Game Pass Woes for Indie Devs as Microsoft, Epic Funding Reportedly Drying Up 1

It looks as though the plump pockets of big corporations like Epic and Microsoft are beginning to empty, and it's putting some smaller studios in an awkward position. After offering funds in exchange for exclusivity or availability on Game Pass, many indie devs have come to rely on these deals to finance their projects. However, it seems those deals are becoming harder to lock down, and they're worth less than they used to be.

Speaking in an interview at GDC, Casey Yano, co-founder of Slay the Spire studio Mega Crit, says he's heard the same story over and over. "I talked to at least five small teams, like 35 [members] and under, during GDC, and they're like: Cuts, cuts, cuts, funding canceled, talks that were going on for a year, canceled," he said. "It sounds like it's sh*t. We're definitely very privileged to be able to self-fund. [Otherwise] I'd be very, very, very scared right now."

Chris Bourassa, co-founder of Red Hook Studios, the team behind Darkest Dungeon, pointed out that Microsoft's deals for putting a game on Game Pass have "come down in scope", and that it's a similar story with Epic and the Epic Games Store. Previously, these deals have allowed some teams to break even on their games before they've been released, offering a lot of security even if sales were lower than expected. Now, this is becoming a less and less reliable safety net as the purse strings are tightening.

It's an unfortunate, if not surprising, situation. Looking at Game Pass, it's always pushed for day-one releases, and Microsoft's bottomless coffers have bankrolled countless small titles to ensure they're part of the package. However, as subscriber numbers plateau and growth slows, we're not surprised Phil is having to be a little more conservative here.

You have to assume this also applies to Sony and PS Plus, as it'll also be offering deals to various teams to get them onto the Extra catalogue. While there have been some rare examples of day-one releases, the platform holder's decision to largely sidestep this perk of Game Pass may prove to be the smarter long-term play after all.

Anyway, it's an interesting topic — you have to wonder what things are going to look like in five, 10 years. What do you make of all this? Discuss in the comments section below.