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Microsoft Confirms Self-Publishing on Xbox One

Plus, an interview with Xbox corporate VP Marc Whitten about the changes.

One of the more surprising changes Microsoft didn’t make with its new hardware, Xbox One, was allowing independent developers to self-publish. Instead, developers would have to (still) be published by Microsoft or align themselves with an established third-party.

That policy is now gone.

“Our vision is that every person can be a creator,” said Xbox corporate VP Marc Whitten in a statement. “That every Xbox One can be used for development. That every game and experience can take advantage of all of 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.”

There are some important details there.

One, every Xbox One is a development kit. That’s an unmistakably huge move on Microsoft's part, and while it only goes so far to repair the company’s relationship with the independent community, it has removed an enormous bar towards publishing on its platform. Development kits for any piece of hardware, whether we’re talking from Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo, can cost thousands.

Two, having access to achievements means independent games are no longer relegated to a weird, dark corner of the Xbox marketplace. Achievements will most likely not be as huge of a selling point this generation, but plenty of people still love unlocking them, and being able to include achievements on any game that’s released on Xbox One is a good step towards equality.

There are details we still don’t know about yet, though, including the revenue share between Microsoft and developers.

For more, I got on the phone with Whitten for a little under 10 minutes. Here's our conversation (or listen to here!)

Giant Bomb: There are a lot of really little things that I’d like to go over first, to see what you guys are and aren’t talking about in terms of specifics. One thing that I’ve heard from a lot of folks is whether you’re talking about the revenue share yet?

Marc Whitten: Yeah, more details to come, but mostly, you should think about it the way you think about [Xbox] Marketplace is today on Xbox Live.

GB: If people want to part of the development community, if they want to participate in self-publishing, is that part of a service they have to sign up for? On 360, that was XNA, and you were paying for a subscription yearly to participate in that. Is something similar happening on this end?

Whitten: There will be more details to come about how you sign up for the program. Our goal is to lower the barrier to entry as much as we can, to make it easy for people to create content for the system. While there’s more details to come, take at the top level, that the reason we’re doing all of this architectural work is really about “how do we make this simple and easy for people?”

GB: Post-Xbox One launch and when this system is available, is there a reason for people to have proper Xbox One development kits? Is there a significant difference between what the developers get access to in terms of building their games?

Whitten: Our goal is for you to be able to have full access of the system and the services on Xbox Live. Also, this is a dev kit. This is the way that we will think about dev kits for people on my team that are working on Xbox One. There’s no “this is a second class sort of experience” type of thing. Right now, obviously, in the build-up to a platform launch, there’s lots of special builds and lots of special kits and all that kind of stuff, but that’s more time and place.

GB: But this isn’t a situation where, if you just pick up an Xbox One at Target, you’re only going to be able to access certain parts of the memory, certain parts of the graphics processor? This is going to allow you, at least eventually, once it’s all put into place, to be able to do everything that someone like Respawn is doing?

Whitten: That’s right.

GB: I want to read a quote from one of the World of Tanks developers, who was recently talking about working on free-to-play on 360 and he said “one of the biggest challenges with Microsoft was the frequency of updates because the QA process and certification process takes an extremely long time. Totally unacceptable for a meaningful free-to-play. We are working with them to do quicker updates.” I’m wondering if, alongside this self-publishing model, you guys are trying to streamline the certification and title update process?

Whitten: Yeah, that’s been something that we’ve been focused on for a long time. In particular, as you think about--ignore free-to-play for a second and think games as a service, this idea that games are updated more frequently for constant gameplay or whatever reason. To do that, it’s all about “how do you build the automation? How do you really simplify that certification experience?” That’s a pretty key goal for us.

GB: So the goal is, then, to make that turnaround time a lot faster? Obviously, there will still be a certification process, I would imagine, given that you’re still a platform holder.

Whitten: Yeah, that’s the goal. Again, I’m not committing to a specific timing. It’s always the goal. That’s always the function of “how could can you get at being great at automating that work?”

GB: One of the reasons, in the past, development kits have been pretty coveted and when they show up on eBay people are pretty quick to bring those down, are fears of giving access to the infrastructure--fears over piracy. How are you guys handling that, given that you’re giving the keys to the castle to a much wider audience, once this rolls out?

