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There’s Still A Big Problem With The Xbox One

Okay, sure, you could say there are still multiple problems with the Xbox One, like say, the always-listening Kinect, $499 price tag and the inability to transfer your arcade library from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One. For now, I’d like to focus on one serious problem that, despite Microsoft’s latest game-changing move, has still gone largely ignored. It’s an issue that Microsoft has been shying away from lately, for some reason or another, even though they were a vocal advocate for it in the past.

I’m talking about indie games.

The Xbox 360 used to be a bastion for indie developers. After a substantial makeover when the Xbox 360 launched, thanks to a gargantuan push by Microsoft, Xbox Live Arcade quickly became a consistent source of inventive and high quality arcade games like Castle Crashers, Bastion, Geometry Wars, Limbo, Braid and numerous other critical and commercial successes. It was a great time to be an indie developer, especially if your game was displayed on the Xbox dashboard where it could be seen by millions of gamers.

Since then, something has gradually changed, and the result has been a steady migration of indie developers to Apple, Sony, and Steam.

At Microsoft’s pre-E3 press conference last Monday, they showed a myriad exciting video games, including an impressive arsenal of exclusives. They had to after the console’s poor unveiling the month prior. However, when it came to exciting indie releases, outside of the atmospheric rogue-like Below (which looks amazing by the way), Microsoft’s showcase was alarmingly sparse.

That same night, Sony showed off their stuff in their own media briefing, which included a plethora of indie games like Octodad, Transistor, The Witness, Secret Ponchos, and — perhaps most exciting of all — high profile horror games Outlast and Daylight, both of which will be coming exclusively to PC and the PS4.

So what happened?

From the outside looking in, it seems as if indie games just aren’t a focus for Microsoft right now. In the beginning, things were great. There were continuous promotions, including Xbox Live Arcade Wednesdays, Game Feast, and Summer of Arcade — now, the Summer of Arcade remains, but there’s not much else.

For the indie indie releases, Xbox Live’s Indie section was hidden in a recent dashboard update, making it significantly more difficult to find.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Microsoft does not allow indie developers to self-publish on the Xbox 360, and this policy won’t change with the Xbox One. This means an indie developer either needs to put their game in the sometimes capable hands of Microsoft who will have full control over when that game releases and what kind of marketing push it gets, or a third party publisher. If the dev takes the latter route, they’ll need to pay the publisher.

None of that is good news, but wait a minute, it gets worse.

Whichever path the indie dev takes, once their game is on XBLA, there will probably be problems with it. Bugs happen all the time, and even huge quality assurance teams often miss even critical, game-breaking bugs. Thankfully, that’s why the gaming gods gave us patches, to remedy these issues.

On the Xbox 360, releasing a patch can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Most indie developers don’t have that sort of money at hand and the few that do tend to need that for their game. This caused problems last year, when Fez developer Phil Fish was unable to fix a save bug in his game, because he simply couldn’t afford it.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but in the end, paying such a large sum of money to jump through so many hoops just doesn’t make any sense. We already owe Microsoft a LOT of money for the privilege of being on their platform. People often mistakenly believe that we got paid by Microsoft for being exclusive to their platform. Nothing could be further from the truth. WE pay THEM.”

It’s a ridiculous situation, and we’re starting to see a steady trickle of indie developers who are moving away from Microsoft’s platforms.

Sadly, Microsoft hasn’t shown much interest in indie games with the Xbox One. They’ve promised it’s still something they care about, but we have yet to see any real proof. Indie developers still can’t self-publish their games, and there are still plenty of hoops for developers to jump through in order to see their games on Xbox Live.

It’s an unfortunate situation. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on Xbox Live games crafted by indie developers. Some of the best games I’ve ever played have been arcade titles I’ve downloaded off Xbox Live.

I hope this really is an important issue for Microsoft, and more than that, I hope they show us how much they care about indie developers in the near future. Otherwise, it won’t matter if your console has the same DRM policies as the PlayStation 4, I’ll still choose Sony’s platform, because it’s more open and welcoming to the developers I’d like to support the most.

Have a question? Feel free to ever-so-gently toss Adam an email, or follow him on Twitter and Bloody Disgusting.

  • magicjaguar

    Even with the backtracking on DRM, I’m pretty positive I’m still jumping ship to PS4. The deciding factors may come down to the controller and the price point for me.

  • WryMouth

    I’m sold on the Xone before or after this change. Since Used games are only $5 less than new game?

    Controller wise the reviews are it is one of the best gaming ones made from all the reviews on the net. More and more articles are coming out to show off how that Computing Cloud will work and seems very interesting design.

    For me its all about games and Xbox showed way more than PS4 did at E3. Overall seller for me is 300,000 servers and dedicated servers for gaming. Titanfall looks sick, Ryse looks badass, and Dead Rising 3!

    Check out The Evil Within that game looks insane!

  • ThunderDragoon

    I’m just happy to be getting a PS4. The Xbox One is just a box of controversy.

  • X

    I’ll stick with Sony again. Microsoft is trying to control the damage already done.

