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Last Friday saw the official launch of next-gen console gaming (sorry Wii U), with the launch of the PS4. This week, however, it's all about the Xbox One, Microsoft's new system launching today in 13 regions all over the world. Just like we did last week with our PS4 article, we'll be talking about Xbox One and the way it relates to game developers.
Unfortunately, Microsoft has been pretty sneaky about the specifics behind how they're planning to support independent developers, so we don't know everything we wish we could talk to you about at this time. However, here are some things we do know about independent development on Xbox One.
Indies Welcome: No Publisher Required
After initially stating they would not support self-publishing on Xbox One, Microsoft has wisely decided to reverse the policy, and self-publishing is now supported on the platform. This is a huge deal for indie development on the system.
Most indie developers don't have the time or money to sway a publisher into picking up their projects, and are reluctant to give royalties to a publisher who may or may not have significantly helped them during the development. With self-publishing, this middle man is entirely cut out, and this is nothing but a good thing for small dev teams.
Dev Kits Cost Nothing
Currently, when someone becomes a registered developer on Xbox One, Microsoft will send them two dev kits, free of charge. This is a big change from how things worked last generation, when Xbox 360 dev kits cost $10,000 at launch.
Even better, Microsoft has announced that they plan to eventually allow any retail Xbox One system to act as a development kit. This is a huge convenience; slowed development as teams wait for sorely needed dev kits will be a thing of the past.
Updates Are Free
During the entirety of the last generation, title updates for games came at an exorbitant cost to developers, often meaning a sizeable portion of income needed to be budgeted for potential fixes to a released game.
Luckily, Microsoft has announced this will no longer be the case, as title updates to games released on their service will now be cost-free for developers. Fewer costs to developers is always a good thing.
Developers Can Set Their Own Prices
Last generation, pricing was something entirely controlled by Microsoft. Every game on XBLA had its sale prices and even launch price set by the console manufacturer, and this obviously wasn't exactly developer-friendly.
With the new system, however, Microsoft has revealed that developers not only now have the ability to set their own prices, but can also set their own pricing structure, allowing smaller teams to dabble in the now widely popular free-to-play and micro-transaction based business model.
The ID@Xbox Developer Program
Many of the changes from last-gen listed above came as a result of ID@Xbox, Microsoft's system for becoming a registered developer on Xbox One. Though it initially looks like nothing more than putting a name on the fact that self-publishing is allowed on the system, there's actually more to the system then that.
ID@Xbox offers access to a wide range of information that may be of information to a budding developer, with promised promotion and marketing advice as well as access to developer forums and a wide range of Xbox One specific documentation.
Free Unity Licenses
Even more tangible a benefit is the fact that the Unity add-on for Xbox One license, which supports all of the system's features like SmartGlass, Kinect and impulse triggers, will be free for all ID@Xbox developers upon its release in 2014.
Unity is a massively popular tool among independent developers, so getting it for free is a boon.
Stay Tuned for More
Since the system just hit the stores, there's a huge amount we don't know about independent development on the Xbox One and the ID@Xbox program.
Once more developers get their hands on it over the coming weeks and months, we'll be sure to learn more about the system and what it means for independent developers. We'll update you guys as soon as there's more to know.