Worrying news from behind the bike sheds at Microsoft HQ as word is getting round that Microsoft might be beating up the smaller kids and threatening them not to go tell Sony.
According to Official Xbox Magazine, Microsoft are insisting on a “parity clause” for all independently developed Xbox One games – meaning that games will have to be published on Xbox One first, or at least both PS4 and Xbox One simultaneously. This is bad news for small developers with less resources – and also fisticuffs in Sony’s direction. Essentially Microsoft are saying developers have to pick a side: if they release on Sony’s platform first, they won’t be able to release on Xbox One.
The other difficulty for indie developers is one of tools: many developers build games in the “unity engine”, which as yet hasn’t been ported to the Xbox One. This means that converting a game to run on Xbox from a PS4 title isn’t as straightforward as it could be yet – thus increased development times are almost a certainty. So achieving parity is even more difficult.
One such title that may be affected is Nuclear Throne by Vlambeer – which is already out on Steam, and already has a deal with Sony for PS4 distribution. If Microsoft keep to their position, could it be blocked from ever having an Xbox One release?
These are ugly tactics, and it is essentially bad news for gamers: much like when MS or Sony pay the big developers for platform exclusivity (like Sony did for Metal Gear Solid 4, for instance), it merely means that half of gamers don’t get to play, and a bunch of people in suits get a big payday for not doing any work. If this claim about Microsoft’s ID@Xbox programme is accurate then that’s even worse for indies – unlike the EAs and Activisions of this world, bedroom coders don’t have the clout to negotiate better terms.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. It’s a bizarre move, as if this ends up costing Microsoft too many games they’ll be doing the opposite of what they want (“get more games on Xbox”) – not to mention that it seems they haven’t learned their lessons about damaging their credibility with the hardcore gaming crowd… who are, after all, the sort of people who will buy relatively obscure indie games to play on their console. Poor form, Microsoft.