Gamescom 2013: Microsoft launches new Xbox One scheme for indie developers

ID@Xbox will offer free developers' kits and documentation to budding game-makers
  • @jjvincent

Microsoft have announced a new scheme for the Xbox One called ID@Xbox (short for Independent Developers @ Xbox One) that will allow “qualified games developers” to self-publish their creations using the Xbox Live platform.

How both the Xbox One and PS4 will engage with indie game developers has been one of the quieter battlegrounds in the console war, though Sony were praised at E3 for being the more open of the two consoles.

Sony’s Pub Fund – a program that helps fund indie developers in exchange for some sort of PlayStation exclusivity – is seen as evidence of their more enlightened approach, though a string of recent announcements from Microsoft (including the launch of ID@Xbox) might be turning the tide.

At the end of July it was announced that each retail copy of the Xbox One will also double up as a developers’ debug unit – allowing game-makers to run unfinished code and tweak their creations. In comparison Sony’s PS4 developer kits costs $2,500, although many developers have reported receiving them for free.

"Our vision is that every person can be a creator,” said Marc Whitten, Corporate Vice President at Xbox. “That every Xbox One can be used for development. That every game and experience can take advantage of all of the features of Xbox One and Xbox LIVE. This means self-publishing. This means Kinect, the cloud, achievements. This means great discoverability on Xbox LIVE.”

With the ID@Xbox scheme Whitten seems to have made good on these comments. ID@Xbox offers indie studios the chance to sign up to become a “registered developer” after which Microsoft will send on “the tools you need to create great content on Xbox One”:

“It starts with us providing you two Xbox One development kits, as well as access to a full suite of developer documentation, developer forums, etc.”

However, the scheme’s openness will be completely dependent on the criteria applicants are judged by. Microsoft has said that they are looking for “professional independent game developers who have a proven track record of shipping games on console, PC, mobile, or tablet,” though what exactly a “proven track record” is isn’t clear.

This need for developers to have previous successfully-launched games would certainly block first-timers although Microsoft is also promising a “longer term plan” that will allow “anyone with a retail Xbox One will be able to develop, publish, and sell their game on Xbox Live.” How exactly this might work remains to be seen.

The news is the latest from Gamescom, where Microsoft have released a string of new trailers for games the including the latest title in the Fable series, Fable Legends.