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Xbox One deserves to be "first class citizen" for indie games - Spencer

Xbox boss explains the parity clause that Microsoft enforces to discourage Xbox One releases becoming afterthoughts

Microsoft has taken some heat for its indie parity clause which makes it so that indie games do not appear on a different platform first before Xbox One, or that the version that launches for Xbox One is improved or different in some way. Speaking on the Inner Circle Podcast (as reported by Eurogamer) Xbox boss Phil Spencer did his best to explain why Microsoft believes so strongly in the parity clause.

Ultimately, the way Spencer views it, the clause isn't supposed to be a penalty for indies who can't afford to develop a game on multiple platforms, but it's meant to ensure that Xbox One gets the best games for its audience that it can. "When a third party game comes out it comes out on all platforms at the same time. When indie games come out, I want them to come out and I want Xbox to to feel like it is a first class citizen when an indie game launches," he said.

"For me the parity thing is, if you own Xbox One I want to work for you to make sure that when great content launches, if it's coming to Xbox One and another platform, you get it at the same time as everybody else does."

"I don't want somebody to come in and just think 'I'm going to go do a special game on one platform and then I'll get to Xbox whenever I get to it.' I don't think that's right," he added.

And if resources are the sticking point for a developer, Spencer isn't averse to the idea of Microsoft working with that studio to make sure that the game makes it to Xbox One at the same time as another platform.

"I have a lot of friends who run small indie studios, and I get that timelines around when... they just can't get both games done at the same time or all 3 games, 4 games depending on how many platforms they're supporting," Spencer said. "So I [have been] just saying 'let's have a conversation', and it's worked. Today, I think we've done a good job working with the indies when they have had strict parity concerns if it's just a dev issue for them."

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Latest comments (8)

Ron Dippold Software/Firmware Engineer 3 years ago
That's ridiculous. You don't make XBox One a first class citizen with silly rules like this.

It's a first class citizen on its own merits or not - and this kind of policy tells everyone that you know it isn't. You're more pessimistic about your own console than I am.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development3 years ago
I agree. Even if you do cross platform development from day 1, the TRC and various other hurdles will just push back the release date a long way from "we're ready to go" on other platforms.

For the smaller devs who are presumably the subject matter for this, that can be a game over. Our only XBLA game was held up for over six months for a situation that MS finally agreed wasn't actually relevant. Don't want to be going there again. In fact that experience (and one similar other on Vita) is why we moved away from console development in the first place.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 3 years ago
The reality is that for 99% of games a small studio is capable of creating, the difference between Cbox and Ps4 is simply flipping over some hooks. It's trivial. The hardware is essentially identical, and if you can't do an X11, PS4, and OC version at the same time, it's because you don't want to.

Unfortunately, fanboy ism and politics have made things that people can take all those free resources, and then give priority to So y. Since most Indy games sell very small numbers, and e window where they so sell is very small, any delays basically mean the game is worthless. So instead of allowing this to happen, they set up the situation where it is least likely.

However, and this part keeps getting ignored, if your game is promising, they will bemd or break the rules for you, just as they're doing for No Man's Sky right now. theybneed to be confident that the version that you will be eventually shipping on their console will be worth the wait, and still generate revenue sufficient to making it worth their time to drop $5000 in free software, systems and support on you up front.
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Anastasios Hatzis Community Manager 3 years ago
I've got two questions for you, Jeff:

1. Do you have any experience as a PS4 and XBox One dev or is there solid data that proofs your point, that cross-platform development is just as trivial as flipping over some hooks? As a non-game dev, I know that cross-platform development is quite possible if you have a proper tool chain, experience, and of course all the platforms for testing etc., but it's still nothing trivial.

But even if it was just flipping over some hooks, to get the product developed, tested, into the stores, through Q&A etc.:

2. Do you also think that all the marketing, social media, community work, and customer support is also trivial?

I have strong doubts that your assumptions are realistic. I also don't think that most indie devs are much into fanboyism when they decide which platforms to support at which time schedule. As far as I know, most indie devs work on one single game, they invest and probably risk all their savings while doing so, and this one game has to be a commercial success or they are doomed.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Anastasios Hatzis on 13th October 2014 6:42pm

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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development3 years ago
The reality is that for 99% of games a small studio is capable of creating, the difference between Cbox and Ps4 is simply flipping over some hooks
Someone who is doing "Writing, Marketing and Licensing" should not be offering anything about how hard or not it is for a small developer to publish on multiple platforms, thanks. That you think it's even code related speaks volumes.

In fact with generalisms and assumptions like this, I'd knock the writing on the head too.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 14th October 2014 12:12am

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 3 years ago
@Paul

I'm offering what I've been told about the hardware by the people who have been working it daily. Most of these thousands of games in development are not that complex. How hard is it to port Nutjitsu for example? Super Time Force?For every No Man's Sky there's about five of those in the pipeline. Yes I oversimplified, but these games are not call of duty, nor are they challenging the hardware, so the work beyond changing the hooks on near identical platforms is not that much of an issue. It may be for your game, but I think I'm very safe in saying the next Flappy Bird isn't going to be worrying about that. If you plan ahead of time, and take advantage of available resources, the platform politics of certification, getting on the store, etc should be far more of a problem than getting your game working.

I apologize if my oversimplification offended you, it was not my intent.

And I am offering my educated opinion about the marketing part. Given the small window of opportunity most games from majors to minors have to make their mark, most entertainment media moves about 60% of its lifetime units in the first 60-90 days. In the case of stuff from smaller publishers, that window is much smaller. Which comes back to my point of why Microsoft might want to make sure that they don't spend piles of money to support the vast majority of Indy games that will burn out faster than they can ship the X1 version. This will become more and more of a problem as the libraries grow, and the inevitable glut starts burying people.

@Anastasios

I think you misunderstood my point. There are revs out there with axes to grind, justified or not. And Sony has run a relentless propaganda campaign. The policy is not iron clad, just with enough hardcore aspects to prevent them being taken advantage of.
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James Berg Games User Researcher, EA Canada3 years ago
Jeff, your assumptions are not correct. Just the TRC and compliance QA work that goes into things at the -end- of the project is considerable, even on small games.Indie devs are far less likely to have dedicated QA, particularly folks who are experienced with navigating the MS/Sony requirements. Xbox requires a specific help system to be set up, for example (which has to be fully localized), and the differing functionality has to be taken into account from both a design and testing perspective.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development3 years ago
but I think I'm very safe in saying the next Flappy Bird isn't going to be worrying about that
You're making it worse. As I said, it has nothing to do with the code. Those differences are there but you at least got it right that they won't matter much to most indie games.

James has it right above. That problem of my own I alluded to was a chess variant game (Shogi) for two players. It took 3 months to write on PC, then about one month to port to 360. Those next six months were spent on TRC, bureaucracy and paperwork.
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