  • Disturbed_Scorpion

    I was actually sold on the X1 before the changes, now that I won’t have my games available at all times and I have to swap discs to play my installed games like I live in 1999 and playing on a PSOne, I may not get any new consoles this time around. I blame the internet for the lack of innovation this time around.

    • wildgator25

      I’m glad that someone else was actually looking forward to seeing things moving in a new direction. Don’t get me wrong, I am still/always was going to get the Xbox One (I HATE seeing the abbreviation Xbone!), but MS did cave in behind a lot of backlash. Some of it was justified, but most was built behind Sony’s opposing statements (which were still vague in my opinion).

      As far as Indie games goes, I could really give two shits. If they want a platform to go to other than MS, then go to the Google App or Apple Store. I personally have only bought 1 Indie game (Try Not to Fart), on a whim. I will not lose any sleep over this issue.

      • Beneviolence

        XBONE! I love it. Usage: “I was XBoned after I spent $500 on a video game console and the company went back to their original policies requiring of always being connected to the internet and not allowing people to share used games.”

  • Mr.Mirage

    “Greed, for lack of a better word, is still a Mortal Sin.” — Pope Frank One.

    Maybe I’ll just… read a book. Watch a movie. Better still, just go for a long walk, and maybe start my own entertainment.

    • Adam Dodd

      Is… is that… what normal people do? The last time I went for a walk was in the summer of ’89.

  • hess

    I do not trust these people one bit..

  • divisionbell

    I was actually rather unimpressed with th Xbox exclusives this year. Nothing really stood out for me personally. I’m still planning to go with Sony.

  • Nothing333

    Ae u serious with this. MS had announced Capy’s Below and Swery’s D4. Both of those completely kill any Indy I’ve seen announced for the PS4 yet.

  • Beneviolence

    “Oh, I’m sorry baby. Look what you made me do. It won’t happen again baby. You know I love you right? Sometimes you just get all mouthy and you make me take care of business. You know what I’m saying? I promise I’ll be good to you from now on. Just come on back, baby, I’ll be good to you I promise.”

    XBOX fans = Domestic violence victims

    When will they learn?

    • pyrepunk

      I said the same thing LOL!

    • wildgator25

      Guess that only applies the the ones who cried and went the PS4 way.

      PS4 fans = Crusty curmudgeons, old fogies, those set in their ways.

      Maybe by PS5 the Playstation Network will catch up to Xbox Live?

      Learn that!

      • ash ketchum

        PS+ catch up to Xbox live? In my experience Xbox live is trash on top of trash. PS3 internet is free and those who complain about its connection are just xbox fanboys. I’ve had PS3 since its initial release and I’ve never had problems with it disconnecting.

        Its Xbox that needs to catch up to Playstation. PS+ gives you a free game every single week and auto updates for you once a new update comes available. PS+ gives you 50-70% discounts on many games every single week. PS+ gives discounts on ITSELF so you don’t have to pay the $50 for the year if your subscription is running out.

        Xbox fanboys have no clue what PS+ is and the ONLY thing Xbox is adding to Live is 2 free game downloads a month. Slap in the face yeah.

        Microsoft is an American company, and when was the last time an American company listens to its consumers. Reverse the DRM sure, but how long would that actually last? They will eventually down the line screw you on something else. Like watching your new XboxOne crash and force your to buy another one and another one just like the 360. Well hey, its an American made product. Expect it to crash.

        • wildgator25

          Sounds like you are the one who is confused.

          1) I haven’t paid more than $35 per year for Live since I started with the 360. PS+ is $40 per year.

          2) Xbox Live discounts games, dlc, avatar items, themes, movies, music, etc. ALL THE TIME.

          3) Apps upon apps upon apps. ESPN, Internet Explorer, UFC, etc.

          4) That price you are talking about saving on PS+, how about trade the difference on base console price.

          5) I still have a Launch system which still plays with no problems. Crash on that!

          6) Read up on the latest update to the PS3 that had to be pulled down immediately. Bricking consoles with their shitty un-American made code.

          7) I can give you a free turd if you want that?

          Merica, fuck yeah!

          • Golic

            wildgator; you need to just admit you’re a raging Microsoft fanboy, and that you’re completely butthurt over the ass whooping Sony delivered at E3. MS reversing their greedy BS policies may get a few suckers back, but the damage is done. I don’t see how ANY self respecting gamer would ever give this company money again after they tried to pull such a dick move. Better luck with the XBOX…uh..2?

          • Beneviolence

            Haha, nothing like stupid consoles to get people a’fighting over nothing. All I know is that MS showed their true intentions and plans for their system, and there is no reason to think they are abandoning all that work.

            Their mistake was hitting everyone over the head with it ‘before’ they had established it in the marketplace. What they should have done was get their $500 consoles in happy hands of xbox fans first, and then roll out their exciting “this makes gaming funner’ policies.

            Let’s face it: if an xbox fan is sitting there with their new console and MS says they always have to have the kinect on to play games, what are they going to do but take it, and take it hard.

