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The war of software libraries is one fought with a pen, some paper and a legally binding contract. It's a battle that has long raged in the console space since the dawn of time and it's one that will likely never end so long as competition thrives deep within the loins of business-people and capital gains enthusiasts.
So what does the above have to do with Starbound – the Terraria in space adventure game – coming to the PS4, and being absent from a release schedule on the Xbox One? Well, everything.
Sony has been vigilant in their pursuit of software acquisition for the PlayStation 4, starting as early as 2012 to secure software titles from the indie crowd to appear on their latest console. Microsoft? Not so much.
It's that very difference in approaching the indie crowd that affected Starbound getting a release window on the PS Vita and PS4 for sometime in 2014, as opposed to not being slated for release on the Xbox One.
Gamingbolt managed to get word in with Chucklefish's lead writer, Ashton Raze, and how the process came about with porting Starbound to the PlayStation 4...
“Sony actually approached us about putting the game on their platforms, so obviously they’ve been super co-operative and accommodating. Shahid [Ahmad] over at Sony is doing some great work getting indies involved, and it’s something we’re really happy to be a part of.”
The same thing also applied for Warframe on the PS4, as Sony approached Digital Extremes about the space-ninja, third-person melee/shooter being a launch title for their latest console, as well as Zombie Studios with Blacklight: Retribution, amongst many others.
Sony has treated the lower-budget, independent scene as if they were courting bigger-budget, publicly traded companies for AAA titles. I think Sony has been, and is continuing to think, ahead of the curve in terms of software support.
Microsoft had to be coerced into changing their indie self-publishing policies. Even following that, the [email protected] program was a nice open-ended gesture that allowed anyone to become a registered developer for Microsoft's third-generation Xbox platform, but the fact that they had such poor and slow follow-through sees them in the current position where the Xbox One is suffering a major software drought following its release last November. The PS4, alternatively, has been keeping their purchasers appeased with a wide assortment of games since launch.
Still, Microsoft avoiding indies like the hot girl rolling her eyes at the fat guy giving her lusty eyes at the bar counter has come to an end. While they haven't quite been as fevorous as Sony when it comes to acquiring indie games, they have been trying to court the more recognized studios to join the [email protected] program, and they have opened the door for more indies to join the black and green brand.
Microsoft's policy reversal has also caught the attention of Chucklefish, prompting Raze to state...
“While there are no current plans for an Xbox One version of Starbound, it’s not something we’ve ruled out.”
Hopefully Microsoft's Chris Charla – the mind behind the [email protected] initiative – jumps on this opportunity, because we all know that Microsoft needs as many big-selling games as possible.
And for those of you brushing off indies like Starbound, keep in mind that per-platform sales comparisons, Starbound sold over one million units in three weeks, nearly the same amount that Titanfall sold on the Xbox One within the same time period, according to VGChartz.