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Follow the leader seems to be the new game Microsoft likes to play, following in the footsteps of competitors Nintendo and Sony, as the company's hard-nosed stance against self-publishing from indies may be in for a major overhaul soon.
Details are still sketchy but Game Informer has received word about various changes in policy for the Xbox One regarding independent developers and allowing them a bit more control in how they release games.
According to the Game Informer article...
Under the new directive, developers can set their own release dates and pricing, which should make the erratic nature of Xbox Live releases less problematic for creators who want to handle their own marketing.
The article goes on to say that there is word that Microsoft is overhauling the certification process. For those who don't remember, Sony overhauled their certification and concept approval process earlier this year when they also waived patching fees and opened the doors for more independent developers. Nintendo also recently made efforts to appease their policies more to independent developers and also make the process more pain free by handing out free kits. Nintendo, additionally has made it easier for developers to get registered and publishing their titles on Nintendo's platforms.
While Sony and Nintendo had these policies well underway, Microsoft was the odd man out and stuck to their guns about restricting independent developers from self-publishing on the platform(s)... until now.
The overhaul of the cert-process sees Microsoft using a 14-day turnaround process similar to Apple's iTunes app store. This will mean that more indie games from more developers could potentially be accepted into the Xbox Live's Marketplace and removed from that back alley location known as the Xbox Live Indie Game channel. Specifically, Microsoft will be checking for terms of service violations and “significant” bugs.
These new certification measure comes on the heels of confirmation that Microsoft has also waived some patching fees for independent developers, making it a much more appeasing platform for up-and-coming designers.
Last but not least, as a way to fix the lack of dev kits being made available for indie devs, Microsoft will allow console IDs for normal Xbox One units to be transformed into dev kits with debug software access, with Game Informer writing...
We've also been told, but cannot confirm, that every Xbox One unit can be converted to a debug console. Instead of specific hardware units, Microsoft can authorize a console ID to play pre-release code. This is in line with information we've received about a new process for beta tests. They will be run via hardware provisioning on Xbox One, with the process reportedly to be enabled for up to 25,000 users per test at launch.
If all this pans out, and let's hope that it does, then this could readily help change the landscape moving forward for developers making games for the Xbox One... especially exclusive titles not restricted to the traditional publishing method.
Of course, Microsoft is already six months behind Sony and a couple of months behind Nintendo. How well this will affect indie titles released for the system at launch and throughout 2014 will depend on how well indie developers will be able to port from one platform to the next.