According to multiple sources reporting to Eurogamer, Microsoft is no longer charging developers for title updates. Eurogamer reports that the change came quietly earlier this year. Previously reports were that the first patch was free, with remaining updates being charged. Reports are that the reasons for charging were two fold: first, that it helped to pay for the certification process, which ensures the patch works properly and does not contain anything to harm your console, and second that it kept excessive patches from being released–in layman’s terms that simply means that players wouldn’t be prompted to update a game once a week.
In February of last year Double Fine’s Tim Schafer cited a 40,000 dollar cost to update their games, something that the internet ran with and took out of context. The Behemoth’s Dan Paladin clarified costs in the comments section of are recent feature we published on indies and their relationship with Microsoft:
The $40,000 number for title updates was originally brought up by Tim Schafer and later misconstrued over time as the flat fee for every single 3rd party developer. However, having to pay over 50 employees was factored in for the amount it would take the studio to produce and test their changes. Later it was perpetuated inaccurately by others whose team sizes were in the single digits, so it’s a bit misleading as the fee’s sum. I don’t know what my limits are on discussing this area any further, but I just wanted to point that out since it was brought up!
It’s not surprising that a patch can be expensive for both a developer and Microsoft. For the developer, they need to pay everyone involved for their time in completing the patch, and depending on the team size and depth of the problem, that can get expensive. It’s no surprise that between internal costs incurred and what Microsoft charged that Schafer’s rather large company would shell out more. Regardless things may be significantly less expensive now if Microsoft’s certification charge is no more. And while we could see new patches for games that have needed them for some time, remember that even such a patch still costs the developer money, and there is no return on a patch–it serves to keep fans loyal, but goodwill only goes so far in a business.