Whitten: That’s the key thing about really building this, from an architectural perspective. We couldn’t have done this on the Xbox 360. Well, you could have only done this on the Xbox 360 if you designed it this way in 2003 to 2004 to 2005. This is about how we’ve built the service, how we’ve built the hardware, what the linkage is between that, to enable this type of capability. You can always do that at the launch of a generation because that’s where you get to put those foundational things in. I think people are thinking about the Xbox 360 version of the world, which is different than the Xbox One version.

GB: Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that this isn’t going to have a split similar to the Xbox 360, where you had Xbox Live Indie Games and Xbox Live Arcade proper. These are all supposed to filter into the regular games tab, correct?

Whitten: That’s right. We want more discoverability than that. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be possible for it to say “show me hot new indie games,” but it should be additive to that experience, not like there’s some segregation in there.

GB: With the App Store on iOS, Amazon’s App Store--basically these app stores that already have these self-publishing, low barrier to entry models--some of the big problems there are discoverability and cloning. What big lessons have you guys taken away, based on what you’ve seen already happen with similar models?

Whitten: I think the curation and the experience is still really important. The key thing is how you use social engagement on the service and the service itself to drive discoverability. The “what are my friends playing? What are the hot trending things on Xbox Live?” We think those are really important. But we also still think the top level of “how do you curate and spotlight amazing game experiences, regardless of where they came from, that really show off what’s magical about Xbox One or really fun?” is the key.

GB: One of the big changes that’s happened over the past couple of years, especially if you use Steam as an example, is more direct control over pricing and dynamic pricing, being able to launch your own sales and have more control over how that is handled in the marketplace. For people publish on Xbox One, are they going to have more dynamic control over that? In the past, Microsoft directly worked with and, in some ways, dictated the the pricing of content that appeared on the Marketplace.

Whitten: There’s two things there. The first one is “hey, we want to set up a real self-publishing model, and we want to give people a bunch of control about that particular experience.” The second one is why we keep talking so much about how important it is to build Xbox One around this kind of digital infrastructure, this digital future. There is an infinitely interesting set of things to go do when you really have a broad digital platform, and I’m not going to commit to a specific feature or a specific timeframe, but the types of things that you’re talking about and, frankly, much more, is why we’ve architected the system we have. We can really innovate around that over the next 10 years on the platform.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
160 Comments
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Edited by Dr_Robocop

Hmmm, having every XB1 be a development kit is a pretty interesting move.

*Edit: Just saw the updated Whitten portion. Good job, Scoops.

Edited by killacam

rad. every console being a dev kit makes the prospect of owning one actually appealing.

Posted by cjdunn

Microsoft's doing the right things, but all of them due to intense pressure by their customers and competitors.

This next generation is a joy to behold. I love a good fight.

Posted by Sin4profit

Doesn't change the certification process though does it? My understanding is that that was a huge barrier.

Posted by YoungBuck

They're finally coming around.

Posted by TurboMan

At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft just decides to quit on Kinect and launch at $399.

Posted by danlongman

Glad you waited till this was confirmed @patrickklepek. props.

Also good news indeed. Happy for the changes!

Posted by DJJoeJoe

That's kinda neat, it seems like I've never heard of a gaming platform other than the PC where you can create the product for the device on the actual device itself and obviously PC is sort of an odd exception considering it's general application is not gaming.

Honestly though I kinda just want XSN back, and Rallisport Challenge to be a thing once again haha... Was my Dirt fix before Dirt was a thing :)

Posted by mrcraggle

Our bitching and moaning is slowly but surely working you guys.

Edited by hi_im_rob

This is good news! More indie games for everyone!

Posted by poheroe

keep it going Microsoft.. you are almost there.

Posted by Darji

the biggest problem I see is that even if you could make a game does not mean you should. Look at XNA there is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much horrible shit that you seldom can find the rare gems.

But yeah letssee where it goes. Lets just hope it does not become the IOS marketplace or even worse.

