Microsoft backtracked on its DRM policies, but there’s one thing Redmond’s corporation is still dreadfully silent on, and that’s its treatment of indie studios that would like to publish their games on Xbox Live Arcade.
As part of an illuminating interview on the Penny Arcade Report Retro City Rampage developer Brian Provinciano explained what is wrong with Microsoft’s unfriendly policies, and defined the platform in a rather radical way:
Most expensive, a bottleneck, damaged PR, hindered other platforms’ success.
He then went on to explain the core of the problem:
The problem is that Microsoft does not allow developers to self-publish, you have to have a third-party publisher, or you can be published by Microsoft Studios.
And things get worse as the explanation continues, painting a rather bleak scenario:
Like any publisher, Microsoft Studios takes more from you than a simple platform revshare (Revenue Share). In addition to their publisher cut, Microsoft Studios also requires at minimum a timed exclusivity, so you won’t be able to release on other platforms day one.
They feel that if they’re publishing your game, they want to be the end-all-be-all publisher. They want to publish all platforms, even those which you could self-publish on.
Provinciano explains that if you want to publish on other platforms, Microsoft will ask for a cut of the revenue not only on Xbox Live Arcade, but on all the platforms the game is published on.
Long story short, this means that on all other platforms, you’re needlessly giving a chunk of your revshare to a publisher for nothing more than the ability to get your game onto Xbox and the freedom to release on the other platforms, which you can already self-publish on, at the same time.
The average consumer assumes Microsoft’s paying developers for exclusivity, when NOT ONLY is that NOT the case, it’s completely flipped around. Developers are essentially the ones paying to AVOID exclusivity.
This pretty much sums the issue, and does so in a very disheartening way. Judging by what Provinciano says Indies are flocking to the PS4’s camp because Sony allows them to self-publish, shaving their expenses and granting them a sizable percentage of the revenue. On the other hand Microsoft requires a publisher (or to be the publisher) and does everything in its power to block indie developers from publishing the result of their hard work on other platforms, cutting into their revenue as much as possible if they don’t comply or preventing them from pursuing further much needed revenue sources elsewhere.
If there’s a flipside to this coin, I honestly fail to see it (besides the old adage “Microsoft is a business, so they simply pursue their own interests”). While businesses are entitled to pursue as much revenue as possible and to implement competitive tactics, I still feel that there are boundaries that should not be pushed.
This situation doesn’t just damage indie developers, many of which are already struggling for cash, but it ultimately damages gamers themselves, as they are unable to play many indie games on their platform of choice, whether it’s Microsoft’s in the case a studio refuses Redmond’s draconian policies, or any other if the developer is forced to cave in to Microsoft’s demands. In addition to that, the lowered revenues mean that indie studios won’t be able to invest in future projects as much as they could.
We’ll have to see if Microsoft will backpedal on this as well, but for now the silence is deafening.
Update: Apparently Provinciano isn’t the only indie developer that feels like this about Microsoft’s policies.