Yesterday's news that indie developer Polytron wouldn't be patching its Xbox Live Arcade platformer Fez, due to prohibitive costs from Microsoft, sparked some rather heated debate from writers and commenters alike. Some, myself included, took studio head Phil Fish's claims at mostly face value, assigning the heaping helping of the blame to Microsoft, due to the company's policy of charging "tens of thousands of dollars" for updates via Xbox Live. Others noted that Polytron's long history of development on Fez, coupled with the fact that the agreement Polytron signed to release via Xbox 360 would have outlined any such costs, meant there was ample blame to be spread around for the issue.
Microsoft, it seems, doesn't want any part of the discussion. The console maker released a brief statement today disputing Fish's claims that it was the rigid costs of releasing a title update that prevented the patch from happening.
“Polytron and their investor, Trapdoor, made the decision not to work on an additional title update for FEZ. Microsoft Studios chose to support this decision based on the belief that Polytron/Trapdoor were in the best position to determine what the acceptable quality level is for their game.
While we do not disclose the cost of Title Updates, we did offer to work with Trapdoor to make sure that wasn’t a blocking issue.
We remain huge fans of Fez.”
Take that statement as you will. Fish never mentioned anything regarding attempts to alleviate the problem, though we also don't know exactly what level of assistance Microsoft was offering. All you can really say at this point is that neither party looks blameless. Microsoft's costs for updates, which developer Tim Schafer has quoted as being as high as $40,000, definitely seem prohibitive to smaller, independent developers. On the other hand, you've got a years-in-development game with a patch causing save corrupting bugs, and a contract explaining up front the costs associated with the company's update regulations.
According to Polytron, less than a 1% of Fez players are vulnerable to the bug in the original patch. The bug specifically affects saves from completed games, or near-completed games.