DigitalDNA on the era of the indie and why backing old publishing models isn't enough

Xbox One success depends on adapting to publisher-less world

Microsoft must ensure the Xbox One adapts to a publisher-less world if it wants to succeed, says the owner and CEO of XBLIG developer DigitalDNA Games.

Speaking to Develop, Thomas Steinke, who has created games such as CastleMiner and Avatar Warfare, questioned whether Microsoft really understood what it meant to have a platform not dominated by publishers, given its waning support for XBLIG.

He said the success of the Xbox One depends on the firm understanding how to support indies and that he didn’t believe "old publishing models would be enough to carry this box", labelling the current industry landscape as the "era of the indie".

"Microsoft created a great publishing system with XBLIG, but then sort of chose to ignore it, and stopped supporting the platform tools that their most loyal developers were using," said Steinke.

"Their messaging on this topic in the past few months has been both confusing and bipolar. This is combination with how they gave such poor support to XBLIG still makes me wonder if they really ‘get’ what is means to be a player in this new publisher-less world. The reality is, which I don’t think they understand yet is that they have to get this right, the success of the platform depends on it.

"This is how the most popular platforms that people use today work (ie iOS), and their competition like Sony does get this and is aggressively moving on this front, which is the reason for their 180 on this issue."

Steinke also criticised Microsoft’s for not reaching out to indies, even to those who had been successful on XBLIG.

He said that despite selling in excess of five million games, the computing giant had yet to try and foster a relationship with DigitalDNA.

"It seemed like Microsoft cared very little about what was going on in that channel," he said.

"You would think as a business person at MS, when a independent developer sells over 5m games on your system, you might want to reach out to them and foster a relationship, but that hasn’t been the case. So when they start talking about being the next great indie platform, I guess seeing is believing."

Steinke was positive however about the company’s plans to turn each Xbox One retail unit into a devkit. Although it has been light on specific details so far, Steinke said the model of having to buy a $10,000 development kit does not work for indies.

Despite some of the issues with Microsoft’s handling of XBLIG, he stated the system was still a joy to work with compared to other setups.

"In my past I had spent many years as a pro developer doing console dev, and the XBLIG system worked better than any of the pro setups, it was a joy to work with," he said.

"I hope they learned something from that."

For more information and reaction to Microsoft’s dev kit plans for the Xbox One, you can read our full feature here.

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