News Article

How Microsoft's Hostile Indie Policies Could Impact PS4

Posted by Sammy Barker

Xbox One manufacturer forcing launch day parity

We’ve been holding off writing about Microsoft’s overdue Xbox One indie policies for a few days now, because this is something that really shouldn’t be particularly relevant on a PlayStation-centric site. There’s always wider competitive overlap that we look to explore, of course, but the details of another platform holder’s self-publishing protocol really shouldn’t matter to fans of the PlayStation 4 and Vita. However, it does when some clauses may adversely affect Sony’s systems.

Last week, the Redmond-based manufacturer announced the first set of developers that had signed up to its [email protected] program. The terribly titled initiative essentially allows smaller studios – such as Guacamelee developer Drinkbox and Divekick outfit Iron Galaxy – to self-publish their games on the Xbox maker’s machine. It also provides them with access to two development kits and a Unity game engine license for free. Not a bad deal at all, huh?

Judging by developer comments, it’s actually all very reasonable, apart from one clause: the company demands launch day parity with other platforms. That means that a studio can sign up to self-publish their titles on the Xbox One, as long as they don't release on the PS4, Vita, or even Wii U first. There’s good news for teams that have already signed timed exclusive deals with Sony, as the manufacturer is willing to waive the restriction for those games – but moving forwards, it’s day-and-date releases or nothing.

Why is this bad for PlayStation, then? It’s quite simple really: the studios that are going to benefit from the self-publishing program are unlikely to always have the resources to deploy on multiple platforms at once. This clause could strong-arm studios into delaying their wares on PlayStation while they prepare an Xbox One version, or it may force them to focus on Microsoft’s machine first – even if they don’t really want to.

Australian developer Witch Beam – which is working on the upcoming twin-stick shooter Assault Android Cactus – is one such outfit that’s being negatively affected by the policy. “The simple answer is that our plans wouldn't meet the launch day parity requirement of the [email protected] program,” co-creator Sanatana Mishra told when asked why his studio hadn't signed up to the new initiative. “We started development on our other console versions long before self-publishing was an option for the Xbox One, and the only way we could meet that requirement would be to delay the other versions of [the game].”

Some may argue that this all just smart business on the North American firm’s behalf, but the outcome of this policy seems set to achieve little more than hurting gamers and developers alike. Sony could counteract the clause by forcing launch day parity, too, but that would contrast the positive message that it’s sent out to developers thus far. The only hope, then, is that the online backlash forces Microsoft to reconsider – again.


User Comments (31)



XCWarrior said:

Bad policy for sure. Probably could have mentioned it affects Nintendo too a little more. Could have easily just put this on NintendoLife and PushSquare and saved you guys' staffs a little extra work.

This kind of thing shouldn't be allowed, that's for sure. Not good for indy devs.



RisefromAshes said:

I don't think this will be an issue.

PS4 is the easier to develop for console, more powerful and faster. Not to mention, it will have the larger market share throughout the generation.

Why would any right-minded indie developer take up Microsoft's policies and ignore the PS4?

Not going to happen.

Unless, they're being paid behind closed doors.

I always ponder why Skyrim dlc was delayed for so long. Go figure.

P.S. Microsoft can do whatever they like. Sony will continue doing their thing and giving gamers what they want. Better multi platform games, better exclusives, free games and so on. PS4 is the console of choice for gamers. You can't beat the unstoppable force that is PS4. #dealwithit.



Epic said:

This will just make indies prefer to develop from the other two rather than microsoft.
I also heard that this policy is also the reason why Rayman Legends wasn't released when it was ready for Wii U.



XCWarrior said:

@RisefromAshes You wouldn't have to even pay them behind close doors. All MS has to say is, "Well give you an extra % if you give us timed exclusivity." Some indies will bite on it. And only people that lose out are gamers.

Hope you are right and most fight it, or ignore it.



Jaz007 said:

I wonder if what this will do to all the indies already developing on PS4. Will they delay the PS4 version, or will they skip the One. This could be a double edged sword for MS here.



get2sammyb said:

@Jaz007 Microsoft's already said that it'll waive this clause for those who've already signed deals with Sony. Of course, that only applies to this first batch of titles.



Lukos said:

Yet another reason to dislike Microsoft. The list grows longer and longer.



Jaz007 said:

@get2sammyb I thought that for most of the indie games already shown (like at Gamescom) didn't have any exclusivity deals with them, am I mistaken?



RisefromAshes said:


PS fans and Sony need not to worry. We've just witnessed the most successful launch in the history of the industry. So many great games to look forward to.

Sony are buoyant by the positive feedback. They'll continue doing what they do best. Give gamers immersive, exclusive GOTY winners. Year in, year out.

PS4 is all you need for gaming. Nothing comes close to it.



Stuffgamer1 said:

I'm definitely in the camp that believes this policy will do more harm to Microsoft than Sony or Nintendo. This worked last gen because Microsoft held high ground on install base...but they're falling behind Sony pretty quickly right now, and it's just not going to be worth Indies' bother to bow to their demands this time around.



Squiggle55 said:

@stuffgamer1 I agree. Microsoft's insistence on restrictions can and will only lead to more negative perception and damaged relationships. This can only be good for Sony.



SirCrush said:

lol I came here all ready to pick apart what was sure to be flawed logic and Mr. Barker ended up taking the words right out of my mouth. Well said. And much more concise that I would've put it



Faustek said:

@Jaz007 I think you're right. That's why we haven't seen most of them and why Shahid was so pissed a while back.



