Schafer: Microsoft platforms facing talent exodus

Industry veteran shares concerns over future relations between platform holders and indie devs

Double Fine's Tim Schafer has joined those calling for Microsoft to change its Xbox Live policies towards developers, or face a mass migration of talent.

"I like Sony and Microsoft, but those systems are closed and curated very closely and it costs a lot more money to go through that system, to patch a game," he told IndustryGamers, explaining the attraction of the App Store and Steam for indie developers.

"It makes me stressed out that if I put a game up there, I might not be able to patch it because it might cost too much money, whereas these more open platforms will let us manage our own price and our own updates. It's just a lot more appealing right now."

Schafer also referenced the infamous "Is XBLA Past Its Prime?" article by Ron Carmel, which saw the indie developer showed the Xbox Live was losing the support of independent developers while the PSN was gaining it.

"I was hoping that would be a really, really eye-opening article for the console manufacturers... and I feel like it's been totally dismissed," he said.

"I really think it's something they can't dismiss and they should really pay a lot more attention to because he's calling attention to a migration, an exodus of real creative talent away from those platforms to more open platforms, and I think they should do something quick to reverse that."

The industry veteran stressed his love for the console platforms that had brought us Geometry Was and Limbo, but clearly feared for them too.

"Things change every generation and just because you're on top and the 900lb gorilla in one generation, as you've seen, it doesn't really matter. It doesn't mean it'll be that way forever. I think that these threats that are possibly being ignored are going to hurt those guys."

Schafer has recently made headlines by using the Kickstarter crowdfunding service to back his next title. The point and click adventure is now nearing $2 million in contributions from the gaming community.

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Latest comments (7)

I think Tim Schafer and Ron Carmel are right; Microsoft have a great platform and some fantastic people working there, but their refusal to allow studios to publish digital games/content without being a 'retail publisher' along with their tough views on cross-platform, freemium and patching are driving an exciting new breed of indie devs/publishers to other platforms. The industry is changing rapidly, and I hope someone senior at XBox is able to push them into 'embrace the future' mode rather than 'protect the past' mode, which is often how they appear.
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Nicolas Godement-Berline Co-founder, Majaka6 years ago
I couldn't agree more with the article, and Patrick's comment above.
I fear we'll have to wait till the next generation to see major updates to XBL. And I do hope that next generation will be more about connectivity, social and flexible business models rather than shaders and normal maps.
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Marc Kent Pre-production Manager, Testronic6 years ago
Some of Ron Carmel's arguments in the "Is XBLA past its prime?" article are flawed and/or backed up by wonky statistics as detailed in the response from Arcadian Rhythms:
I'd recommend giving that a read before jumping on the 'Microsoft isn't nice to devs' bandwagon ;)

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Marc Kent on 20th February 2012 2:56pm

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Show all comments (7)
Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd6 years ago
@ Marc I've seen that, but the article is wrong. It claims that Carmel has little support, but there are tons of developers claiming the exact same grievances, and I'm not talking about small ones either. Mojang, 2D Boy, Double Fine, Team Meat, Uber Entertainment, Trendy Entertainment, nd Jonathan Blow are just some of them. We're talking about developers who make up a VERY large portion of Xbox Live's biggest games.

The fact is that we're well over half a dozen indie devs who've said the same thing. XBLA is not a friendly environment for them. It's an extremely bureaucratic and corporate mess, and it's not just because Xbox Live is a large platform. Devs have reported months of approval processes to get on Xbox Live versus less than two weeks to be added to Steam, a much larger digital sales platform.
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Barrie Tingle Live Producer, Maxis6 years ago
The same thing came up on Eurogamer about this article. Why does the header only mention Xbox when the article is in fact about Xbox and PlayStation?

Yes he mentions about indie movement from one to to other but that is a paragraph long.
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Sergio Rosa "Somewhat-Creative Director", Domaginarium6 years ago
Personally I don't think saying consoles are closed comparing them to Apple's App Store or Steam. We all know for a fact that consoles are a closed platforms, but we also know Apple can reject any application/game based on their obscure review guides, and Steam is very famous for their "we find Steam may not be a good fit for your game, for reasons we can't discuss" that many indies have surely received...

I do get the point on the article (and I think that by Steam he actually meant "the PC"), but not every game makes it to the App Store and definitely not every indie game makes it to Steam, and on my book that means those are closed platforms.
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James Podesta Lead Programmer, SASimulations6 years ago
@ Sergio - anyone can publish to Steam/AppStore and 'nearly' everyone gets their game on AppStore. However XBLA is effectively shut to the majority of startup devs unless they can get a big publisher involved.
Steam has some quality controls, to at least prevent some of the rubbish that gets on AppStore (since it is probably TOO open which leaves it up to the user to wade through the rubbish looking for gems).
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