How Xbox Continues to Help Independent Developers Reach More Players

Greetings from GDC 2024 – every year we use this show as a way to meet tons of developers and as a convenient check in to talk about the goings on at ID@Xbox.  

2024 got off to a fast start with players this year — Xbox had its biggest month ever on console this past January, measured by play time (including ID@Xbox program member Pocket Pair, whose Xbox Game Preview title, Palworld, has more than 10,000,000 players on Xbox so far!). 

With more than 3500 titles from independent developers in more than 100 countries in active development for Xbox and Windows via the ID@Xbox program, we’re always working to help independent developers reach more players, and for players to find the best new games. Our new open pitch portal and our Indie Selects program are two ways in which we‘ve unlocked new opportunities for creators and players alike.  

Last year, we mentioned that we’d be launching an open pitch portal for members of the ID@Xbox program to pitch their games for deal consideration for Game Pass and our Developer Acceleration Program. I’m happy to say that since the portal launched in August, we’ve had hundreds of studios use the portal to submit games for consideration.

While we don’t publicly talk about our deals before they’re announced, we can say that opening up this process more transparently and publicly has been a huge step forward, to ensure the curators at Xbox across Game Pass and other programs get access to the broadest variety of games to consider, so we can keep bringing players the best selection of games on Earth. While we’re incredibly excited to meet old and new friends from development studios this week at the Game Developer’s Conference, travelling to San Francisco (or anywhere) to meet Xbox staff in person shouldn’t be a pre-requisite to get a game in consideration for a deal — and I am happy to say that it no longer is.  

Second, this January, after an enormous amount of work from our amazing marketing and store teams, we launched the Indie Selects section of the Xbox Store! This section of the store harkens back to the olden days of Xbox Live Arcade with hand-curated collections of great titles from independent developers available on Xbox. In February, we began awarding six titles a month with an Indie Selects designation / award as well. 

Although I’m not personally the biggest fan of awards – we all have our own criteria for what makes a great game – so I’m always a little uncomfortable trying to pick winners in any category, especially where there are so many great games out there. However, I also live and breathe games. One of our discovery challenges is helping folks who love games, but don’t immerse themselves in gaming news on a daily (or hourly!) basis. For them, the Indie Selects designation is a great way to help them quickly find games that are endorsed by a group of curators and staff at Xbox who vote on them each month. (I can also share that Phil Spencer volunteered to serve on the voting committee!) These are all awesome games, but of course, there are a great many awesome games that won’t have the Indie Selects designation as well.That includes most games that launch with Xbox Game Pass. The marketing efforts we’ve started with the Indie Selects program are predominantly for games that are not in Game Pass.  

Game Pass already provides an amazing discovery mechanism (if you see a game you think you might like… download it!), and our Indie Selects efforts are there to ensure that folks see the amazing breadth and depth of the whole catalog on Xbox, not just Game Pass. 

And that depth and breadth just keeps getting bigger. We now have “business hours” coverage for developers 24/7 around the world, and the team’s work is paying off, with more than 100 titles in development for Xbox consoles via the ID@Xbox Program from Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. Of course, we have a lot of work to do to grow and help the developer base in these areas, and from other developers who are under-represented on Xbox wherever they are geographically. We want Xbox to be a place where everyone feels comfortable playing and developing.  

Of course that doesn’t mean every game will be for every person, and that’s where some of our most challenging, and exciting work will be in the months and years to come – enhancing discovery so that we can help players find their next favorite games, and so we can help developers of great games find their audience wherever they live around the globe. Games remain a hit driven business, but we believe in a future where every game has a reasonable shot in front of its intended audience to make a critical and commercial impact. This is crucial to our dual vision to bring players the widest and deepest array of games to play, and to enable developers to have a sustainable future creating and entertaining us for years to come. And from what we’ve seen coming, we’re incredibly optimistic about the future of games and developers on Xbox.