Posted by joshwent

Doesn't change the certification process though does it? My understanding is that that was a huge barrier.

Yeah, this news is great, but it still doesn't really address indie's 2 big problems with publishing through MS; unreasonable cert requirements and the inability to patch easily.

Those of us who watched the making of Bastion videos saw just a drop in the bucket that cert pains gave Supergiant and many other people trying to get their already mostly bug free games just up on the damn market place.

And amazing persistent games like The Pinball Arcade are completely dead on the 360 partially because their DLC had to go through a ridiculous patch approval process that made it not financially feasible to work with the platform.

Again, good on MS for listening to players and devs (or at least pretending to), but if those aspects of self publishing aren't resolved we'll just be seeing a whole bunch of next-gen PC games with really good XBox controller support.

Edited by DSale

Still needs to address the patching issue.

Posted by Winternet

So, does this mean next month Microsoft is just going to say "Bah, this closed platform thingy? Just forget about that. Xbox One is a PC."?

Posted by Sgtpierceface

Great to hear that they're still changing things up that people have problems with. Hope they keep it up.

Posted by Pr1mus

Now make Kinect optional and launch at 400$

Posted by AuthenticM

They've just killed the Ouya ! Hahaha.

Great move, Microsoft. I hope Sony follows suit.

Posted by Pr1mus

They've just killed the Ouya ! Hahaha.

Great move, Microsoft. I hope Sony follows suit.

Sony is already doing self publishing on PS4.

Edited by StrainedEyes

@authenticm said:

Great move, Microsoft. I hope Sony follows suit.

With what? Sony announced self publishing a long time ago.

Posted by Toxeia

There's going to be SO MANY DATING SIM GAMES!

Edited by Cold_Wolven

Props to Microsoft for continuing this string of positive announcements, keep em coming.

Edited by darkcl

good bye ouya~

Posted by Xaviersx

Still need a better promotion system than what was seen in the Xbox market, though some of the titles in there didn't present themselves as polished enough to warrant interest ~ a better peer review system to look at a listed titles and make an informed decision as to whether something is amateur crapware or an indie/self published gem.

Edited by Darji
Posted by Grilledcheez

Doesn't change the certification process though does it? My understanding is that that was a huge barrier.

I believe that is changing to a much easier and shorter process if the article from earlier today is correct. They compared it to how it is on itunes.

Posted by jimmyfenix

@authenticm: Dude the Ouya was dead on arrival! , Also sony said back in FEB it is doing self publishing.

Posted by jArmAhead

@dsale said:

Still needs to address the patching issue.

If you mean the fees attached to patching, I am pretty sure that has already been addressed. In fact, I believe they've already removed that from policy, I remember an article about Fez potentially getting that patch is needs so badly now that it won't cost a ludicrous amount of money to patch games.

Posted by Darji

@jarmahead: these were exceptions it is not the norm. Back than for example you had a certain size limit for your games but promising ones got a exception and they could be bigger.

Posted by AuthenticM
Posted by JasonR86

I hear that shortly Microsoft is going to change the A, B, X, and Y buttons on their controller to X, square, triangle, and circle. They say they wish to capture the imaginations of gamers withe these new, innovative buttons.

Posted by jArmAhead

@cjdunn said:

Microsoft's doing the right things, but all of them due to intense pressure by their customers and competitors.

This next generation is a joy to behold. I love a good fight.

That is why anyone does anyone in any business. Lets stop acting like MS is somehow different than Sony in some fundamental way. Sony did what they did because of business, not love and puppies.

@darji said:

@jarmahead: these were exceptions it is not the norm. Back than for example you had a certain size limit for your games but promising ones got a exception and they could be bigger.

You're certain about that? http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-06-26-microsoft-no-longer-charges-developers-to-patch-their-xbox-360-games would suggest otherwise.

Edited by Darji

@jarmahead: that was in april 2013 after a ton of backlash and publicity. before that there were exceptions.

Posted by bigjeffrey
Edited by jimmyfenix
Edited by MetalGearSunny

@authenticm said:

They've just killed the Ouya ! Hahaha.

Great move, Microsoft. I hope Sony follows suit.

