Microsoft’s latest Xbox One-Eighty has changed the conversation yet again. Overnight, the firm confirmed that it will allow self-publishing on its next generation platform within the system’s first year on the market. That puts the console in line with the PlayStation 4, but the Redmond-based organisation’s trump card is that it will allow budding programmers to transform their retail machines into development kits. While the details are still hazy, it could be huge news.
However, having spent the past couple of years actively coveting indie outfits, Sony doesn’t seem massively concerned by the sudden change in attitude. “Self-publishing has been available on PlayStation platforms for over five years, so it's nothing new,” a spokesperson told Polygon. “The process of developers bringing their games to market has continued to evolve, and PlayStation has led the charge in adapting and embracing new publishing rules.”
All true, but with Microsoft supposedly allowing small studios to test their code on a retail machine worth $500, does that suddenly put the PS4 at a disadvantage? Yes and no – development kits for the Japanese giant’s console supposedly cost $2,500. The thing is: none of the indie studios working on the next generation system have bought one yet, as the platform holder is loaning them out.
“All of the indie studios that I know got them for free,” an unnamed developer said. “Sony has been amazing about kits and development thus far.” Another added: “They are handing them out like candy.”
Of course, the act of giving away kits is not a direct counter to Microsoft’s newly-announced policies. Theoretically, anyone will be able to create, test, and publish content on the Xbox One, while securing the requisite hardware for the PS4 will probably depend upon past successes and prototypes. The disparity will leave the platform holder with some thinking to do.
At the end of the day, though, we still don’t really know how the Redmond-based manufacturer’s solution will work. Corporate vice president Mark Whitten has said that everyone will have access to all of the console’s features and functions, but we’ll have to wait and see if there are any caveats along the way. With Microsoft being purposefully vague, and the functionality not set to be ready at launch, Sony has plenty of time to turn the needle back in its favour while its competitor catches up.