Some dissatisfied independent developers say they’re leaving Microsoft for Sony.
As reported by Wired, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 was once the place to be for independent console developers. It’s Xbox Live Indie Games and Xbox Live Arcade platforms played host to a spectacular surge in indie development, with titles like Braid and Super Meat Boy attaining the status of low-budget blockbusters.
By the end of the console generation, the tide had begun to turn, and Sony’s PlayStation Network had begun to win the battle for the 53 per cent of developers who view themselves as independent.
At issue are a complicated an expensive submission process, the difficulty of getting certified, and the high costs of releasing bug fixes.
"Microsoft treats independent developers very badly," said Braid creator Jonathan Blow.
“[Microsoft would] put you through as much pain as you will endure in order to extract whatever [they] feel like this week."
Blow, who rocketed to fame when his game launched on the Xbox, played a prominent part in the PS4’s unveiling. His appearance was highly symbolic of Sony’s growing indie appeal.
He isn’t alone in frustrations either – Retro City Rampage creator Brian Provinciano says that there were still major problems even after he had waited an additional six months and been forced to sign with an outside publisher to ship his game
"Someone made a mistake and released it on XBLA for $10 (£6.60) instead of $15 (£10), so most of the copies sold earned one-third less off the top," he said.
It was a completely different story working with Sony.
"Sony’s been incredibly supportive and promoted the game very well," said Provinciano.
"It’s received a generous amount of promotion at no cost to me, from [advertisements] on the PS Store to events such as E3 and even having it playable on kiosks at every Walmart, Best Buy, GameStop, Target and Future Shop across North America."
Microsoft might seem down, but it isn’t by any means out. Successes like the Xbox release of Minecraft show that XBLA is still alive and well, and that Microsoft is willing to bend the rules in order to accommodate high-profile indies.
“We’re invested in helping developers realise their visions on Xbox by ensuring they have the tools they need to be successful and by using their feedback to continually make refinements on our platforms," said Microsoft.
How Microsoft plays ball with Mojang might be a straw man when applied to how it deals with a host of relative unknowns, but as long as indies continue to bring in the bucks no company, no matter how large, it’s certainly invested in keeping them on board.
The question is if Microsoft will be able to adapt to the pressure for increasingly open platforms while simultaneously nurturing its investment in Windows 8.
For this answer, indies will likely have to wait until the expected reveal of the next Xbox in May or June.