Uh, you know the whole reason Microsoft is doing this is because Sony has been doing it for a long time, which is why developers don't want to develop games for Xbox One?

Edit: Just saw your post. Never mind!

Posted by Belegorm

Looking good for the competition this gen. I'm still probably going to go with the PS4 anyway (I mean even if Microsoft backed off on a lot of what they were going to do, the fact that they had the gall to try that in the first place is unappealing). Also I forget what the GB crew has said about the xbone's controller, but I don't feel like they'll ever make a decent one with a decent d-pad judging by their track record.

Edited by plugger603

Nice going Microsoft, you have all the Sony fanboys shitten their pants now. Depends stock just went up. Xbox Won

Posted by bigjeffrey

@bigjeffrey said:

PACK IT UP SONY, Once the KINECTLESS $299 Version comes out you'll go the way of the Wii U. Xbox Won.

@darji said:

LOL

Ah, the catch. Xbox One devkit functionality won't be available at launch, Microsoft just told us

http://kotaku.com/microsoft-every-xbox-one-can-be-used-to-make-games-up-898750954

OH SO LIKE GAIKI, except this one is not a promise to consumers.

http://uk.gamespot.com/news/microsoft-has-no-plans-to-release-xbox-one-without-kinect-6411990 "COUGH"

NICE TRY, If it aint from Kotatsu, IT AINT REAL.

Posted by joshwent

@cjdunn said:

Microsoft's doing the right things, but all of them due to intense pressure by their customers and competitors.

This next generation is a joy to behold. I love a good fight.

That is why anyone does anyone in any business. Lets stop acting like MS is somehow different than Sony in some fundamental way. Sony did what they did because of business, not love and puppies.

Not sure you really get what "business" means. Sony did what they did to try and attract devs and consumers. Good business.

MS did what they did to try and attract publishers and keep their console a nice tight ad revenue flowing machine, at the expense of consumers. Bad business.

That's a clearly fundamental difference, and it's why folks like me still aren't willing to say "yay Microsoft!" even when they make positive changes, because they pretend like we should sing praises and throw money at them for revolutionarily just making their gizmo a bit less insidious.

Posted by The_Laughing_Man

They said any Xboxone can be a dev kit. Don't the normal dev kits have 12 gigs of ram?

Posted by Blu3V3nom07

I just want Fez II out of this, on XONE. I don't give fuck bout anyone's grudge or whatever. And port over some Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, cuz :D

Edited by Darji

PACK IT UP SONY, Once the KINECTLESS $299 Version comes out you'll go the way of the Wii U. Xbox Won.

@darji said:

LOL

Ah, the catch. Xbox One devkit functionality won't be available at launch, Microsoft just told us

http://kotaku.com/microsoft-every-xbox-one-can-be-used-to-make-games-up-898750954

OH SO LIKE GAIKI, except this one is not a promise to consumers.

Yeah sure believe in Microsofts lies. while they betrayed almost everyone in their history and Indie devs wont come back that easily as well. Sony speaks for gamers at the moment and gamer and also indie devs are rewarding this stand right now.

Just because it is now easier to publish some games does not mean indie devs will forget. For example the Fez 2 guy already said that even with these changes they FEZ2 will most likely not come out on Xbox.

Posted by Darji

They said any Xboxone can be a dev kit. Don't the normal dev kits have 12 gigs of ram?

it will mean that there will be restrictions in what you can create.

Posted by Lucien21

Man, next they will be changing the name of the console to the ps4.

Posted by EternalVigil

Another step in the right direction. If Microsoft keeps making these moves it's going to be a good generation for the consumer.

Edited by MHumphreys89
Edited by WarrenMSP

I don't even know what the Xbox One is anymore.

Posted by GalacticPunt

@jimmyfenix: @strainedeyes: @pr1mus: The Ouya's claim to being a developer's Utopia was that every retail box was a development kit. If a big, bad company like Microsoft is going to do the same thing, then Ouya's novelty is gone. That was the duder's original point.

Online
Edited by mrfluke

interesting move on MS part, now lets see if sony can keep trumping them or if they ran out of steam.

but bravo to sony though for making microsoft react this radically though.

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