RisefromAshes said:


If you say so.

3 million Wii U's sold in over 12 months. Woeful.

Mario can't save Wii U. Knack (YES KNACK) is outselling Super Mario 3D World. LOL.



ThreadShadow said:

Not this stuff again. So tired of MS. Did I hear correctly that Capy's "Below" isn't exclusive to Xbone just "timed exclusive"? I hope it comes to PS4 and Wii U.



get2sammyb said:

@ThreadShadow Yes, but the problem here is that if Sony was adopting the same policy as Microsoft, Capy would never get the chance to release the game on PS4 at all. I'm all in favour of platform holders building alleigances and working with developers to co-market games. Sometimes that results in a window of exclusivity - and that's fine. But outright blocking studios from taking this route is just not cool, in my opinion.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@RisefromAshes: There's still enough on Wii U to make it worth having for a Nintendo nut, though. I bought one at launch and I don't regret it. That said, I DEFINITELY wouldn't want to rely on JUST that moving forward, which is why I also bought a PS4 at launch.



Ps4all said:

@ShogunRok they did this with the 360. Microsoft had a policy in place ensuring cross platform games had to run equal too or better than "other consoles" aka ps3. They play dirty.



Shaolin said:

Oh come on guys, please not more of the anti Microsoft whining. PS4 is finally released and the future looks absolutely brilliant so why not let's celebrate and concentrate on that.

I'm a dedicated PlayStation-only fan and I love Sony's products but the aggressive attitude on here of many of the people who share my passion embarrasses me.

@get2sammyb I don't claim to be an expert regarding these things but surely what we're looking at here from MS is purely business. Also, if an increased number of devs follow Witch Beam's lead in declining to publish on Xbox then how can that be a bad thing for PS4 - surely we'll effectively get more non-timed exclusive indy titles?



Donald_M said:

It's always something with Microsoft, it seems. They've decided to change their previous policy and allow indie devs to self publish on their platform . . . but!

Stuff like this is a big part of why I decided to return to the Sony fold after going with a 360 last generation. I really hope this policy backfires on them like it should, it does nothing but hurt developers, hurt gamers and make them look bad. How many times do they have to face a big backlash before they learn their lesson about pulling stunts like this?



get2sammyb said:

@Shaolin Witch Beam should be given the opportunity to release on another platform, earn revenue from it, and reach another fanbase. Why should it be penalised because Sony and Nintendo were willing to work with the studio first?



Sutorcen said:

The only thing this policy does is making the Playstation ecosystem look even friendlier and better for indie devs. Keep it up MS, nice going.



ThreadShadow said:

@get2sammyb I agree with everything you're saying. I just hope it turns around and bites MS in their huge corporate back-end. And shows devs the beautiful environments provided by Sony and Nintendo.
I too don't mind timed exclusivity, as a consumer (eventually I'll get the game I'm waiting for and maybe an upgraded version). If I was a dev I could see the pros and cons of it. But Day and Date publishing is meant to prod devs towards MS, and encourage neglect of it's competitors. This certainly happened in the 360/PS3/Wii gen. And Microsoft is hoping to play that tune again this gen. The trouble for them is that they were in a power position with the 360, and I don't think it's going to play the same this time around. At least I hope not, because their policies did hurt Playstation in the digital games sector and the DLC sector.



Gamer83 said:

Sony is no saintly company but MS is by far the scummiest of the three console makers. Stuff like this and the paying for time-exclusive DLC, the buying of exclusives like Titanfall, is why I want to see MS fall into a distant third place. Don't want to see the Xbox brand go away but MS needs a serious a$$ kicking so it eases up on sh*t like this. Unfortunately the dumba$$ North American consumers will keep MS afloat.



Shaolin said:

@get2sammyb @Gamer83
Apologies for the late reply on this one but I thought I should address your belief that Witch Beam should be "given the opportunity to release on another platform". As I said in my previous comment, it's all just business pure and simple. Any developer has a very simple choice laid out in front of them and in any case it will always be worthwhile for a business to attempt striking up a negotiation. Look at the following case of pure business which you reported on this very website:

Is it worth calling Sony "scummiest" for doing this??? Not at all. It took what seemed like an age before Limbo appeared on PSN and apparently Sony was so aggressive in pursuing Playdead that Limbo almost never arrived and I really wanted to play it lol!

Also, @Gamer83 don't fall into the trap of believing that all exclusivity stems from payments to publishers. There are various business reasons for making the choice to publish exclusively with Sony or MS. No doubt industry politics has a part to play also. Look, I completely and totally agree with the notion of having passion for the PlayStation brand but your uninformed and artificial ranking of Sony behind Microsoft in the "scummiest" stakes is meaningless. I'll wager that you unintentionally use many brands that are much less ethical than either Sony or MS, and no, ignorance is never bliss when you're trying to wish a company into distant third place on the basis of business strategy that you may be misunderstanding.

I love all things PlayStation (exclusively lol!) but barring a very small minority of vocal Xbox fanboys I read much more and much worse language coming from the PlayStation gaming community than any other. If you don't believe me go checkout OXM to see how chilled out they are and hardly ever mention PlayStation. Even going back years to when ps3/xbox360 was in full swing the same pattern exists. PlayStation forum commenters, on balance, just seem to be way more argumentatively extreme. Seeing as that's the only community I'm part of that makes me sad. Lol, I almost wish I could keep the great PlayStation product and swap it with the more relaxed Xbox community.

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