Indie devs sick of Xbox’s heavy-handed policies: Sony Pub Fund the answer?

August 24, 2011

Indie devs sick of Xbox’s heavy-handed policies:  Sony Pub Fund the answer? In the past, Microsoft’s heavy-handed policies drew criticism when it came to Xbox Live. Developers have complained that Xbox Live is like a ”slaughterhouse” for smaller indie studios.

Indie developer, Hello Games complained that XBLA is a slaughterhouse from smaller developers last year. The studio went on to release the wildly successful Joe Danger title on the PlayStation Store. Other devs, such as Amanita Design refuses to publish Machinarium on XBLA citing preference to PSN.

The main gripe here is that unless a studio is backed by a major publisher like Activision, the only option is to allow Microsoft to publish the game on XBLA.  Once you let a publisher get its claws into you, they take a cut of the profits and can force the studio to follow certain guidelines.

According Eurogamer, European Xbox boss, Chris Lewis confirmed some of the controversial policies that have gotten some of the smaller studios worked up.

Apparently Microsoft’s policy dictates that downloadable games must ship on Xbox Live Arcade at least simultaneously with competing platforms (PSN) or Microsoft can and will refuse to publish them.

Microsoft also dictates that publishers must release games with same content “on-disc” across competing platforms.

This second guideline, most large publishers such as EA, UIbisoft and Warner Brothers pretty much ignore as seen with exclusive additional DLC content released for the PS3 with Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Dead Space 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Battlefield 3 on disc.

Microsoft can’t really do anything if a large publisher want to ship additional content on a competing system. However, the company can push its weight quite a bit in the indie space with its guidelines as they aren’t back by large publishers.

Lewis defended this policy by stating, “We’re a little biased, so obviously we’re going to look to protect our own space as best we can and get exclusivity.”

He added:

Whilst I can’t be specific about the terms and conditions, you can be very confident we seek to maximise our own advantage to ensure the playing field is even, and certainly plays to our advantage wherever possible.

As you can also imagine, our partners have to be mindful of the relationship they have with all platform holders, and they need to be equitable. But there are contractual situations where we get agreement with different people to do different things, and through what we have available on Xbox Live, we are able to offer things other people can’t offer, that allows that exclusivity and unique elements to it that might not otherwise be available elsewhere.

Lewis attributed to the company’s aggressive business practices to keeping the quality of titles high on Xbox Live.

He stated:

But, honestly, and this is going to sound a bit contrived, we just want what our consumers want from us. We want to be where they want us to be. We want the quality bar of what they experience from us to continue to go up. I think it has to happen. Everybody’s got to do that. If we want to continue to command healthy average selling prices, which we all do, that which we offer our consumers has got to keep getting better.

To some it can almost appear like Microsoft is using aggressive scare tactics to bully smaller indie developers from entering into any sort of deal with Sony as that would completely shut the door on Xbox Live.

However, it seems to be quite the opposite on PSN, as Sony allows former Xbox Live exclusives such as Limbo, Braid and Castle Crashers to come over. 

Lewis states that this strategy is “great for everyone” and is very “healthy.”

Despite the fact it can be irksome to have such strong competition all the time, it actually does keep us on our toes. It’s great for everyone, and it makes for a very healthy race to higher and higher levels of quality of game experiences.

An anonymous studio working with Microsoft indicated otherwise to Eurogamer:

Microsoft is suggesting that anything but parity will result in them not carrying a title. They may think this is competitive, but it’s not. They are killing any creative exposure of titles to make up for their own platform’s shortcomings.

Sony recently announced a three-year $20 million investment plan that will help fund indie developers wanting to develop on the PSN. This fund is suppose to flow into Sony’s Pub Fund as well.

Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid had this to say about Sony’s investment in the indie scene:

If you’re thinking about the impact of indie games on the whole forum of games then probably Sony has done more because of the way they curate the games they put on there – they’re actually looking for games that are artful or experimental.

