It seems like just last week that I was saying that Microsoft just wasn’t ready for a digital gaming future. One of the three reasons I listed was that Microsoft is not particularly indie friendly. What with its requirement that developers have a publisher and that patch fees run in the 10’s of thousands of dollars. It comes as a surprise that Microsoft is actually listening to these complaints. While it hasn’t completely opened up its digital services to indies, it has made a good step in the right direction. The patch fees are now gone.
This move makes publishing to Microsoft’s XBLA platform a more pleasant experience. Fez developer Phil Fish brought this patch issue to light because he was unable to push a much needed patch for a game breaking bug. This led to a sort of falling out between him and Microsoft. Hopefully, this policy change will be retroactive, but Fish is not optimistic.
I do find it interesting that Microsoft has not made a bigger deal out of this. Considering the complaints that this policy has raised in the development community, one would think that Microsoft would be more than happy to yell it from the roof tops. Further, it would seem that this is not common knowledge even among XBox developers as we can see from Fish’s comments. Could this mean that Microsoft isn’t ready to make this a permanent change? Hopefully it is.
Even if the change is permanent, Microsoft still has quite a ways to go before its console will be indie friendly. Sony and Nintendo both allow for indie developers to self publish and neither have had any real and widespread issues with their indie game lineups. Hopefully, Microsoft will continue to move in the right direction and make that same change. Time can only tell.