Skulls of the Shogun dev says Microsoft exclusivity hurt

Skulls of the Shogun got a generally positive reception, including from our own review. But the exclusivity deal with Microsoft hurt the game in myriad ways, according to developer Borut Pfeifer.

In an in-depth interview on Rock Paper Shotgun, Pfeifer opened up about the problems that came with Windows 8 and Surface exclusivity. He says that using three new pieces of Microsoft's ecosystem (Async, Windows 8, and Surface tablets), which made for a whole new set of unforeseen problems on top of the ones they had already assumed would come. It also had to take out its own loan to complete the work.

"They came across as though they were institutionally incompetent," Pfeifer said. "I think they're not really set up to be a decent publisher. I do feel slightly bad saying that, because there were people there who worked hard on our behalf, but at the same time there are systemic problems with the way that division is setup and run."

He thinks the problem in their situation came down to Microsoft taking on too much at once, and Skulls being a poster child for the various initiatives. In Pfeifer's mind, the game was always meant to be a tablet game, but the Surface didn't sell enough. "We hoped they’d sell a few million tablets, and from most reports they did, but either those people are not buying games or they're not buying games for more than a dollar or two dollars," he said.

Part of that exclusivity included being on Xbox Live Arcade first. "Probably one of our biggest mistakes was thinking in 2008 terms, where it's like 'if you want to be on console you’ve got to be a console first', and that’s just not true any more," he said. But he admits that they should have heeded warnings from other indie devs. "By that point we had heard the stories, like about Super Meat Boy, and then [Braid dev] Jon Blow criticised them as well."

Just this week, 17-bit announced that the PC version would be coming to Steam, and no longer a Windows 8 exclusive. It packs a few extra stages, characters, and units, and none of those tweaks will make it back to the prior versions.