The barriers to creators looking to get their games in front of console gamers used to be so high they were insurmountable. Aside from joining an established developer, your only option was to pay through the nose in licensing fees. Those barriers have been shrinking through the years, and on Xbox One they’re all but gone following an announcement from Microsoft’s [email protected] head Chris Charla at the 2017 Game Developers Conference.
The company unveiled the Xbox Live Creators Program, a new initiative intended to bring “fully open game publishing” to Xbox One.
In short, anyone can buy a console and start developing games for the Xbox One and PC. The program is open to anyone, and any retail Xbox One is enough to get started. There’s a one-time fee which Charla said ranges from $20 – $100.
Creators will be able to integrate things like leaderboards, party chat, Xbox Live sign-in, and other Xbox Live features into their games.
There’s a catch
There’s always a catch. Of course there is. Games developed through the program will have to be published as Universal Windows Platform (UWP) games to appear on Xbox One. The games won’t have full access to the Xbox One’s powers nor to some core Xbox Live features. Among the missing features are matchmaking for multiplayer and Gamerscore. That last one actually makes sense. Without that restriction, you’d see a game titled “Press A to get Gamerscore” within a few days. For that, you’re still stuck looking up a copy of Avatar: The Last Airbender for Xbox 360.
To get full access to the Xbox One, you’ll need a hardware-based SDK, which is available through the [email protected] program that Microsoft will continue to run alongside the Xbox Live Creators Program.
The power of visibility
When we’re kids, we wonder what it’d be like to be invisible. Game developers, though, dream about the opposite – the power or visibility. Programs like this carry a risk of flooding the market and making the good games in the collection difficult to find.
Games made through the Creators program will be sold in a dedicated section of the Xbox store, and Polygon notes that Microsoft won’t be holding these developers to any kind of NDA or approval. They do reserve the right to remove inappropriate content from the service, though.
This visibility problem was part of the puzzle of the Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Indie Games program, too. It’s still one that Microsoft, Valve, and other digital marketplace owners have to figure out. We occasionally get a memorable game through these services, like the classic, I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1, but by and large most of the stuff published disappears without getting any visibility. We’re hoping Microsoft can find a way to highlight some of these titles along the way.
The SDK for Xbox Live Creators is available right now through the source link below. The program is in preview, but Microsoft says it plans to open the program up very soon.