Today Microsoft ID@Xbox Director Chris Charla hosted a panel at BitSummit in Kyoto, giving some in-depth information on the program’s results, goals and inner workings.
According to Charla, the program has been “really successful” for developers worldwide in the three years since its inception. Indie developers working with ID@Xbox and other third party developers earned “hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.”
Microsoft is “really pleased” with the success that developers are having for Xbox One, and they think that it’s a great opportunity for Japanese developers to reach a worldwide audience.
There are quite a lot of indie games from Japanese developers coming to Xbox One via ID@Xbox, including Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Kyub, Bokosuka Wars II (that was initially announced only for PS4), Reversi Quest and Happy Dungeon.
The goal for Microsoft is to provide their games with “the broadest array of games as humanly possible” when they turn on their Xbox One. In order to achieve that goal, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for developers to bring their games to the console. Microsoft wants to make life as easy as possible for developers so that they can focus on creating a great game, while Microsoft takes care of the platform side.
ID@Xbox was started by listening to over fifty development studios, and they never stop listening. Changes are made to the program regularly based on developer feedback.
The process for joining the program is very straightforward. Developers fill out an application, an NDA is signed, then they talk to Microsoft about the game they want to make. After that Microsoft sends the developers two dev kits at no cost and help them get set up with middleware, and then the rest is up to the developers themselves.
As they get closer to release, Microsoft helps developers go through the certification process and get their game out on Xbox One. The program is as open as possible, and the only real requirement is for the developer to own a company and have a team.
Close to release Microsoft also helps developers promote their games.
Developers get access to every feature of the Xbox Platform, from Xbox Live to High Dynamic Range that will come with Xbox One S and Project Scorpio. All games are treated equally, whether they’re indie or titles from big publishers. They’re sold in the same store. On Xbox a game is a game.
No one pays any fee to Microsoft to certify a game or to update it. There is no limit to the number of updates, and there’s one worldwide certification process. Developers submit a game for certification and they choose the target territories themselves.
There’s local support around the world, including Japan.
While self-publishing developers are responsible for their own promotion, Microsoft helps them with promotional amplification, trying to make sure that everybody knows about their game.
Games are promoted both on the dashboard and in the store, on top of social media. Game are also promoted at large industry events like E3, Gamescom and PAX. ID@Xbox events are also sponsored around major events like GDC and PAX Prime.
Charla also explained a few key factors to ensure a successful global launch for an independent game.
First and foremost, it’s important to pick the right date. Good launch timing helps, and bad timing, like launching at the same time as a big title, can hurt sales. Microsoft helps developers pick the right time frame for their release.
A good box art is also important. No matter how much promotion is done, most players will see the game for the first time in the store. It’s relevant to make sure that the box art looks great on screen on the TV from a distance. Screenshots also need to do a really good job at selling the game.
The last element is to build international awareness. The more awareness is built about a game, the better sales are going to be. There are several ways to do that, through the internet or working with initiatives like Indie Megabooth.
If there’s a language barrier, it can also be advisable to work with a service provider to do promotion internationally.