34 Responses to “Indie devs sick of Xbox’s heavy-handed policies: Sony Pub Fund the answer?”

  1. oldschool1987:

    “on Xbox Live, we are able to offer things other people can’t offer”

    Yes, charging people to use their own Internet connection that they are already paying for.

  2. oldschool1987:

    Well, at least it an Xbox article so the Xbots can’t complain too much lol.

  3. Godless:

    Odd then that XBL has so many more games, both arcade & Indie.

    I guess that if Sony are making it easier for the indie devs to release games on PSN, then PSN should start to see the benefits, so long as the quality is kept in check.

    Maybe yet another example of MS shooting themselves in the foot, only time will tell.

  4. phranctoast:

    “Odd then that XBL has so many more games, both arcade & Indie.”

    MS XNA probably has something to do with that.

    On a positive side, this MS policy makes sure MS doesn’t charge anymore than Sony does for PSN/XBL content because they have no choice by their own rules.

    For example, if Epic wanted to release Bulletstorm content on PSN for free MS would have to also make it free.

  5. Barnabe Jones:

    Playing through Castlevania now. SUCH a better game than Dante.

    I skipped it originally because I got kinda burned out on GoW style games after the GoW Collection, GoW 3, and Dante. I should have just skipped Dante. What a disappointing game that was.

    Lords of Shadow is great though.

  6. Roca.:

    “What a disappointing game that was”

    Don’t tell godless – in his fanboy brain that game more enjoyable than God of War and is better in graphically & gameplay than Heavenly Sword.

  7. phranctoast:

    “Microsoft’s content submission and release policy reads: “Titles for Xbox 360 must ship at least simultaneously with other videogame platforms, and must have at least feature and content parity on-disc with other platform versions in all regions where the title is available.

    “If these conditions are not met, Microsoft reserves the right to not allow the content to be released on Xbox 360.”

    The terms apply to Xbox Live Arcade games, too, with Microsoft’s online content terms stipulating that games “must simultaneously release on Xbox Live Marketplace in all regions where the game is available.” Demos, too, “must ship within the same week of its launch on other videogame platforms or via magazines.”

    Sounds like MS strong arms developers into timed exclusivity deals or they wont deal with them.

    This sounds like it sucks more for XBL users than it does for PSN users. Sure, you may get a game first, but it will appear on the PSN anyway. Publishers who don’t go with MS’s draconian ways end up having their game stay on PSN and XBL users end up missing out.

  8. phranctoast:

    I liked Dantes Inferno.
    Maybe not as much as Castlevania, but certainly more than Heavenly Sword.

  9. Roca.:

    Many seems to think MS gets more XBLA games than Sony but that’s false but I can see why ppl think that. XBLA gets more coverage now days since MS doesn’t have many AAA retail games so MS marketing team focus heavily on XBLA games.

    Sony has been releasing a stream of new PSN games all year long and they all got very little coverage since Sony focus more on their AAA exclusives instead.

    Sony revealed that the SCEA PubFund, which offers studios budget for the creation of exclusive titles, is currently seeing up to 15 pitches a week…. So you can see why we are constantly seeing many PSN games being release lately.

  10. FahKinSuPah:

    MS is only hurting itself with rules like those.

    I mean, really, what is the point to having rules like those? MS is only hurting itself.

    Not to mention MS already broke its own rules on at least 1 occasion when Final Fantasy 11 was released on 360, since it was already on PS2 and PC.

  11. twilight:

    Dante’s Inferno is one of my favorite games as well. I actually got a free action figure of Dante when I pre-ordered the game. I also really love Castlevania. This is a great game.

  12. FahKinSuPah:

    Never played Dante’s Inferno, but I did play Castlevania LoD and damn that game was friggin sweet. I checked out the demo and the first 20 mins of gameplay and I was totally impressed. I need to just go and buy it already.

  13. twilight:

    Dante’s Inferno is an okay game. There is a demo of this game on both systems so you can check it out. You should definetely get Castlevania. I strongly recommend this game to everyone. I got the collector’s edition of this game on sale for Ps3. I played this game on both systems. This game looks great on both systems.

