be lent, gifted, or resold , and also committing to allowing independent game makers to publish their games on Xbox Live , as one might on the iOS App Store, albeit with few concrete details thus far.

The Xbox One's new Kinect. CNET

At the annual Gamescom video game trade event in Cologne, Germany, this week, Microsoft revealed much more about indie game publishing on Xbox Live, including something called Independent Developers @ Xbox (or ID@Xbox), which the company describes as, "a new program which enables qualified game developers to build, publish and make their games available digitally on Xbox One."

In order to become a "qualified" developer, one must apply at xbox.com/id and Microsoft says priority will be given to game makers who, "have a proven track record of shipping games on console, PC, mobile or tablet."

In exchange for registering, the company says indie developers will not be charged fees for applying, or for submitting games for certification, and will receive two no-cost development kits to build games on (separately we've heard from Microsoft that any retail Xbox One console can be reset as a development box).

Limbo was a great example of an indie game that caught everyone's attention on the Xbox 360.

Rather than the current system, which divides games in Xbox Live Arcade and Indie Games sections, the downloadable game store on Xbox One will combine all games into a single storefront, and indie games will have access to the same features, including cloud services, Kinect, and SmartGlass, as bigger-budget games.

Under the current proposals, self-publishing on Xbox One sounds a lot like Apple's iOS App Store, with self-submitted games subject to a review and certification process, rather than Android or the PC, where anyone can publish anything at will.

Microsoft clearly hopes these revised indie game rules, along with relaxed restrictions on shared game discs, Kinect requirements , and always-on Internet connections , will reverse a steady stream of negative public reaction that started with in the initial Xbox One reveal in May .

You can follow other news from Gamescom via our partner, GameSpot.

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Microsoft Xbox One

The Bottom Line: The Xbox One goes beyond gaming with its ambitious live TV integration, but at launch it can't deliver a knockout blow to the PS4 due to a higher price and uneven voice control. We suggest you wait for improvements, but for now, the Xbox One is better suited to forgiving early adopters. / Read full review

About the author

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of laptops, desktops, and Windows tablets, while also writing about games, gadgets, and other topics. A former radio DJ and member of Mensa, he's written about music and technology for more than 15 years, appearing in publications including Spin, Blender, and Men's Journal.

 

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