Ska Studios challenges view that Microsoft is bad for indies

The Dishwasher developer claims that press-created "narrative" harms indies

Ska Studios, the studio behind the XBLA game The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile, has spoken out against the "narrative" that Microsoft is bad for independent developers.

In a post on the company blog, Ska Studios founder James Silva outlined what he believes to the unfair portrayal of Microsoft as a tormentor of indie developers. Silva claims that a handful of negative experiences have been magnified by the press, leading to the "narrative" that Microsoft doesn't respect indies.

"When one indie says they're never working with Microsoft again, the gaming public becomes curious as to whether this is an isolated incident, or part of some sort of ugly truth," he said. "And pretty soon everyone wants to know if I've just been secretly hiding my experience with the ugly truth, or if I'll be moving to PS4 because of the ugly truth, when, in fact, this perceived ugly truth is nothing more than 4 or 5 data points.

"Telling thousands of readers that Microsoft is failing at indie gaming is telling thousands of potential customers that Microsoft is failing at indie gaming"

"My experience is and always has been 'everything's fine', but, again, that's not exactly newsworthy. Nothing is more delicious than that ugly truth."

Silva was inspired to write the post following accusations that the tongue-in-cheek presence of Windows Phone in the Ska Studios' Microsoft-published Charlie Murder was evidence of a clandestine arrangement. According to Silva, the "entirely untrue" accusations - which were made in the comments of a Joystiq preview of the game - speak to a larger mistrust of Microsoft when it comes to its dealings with indies.

"I have heard a few stories that contradict my experience, and I know quite a few people who are happier on platforms other than XBLA, and that's fine for them," Silva continued. "XBLA is a closed, carefully curated platform with its own set of fairly rigid standards and protocols. For me, it was just a matter of 'do the work, release the game,' and that's exactly what we did."

Sony's focus on making the PlayStation 4 a more open platform for independent developers has prompted a fresh tide of negative press around Microsoft's approach to independent content this generation. For Silva, not only is this misleading, it also has a negative impact on the fortunes of independent developers trying to find success on XBLA.

"Telling thousands of readers that Microsoft is failing at indie gaming is telling thousands of potential customers that Microsoft is failing at indie gaming," he said. "And while everyone likes a sale, the ones who really, desperately need the money aren't the Microsoft people who green-light the projects; they're the indie developers who are trying to quit their day jobs, trying to buy a house, trying to raise a baby.

"As a consumer, would you think twice about buying a game from a 'failed platform'? Would you hesitate at buying an indie game from a company that 'screws indies'? But that's the current narrative, and while it sucks for Microsoft, it sucks a lot more for indie developers who are publishing on XBLA."

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Latest comments (5)

Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd4 years ago
With a storefront that buries indie games, terms and conditions out of the dark ages and a lack of positive PR stories to challenge the widespread perception, Microsoft is indeed failing at indie gaming.

Nobody is putting a gun to any developers' heads to support XBLA. Isn't that part of the point of being independent?
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David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers4 years ago
Well said Robin - I would say the best way to combat this is not to rail against "media narratives" but to actually spawn some positive stories to tell for indies on Microsoft platforms.
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Dave Wolfe Game Developer, Cosmic Games4 years ago
Microsoft is also discontinuing XNA, which was a great way for indies to get games on the Xbox, and with MonoGame you can easily get your XNA game running on a ton of other platforms. There's been some great games made with it (Bastion, Sol Survivor, Magicka, etc), it's a shame Microsoft doesn't see the value in continuing to support indie developers.
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games4 years ago
I own a Lumia 920 and also working on my first game on windows phone. I see plenty of exposure for all games and nice categorization. The quality of the games is not always what a modern phone user would expect though. This is the gap that needs to be filled and there is plenty of room for growth!

ms is pushing forward. and that is a tough but good strategy.

btw, also Unity for Windows Phone 8 is taking registrations.
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee4 years ago
Its a lot better to see both positive and negative views. Negativity has a habit of taking over and going on to make objective discussions cloudy.
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