There’s no need to go through yet another laundry list of the Xbox One’s potential problems, but there is one that’s getting overlooked in favor of the larger issues of price and DRM. It’s the way Microsoft MSFT +1.74% is limiting indie game development on the Xbox One.
The primary case in point to demonstrate the issue is Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty from Oddworld Inhabitants. The game is coming to every platform from PS3 to PS4 to Wii U to PC to Mac to Linux, but not the Xbox 360 or Xbox One. Why? Because Microsoft is sticking indie developers with the burden of being forced to find a publisher in order to sell their game. This demand perplexes Oddworld boss Lorne Lanning who spoke to Eurogamer about his frustration with trying to work with Microsoft regarding the policy.
“For Xbox One they’ve granted us a license for New ‘n’ Tasty! but they still say you need a publisher. We don’t have a publisher so we’re not officially on the platform, even though we’re compatible, even though we’ll be ready to do it. Period.
“Why do we need a publisher when we self-finance our games, we build our own IP, we manage our own IP and we’ve turned nearly two million units online as indie publishers sold – not free downloads? Why? What’s wrong with us?”
In short, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty has everything possible they’d need to physically release the game for Xbox platforms, but don’t have a publisher, which they don’t need because they’re completely self-funded. Why would they split the profits with another company they don’t need in the first place?
Oddworld is not alone in not having a partnership with a publisher, and the result will likely mean that the PS4 will have many more indie games than the Xbox One, as it doesn’t have those sort of restrictions. Naturally, Lanning had nice things to say about the platform.
“I believe, because there are so many seasoned, long-term game builders involved with the new PlayStation, they recognize the real innovations are going to come out of this space where people have the freedom and the insanity to try crazy new stuff,” Lanning continued. “I mean, look at Octodad!”
No, the next generation console war probably won’t be won or lost based on games like Oddworld, but it is important to understand that this is yet another aspect of the industry that Microsoft seems to misunderstand. Indie games have exploded in popularity in the past few years, and are helping the overall growth of the medium. It doesn’t make sense to make it purposefully difficult for certain companies to bring games to your platform because of arbitrary restrictions like this publisher rule, which solely benefits the larger companies. Microsoft should be fostering indie growth on the Xbox Live Arcade, not hampering it with rules like this. It’s obviously not Microsoft’s most pressing issue, but again it’s representative of the company simply “not getting it” when it comes to certain aspects of gaming.