  • John Marrone

    Im gonna ride my 360 til its dust.

    • wildgator25

      Oh ah golic you shot me where it hurts. I am so butthurt about Sony “ass whooping” my precious Xbox. I am an Xbox fanboy, never denied it. What trips me out is all of the Sony trolls that showed up on Xbox articles to gloat. If Sony “won”, then I guess Microsoft should just throw in the towel huh?

      Why don’t we just proclaim Nintendo dead as well? Sony hasn’t won ANYTHING YET, MS hasn’t won ANYTHING YET, and Nintendo hasn’t won ANYTHING YET. I actually hope more of the regular crowd moves away from the Xbox Won (oops meant One). Would remind me of the good early days of Xbox and Xbox live. You guys can have em. Maybe when mommy and daddy tell them they can’t afford the best system, you guys can deal with their whiny asses.

      Proud Xbox owner since the beginning, enough said.

  • bevoaustintx

    Forgive me if I am wrong here, but I could have sworn that at the original Xbox One unveiling, everyone talked about how there was going to be 13 original titles in the next year of the release (essentially October 2013 – November 2014) with a whole lot of them being indie’s? I am a Microsoft guy because my original one was bought thanks to loose change I got from waiting tables, and being able to obtain such a great system that had all the sports games I wanted to play and loved was a great thing. It is one reason why I stick with Xbox, not only because of that, but also because of the great Xbox Live apps that they do let you have. Sure Live costs you money but at $60 a year and all the stuff you can do with it, I think it is kind of cool. I don’t mind the Kinect stuff “watching” you or whatever that is about, if it is a way to prevent piracy or what not, then why not. I don’t openly go out of my way to steal games or anything like that, but if it’s a trend that is happening too often then it needs to stop so we all can have fair play. As for Sony and Playstation peeps, cool, have your own system, I don’t care LOL, we all have different likes and dislikes. While the game The Last of Us makes me want to get the PS4, I am not sure if I shall, just saying that fanboys can be fanboys LOL, and people will spend their hard earned or mommy and daddy earned money on whatever, the industry will become bigger and bigger and gripes will become bigger and bigger. One of the complaints about the Xbox One is that it is an entertainment system. Well I truly believe there are more of us out there that actually enjoy the watching Netflix and Hulu and listening to stuff and watching videos than play a game. I spend most of my time actually on the MLBTV app and watching movies that I put on the system than I do playing MLB2K13 or Top Spin 4 or Assassins Creed or what not, so the system fits me. Just saying we are all different and what we dig some others may not, but most of us just deal with it 🙂

  • Neocoolzero

    And this is why i always stick with the PC,a closed platform is never a good thing in the long run,having to be dependent on the whims of Giant enterprises is never a good thing,who would’ve tought couple years ago Ms would do this to Indie market?Who’s to say Sony wont do something similar down the way?
    Something like this can’t never happen on a pc,Steam or no Steam,there’s always MORE CHOICES,wich for me is what’s pc is about,you’re in control!

  • coffinbirth

    I don’t come to BD for gaming news or insight per se, but jeeeebus, the amount of totally incorrect crap in these comments is ridiculous. I suppose I shouldn’t expect much, but damn.
    Also, I would like to point out some glaring issues in this article. First of all it should be pointed out that the first patch for Xbox 360 titles are ALWAYS FREE. The reason that they charge for subsequent patches is so developers and/or publishers aren’t skipping proper QA testing in lieu of just patching it down the road. I.E MS sets a standard for their software to avoid having the stigma of a platform that has buggy software…and Sony DOES THE SAME EXACT THING.

    Next, I would like to address your comment about Phil Fish.

    “when Fez developer Phil Fish was unable to fix a save bug in his game, because he simply couldn’t afford it”

    This simply isn’t true.
    Fish made MILLIONS off of Fez.
    This is actually widely known. Phil Fish REFUSED to pay for patching the game because he felt like MS should have caught the bug during the certification process.
    Seriously, if you’re going to bend the truth to fit an unlikely agenda, you should not be bending truths that are considered common knowledge in the gaming industry.
    Now, before any of these mouth-breathers resort to calling me a fanboy because I’m speaking the truth, please know that I own all of the consoles this generation, and actually prefer Steam for my indie games fix, as the selection is infinitely better, the prices are obviously cheaper, and the patches are all free. Just like the platform.

  • melodicmizery

    be happy that you dont have indie games, they are ruining playstation imo. ps plus has become a shitfest of awfull indie games that arent worth playing more then 2 seconds. the majority of these indie games look worse then 8 bit nintendo games. there graphics are outdated 30 years. on top of that they usually arent fun. when you have a bit better of a game like outlast those are the better indie games. but most of them are shit. the result is ps plus using them to offer them as a free game so they dont have to use actual good games. these awfull games are flooding playstation. i was happy about indies at first, i thought alot of new ideas and variations would be thrown out there that big companys were to afraid to invest in because they wouldnt be the typical cod clone they wanted. instead all we got was 8 bit games that suck ass

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