In the wake of the recent announcement that Microsoft will soon begin selling Xbox One consoles sans packed-in Kinect sensors for $399, gamers and the media have wondered aloud …
Yesterday, in an interview with Official Xbox Magazine, Lionhead Studios’ Creative Director, Gary Carr, spoke of Microsoft’s commitment to courting indie developers on the Xbox One. He describes Microsoft as “very passionate” about building strong relationships with Indies, noting that the gaming business’ future is in jeopardy without independent developers.
Gary adds that while the big players like Sony, Microsoft, and Amazon “kind of hold it all together,” independent development is a major force behind innovation, and both big and small players alike can co-exist. Carr’s comments regarding an upcoming presentation from Phil Harrison could be interpreted as a hint that Microsoft may be re-evaluating its approach to publishing on Xbox One.
In a separate interview, Phil Spencer also discussed some of the challenges faced by both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One with regards to game publishing. The ease of development and publishing for the Xbox 360 has been both a blessing and a curse for the console. There have been some immensely high-profile, high-quality releases from a number of independent developers, but much of the Indie marketplace has also transformed into a dumping ground for woefully mediocre titles and clones of clones of clones.
At this point, so far into the console’s lifecycle, it can be difficult to reliably identify Indie games worth playing, and this has led to a significant shift in Microsoft’s publishing strategy for the Xbox One. Thankfully, Phil Spencer is aware of the parallels to Apple’s heavily-curated, closed ecosystem, and addresses them to an extent.
However, the goals are still potentially antithetical to each other; in order to attract good developers who create great content, a market cannot or should not heavily restrict access to its publishing tools. Conversely, a completely open market, where everyone can publish nearly anything, can also lead to a weakened content ecosystem, suffering from the same quality bloat seen in the Xbox 360’s Indie marketplace.
In the above screenshot of the Xbox One dashboard, you will notice that the categories above lists “Games” alongside other categories like “TV & Movies” and “Music” with equal representation. This matches our current Xbox 360 dashboard. However, in the Xbox 360, “Games” is further divided into categories such as “featured,” “arcade,” “on demand,” “indie,” etc. Each category represents the different tiers of games in expected presentation, length, genre, and pricing. Obviously, our own website is based exclusively around the Arcade games.
Well, it looks like all that will change with the Xbox One. In an interview with Eurogamer, Microsoft VP Phil Harrison said the following:
Phil Harrison: In the past we had retail games which came on disc, we had Xbox Live Arcade and we had Indie Games, and they had their own discrete channels or discrete silos. With Xbox One and the new marketplace, they’re games. We don’t make a distinction between whether a game is a 50-hour RPG epic or whether it is a puzzle game or whether it is something that fits halfway between the two–
Eurogamer: So no Xbox Live Arcade, no Xbox Live Indie Games – just games?
Phil Harrison: Just games, right. Search, recommendation, what your friends are playing, game DVR – these all go to helping you discover the games you want to play, so I think we solve fantastically some of the challenges that independent developers face, particularly around discovery and connecting their game to an audience, by some of the platform features we have in the machine itself.
Microsoft announced today that former Sony Computer Entertainment and Atari bigwig Phil Harrison has joined the software titan as the corporate vice president of its European Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB). Harrison will be tasked with overseeing the entirety of the Microsoft Studios European division as well as running the war room for the rest of IEB.
“I am excited to be joining the senior team at Microsoft at a pivotal time for our industry,” Harrison said of his move. “I am really impressed with the company’s long-term vision for growing the market for interactive entertainment globally and also with the incredible wealth of talent, technology and resources the company has available to succeed.”
Harrison will be the top man presiding over operations at UK-based developers Lionhead Studios, Soho Productions and Rare Ltd. Contrary to rumors that ran rampant across news outlets and social media sites earlier in the day, however, Harrison will not be replacing former Microsoft Studios Creative Director Peter Molyneux in the ex-Lionhead Studios boss’ recently-vacated position. Microsoft’s Major Nelson explained that “Phil’s role on the IEB leadership team is completely unrelated to Peter’s departure.”