Another day, another policy Xbox One U-turn. It’s become a familiar story. Back in June, after the phenomenal backlash against their used-game and online authentication policies, Microsoft execs performed a remarkable turn-around in announcing that they would be scrapping these policies. Whether you agree with the u-turn or not (and it’s become clear in recent weeks that the internet is not as unified on this issue as it once seemed), you have to admit that it’s a pretty big deal for Microsoft to take such drastic measures in response to customer feedback.
And now, it seems, they’ve done it again. In an interview with Kotaku, Xbox’s VP, Marc Whitten said that:
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 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.
This is certainly some change in policy as Microsoft stated in May that indie developers would need to have publishing deals from either Microsoft or a third-party in order to release their games through Xbox Live. It’s certainly a step forward – in a world where everybody and his dog can develop games for smart-phones, it seems archaic to limit indie developers so. It also brings Microsoft up to speed in terms of catching up with Sony and Nintendo in this regard.
But do we trust Microsoft?
That said, all is not well with some indie developers who are suspicious (probably rightly) of Microsoft’s marketing technique. Byron Atkinson-Jones, director of Xiotex Studios, stated that:
Xbox One has a Metro interface, which is the same as Windows 8 and Surface, so the plan has always been that you can develop cross-platform apps – it’s very easy to do, it’s just a HTML 5 interface – but you have very limited access to the hardware. If that’s what they’re talking about with this self-publishing programme, it’s not the same as self-publishing on Nintendo or Sony. I wonder about how much has changed.
I suppose Microsoft have to accept that people will be suspicious. I mean, they are, you know, Microsoft after all – but Sony haven’t exactly been forthcoming in their plans for indie development either, despite trying to place themselves as the ‘go to’ console for small developers. Yes, they have said they are going to be ‘open’ but we can never really be sure what that means until we get more details. What is I am sure of, however, is that nothing is finalised yet, on either console.
So, another Microsoft turn-around, and, in typical Microsoft style, they’re about as vague as they can reasonably be. Still, I am hesitantly optimistic that Microsoft are heading in the right direction. All we need now is to get them to remove Kinect!