Microsoft has been heavily criticized for not allowing indie developers to self-publish on Xbox One. However, Microsoft has announced new, ambitious plans that could make its forthcoming console the most open and accessible console platform on the market.
Speaking to Shacknews, Marc Whitten, corporate VP at Xbox, told us that their vision is based on the following idea: "our goal is that everybody can decide to stop playing and start creating." And key to that strategy is that "the box you get at retail can be a dev kit, period."
"Everyone will be able to self-publish content," Whitten told us, adding "this is the fundamental shift that needs to happen."
Part of why Microsoft originally required publishers for content on Xbox Live Arcade was the way Live was built on Xbox 360. Pointing to dev kits and the PartnerNet developer environment, publishing on Live Arcade was inherently "low-scale." But those bottlenecks are gone with Microsoft's next console. "It's one of the foundational things we're working with Xbox One," he told us. "With Xbox One, all development is done against production network."
"One of the things we missed with on 360 is because PartnerNet was so low-scale, even when we did things like XNA, they couldn't take advantage of the services that we put inside of Live. Now that we've re-architected the system from the ground-up, we'll be able to give developers a full suite of tools," Whitten said. "What happens when you give to the indie world Kinect, cloud, and the things that come with cloud? You'll see ridiculous, crazy things that will really drive about how people think about this platform."
So, how will the process of turning a retail Xbox One into a dev kit work? Whitten explained: "when you register as a developer, it will create a relationship between our Live service and your box so that you can put code that runs inside that environment." However, this feature won't be available at launch, meaning indie devs will either have to wait for the program's launch, or get a dev kit from Microsoft now.
While Microsoft's plans are certainly ambitious, with everyone being able to self-publish games, there is a real threat that Xbox Live can become as cluttered as the app stores on iOS and Android today--especially because there won't be any segregation between retail, downloadable, and indie games on the Marketplace. Whitten says that surfacing will be the big challenge for Microsoft. "I still believe strongly in curation, and that means how do we present users with the content that's most relevant to them?"
"If you make a game with zombies in it, and it's a big hit and people like it, it's going to flow up," Whitten said.