  14. phranctoast:

    Twisted Metal to release on Valentines Day

  15. Roca.:

    Awesome, now I know what my gf is going to give me :)

  16. CAD:

    I agree with the Policy. Why should a game get extra content on a competing system. As much as I don’t care because it never affects the core gameplay it suck for those who only have one system and your basically slaping a portion of your customers in the face. It’s a stupid practice. I know the Bluray allows it for extra content but it’s not right. Besides it’s Sony who put this into practice by telling developers to creat extra content on disk and paying for it. At least with Timed DLC everyone eventually get the content. Developers should be catering to the customers not consoles. Why split your customers making a portion fell left out.

  17. FahKinSuPah:

    “Awesome, now I know what my gf is going to give me”

    YAY! Head on valentines day! :D

  18. phranctoast:

    Like the Seinfeld episode about doing all the your favorite things at the same time.

    -Playing TM
    -While getting head and
    -Eating a 34oz Ribeye from J&R steakhouse.

  19. Roca.:


  20. phranctoast:

    It’s not just that.
    MS is not getting content that Sony gets while Sony gets the extra content that MS gets.

    It’s their own fault for not allowing that content.

    It’s also not just games, as we know MS has moneyhatted developers for timed exclusivity on DLC that appeared later on the PS3.

    MS is using a strong arm tactic that borders on extortion to bully smaller developers into developing for them first or pay the price of not being allowed to have your game in their library.

  21. ncaissie:

    “I agree with the Policy. ”
    Of corse you do. We could have predicted that. Lol
    MS can never be wrong in your lovin eyes.

  22. Roca.:

    “MS is not getting content that Sony gets while Sony gets the extra content that MS gets”

    That’s why we get Braid, Limbo, Castle Crasher, PvZ and many others.

  23. oldschool1987:

    “Awesome, now I know what my gf is going to give me”

    A game for Valentines? Too me Valentines is a waste of money and a guaranteed blow job lmao

  24. oldschool1987:

    Bollocks. Fahk beat me to it…

  25. FahKinSuPah:

    “and a guaranteed blow job lmao”

    “Bollocks. Fahk beat me to it…”

    What? Heck no… I was talking an actual head, freshly decapitated from the body and wrapped up in a brown paper bag. That’s what my girl got me for V-day last year :D

    LMAO j/k guys ;)

  26. oldschool1987:

    I’ll be honest Fahk, that does sound better. I would like my head to be a deserter from one of the Night Watch. In fact Ned Starks head shall suffice.

  27. Ivan_PSP:

    Xbox Live Arcade may have more games but %90 are crap I got them all on Megaupload.

    My #1 PSN game is Ratchet and Clank Quest for botty

  28. oldschool1987:

    I wouldnt say they were crap, Ivan. In face Live has some very decent games, which is all well and good if you prefer downloadable titles. I myself prefer full games which is why I will prefer Sony, I’d feel the same about MS if they had all the exclusives. I don’t owe any company loyalty, I go where the games are and the better service, namely free online play.

    “Hardcore gamers” who have gone casual because the Xbox has gone casual have done so out of blind loyalty only. Of Sony were to do this I would’nt buy it’s casual games, no chance.

  29. oldschool1987:

    In face? Lmao fact*

  30. ncaissie:

    They are 100% crap. Just like the PSN games.

  31. Ivan_PSP:

    PSN games are actually good.

  32. MAK:

    Make her dress up as Dollface and give you a lap dance.

    “cool“I agree with the Policy. ”Of corse you do. We could have predicted that. LolMS can never be wrong in your lovin eyes.”

    Lol, he should change his name to MsLovin

  33. danhese007:

    Sony does not let crappy games on PSN just to make a buck of the sales. Microsoft lets every crappy game because they think they are in a race for who has more games and they want to make money off sales of those games.

  34. ncaissie:

    LOL he didn’t already do that?

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