Xbox Wire

Independent Developers @ Xbox, Spawning a New Wave of Innovation for Xbox One Games

By Chris Charla, Director of ID@Xbox
Editor’s Note: Today at gamescom, Xbox Vice President Phil Harrison announced details about a new program called Independent Developers @ Xbox (ID@XBox), which enables game developers of all shapes and sizes to build, publish and sell their games digitally on Xbox One. Chris Charla is helping to lead the charge for Xbox and provides more details on the program below.

I was an independent developer for 10 years before coming to Microsoft as the Director of Portfolio for Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) and I’m excited to be taking on a new role as the Director of ID@Xbox.

Any time someone asks me about Microsoft and independent developers, I think back to Microsoft’s very first product, created in 1975 in a college dorm room by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. It was a tool for developers – BASIC for the Altair 8800, the first personal computer. It took the Altair from a box with switches and LEDS that didn’t do all that much to a machine that could be used by a wide array of people to do a lot of really interesting things, like write games.

Ever since then, Microsoft has had a heritage of enabling developers to do great things, and that support continues today. We kicked off independent developer innovation for console gaming in 2004 with Xbox LIVE Arcade on the original Xbox with more than 20 titles featured by the top independent developers of the time including Garage Games, PixelStorm and Popcap Games.

On Xbox 360, Microsoft helped pioneer console digital distribution with Xbox LIVE Arcade, and the result was an amazing flowering of fantastic games, mostly created by independent developers. Many people say Summer of Arcade 2008 was the start of an indie “golden age,” as independent developers like Jonathan Blow and The Behemoth introduced games that went on to become huge commercial and critical successes. And the golden age doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. The fastest-selling new IP in XBLA history, “State of Decay,” was just released in June, which speaks to the strength of the XBLA ecosystem (and the quality of the game -- Undead Labs knocked it out of the park!).

Today on Xbox 360, every XBLA game needs a publisher, either a third party like Activision or Electronic Arts, or Microsoft Studios, Microsoft’s first-party publishing arm. We enabled self-publishing on Xbox 360 (by using a retail kit as a development kit) a couple of years after its launch via Xbox LIVE Indie Games, which is very popular. There are some great Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) games (“Super Amazing Wagon Adventure,” anyone?), but those games don’t have access to the full Xbox Live tools, they can’t use Kinect, and they don’t have Achievements or Gamerscore. Some people have said XBLIG games can be challenging to find for casual players.

Now we’re on the cusp of a new generation with Xbox One and other consoles, and it’s a great time to reflect on independent developers and opportunities for them on new consoles.

As we thought about the new Xbox One and how games could harness the technology, it became clear we’re at a great moment in time where the independent development scene has matured and changed dramatically. In talking with scores of independent developers over the past year, it’s clear they are ready for new ways to develop and reach customers. So, we’re acting to meet the needs of the development community and in turn, enable a proliferation of games for Xbox fans.  

At gamescom today, we announced a new program for Xbox One, Independent Developers @ Xbox (ID@Xbox), which I am super excited to be part of. It’s a program we built based on feedback from over 50 developers which enables self-publishing of digital games on Xbox One. The program will offer developers access to development kits at no charge and an easy path for developers to build, publish and sell their games on Xbox One.

Games that come through this program will be able to access the exact same features as any other large game company on Xbox One: Achievements, Gamerscore, Kinect, Xbox SmartGlass, Xbox cloud services and more. What’s also exciting is that these games will be available in the exact same marketplace (Xbox One Store) as every other game on Xbox One, making discovery for players easier by using all the curation and discovery tools that Xbox One will offer, including Spotlight, Trending, Recommendations and great social discovery with features like Game DVR and Upload.

We’re really proud to offer this third path onto Xbox One for developers, and we’re excited to see what independent developers will bring to the system. At the same time, many independent developers will still want to work with a publisher, either Microsoft Studios or a third party, to bring their content to Xbox One. Publishers can provide support such as testing, QA, funding and marketing and promotion services. While some independent developers want to “do it themselves,” for others working with a publisher is the right decision, so they can focus 100 percent on the game itself. It all comes down to enabling developers to make the choice that makes the most sense for them. That’s ultimately what’s going to deliver the broadest and best games onto our platform for gamers.

It’s also important to remember that our vision is that anyone will be able to create using Xbox One. Marc Whitten, Xbox Chief Product Officer, has said that eventually we’ll enable anyone to make games for Xbox One using their Xbox One console as a development solution. (In the meantime, there’s a super exciting product coming to Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Windows 8 for budding creators. It’s called “Project Spark” and anyone can make surprisingly deep interactive game content – you can even use Kinect in your projects!).

At the end of the day, when you turn on your TV, we want Xbox One to have the broadest and most diverse content possible. Whether you’re in the mood for a big budget shooter, a contemplative side scroller, or something totally different that we can’t even imagine yet. The best way to deliver that experience is by doing what we’ve always done: making life easy for developers, as they do the hard work of creating fantastic game experiences for us all to enjoy.

If you’re interested in reading more about how to become a certified Xbox One developer through the ID@Xbox program, visit our newly launched website: www.xbox.com/id.

Here’s what a few of our independent developer partners have to say about the program:

David Braben, Frontier 

“This program is excellent and I’m really excited to see what developers do with SmartGlass and the connectivity of Xbox One. We really look forward to participating in ID@Xbox.”


Joe Tringali, 5th Cell

“ID@Xbox is a promising step forward for independent content creators who want to bring a unique product to next gen consoles. We’re behind this initiative 100%, and excited to connect with our fans and bring 5TH Cell innovation directly to Xbox One.”


Andrew Eades, Relentless Software

"It's fantastic that Microsoft is giving developers like Relentless the opportunity to publish games on the Xbox One. We'll be making our self-published games available on Xbox for the first time ever which is awesome. I think that a future-looking platform with the kind of innovations that Xbox is bringing will allow developers and gamers to enjoy a Cambrian explosion of ideas."


Phil Gaskell, Ripstone

“I’m really excited about the explosion of inventive indie titles this partnership is going to see. There’s never been a better time to be a gamer. You can forget pay to win, this is what gaming is really about.”


Chris Hecker, Independent Game Developer

"I'm really excited that Microsoft has listened to feedback from developers and created this program. As an independent developer, I want ‘SpyParty’ to be available to as many players as possible, and it feels like Microsoft is interested in not only removing roadblocks for indies to get their games on Xbox One, but they're also genuinely interested in finding ways to bring new and innovative indie games to their platform to help games reach their potential as an art and entertainment form."

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