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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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Matthew Handrahan avatar

Matthew Handrahan


Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.