Xbox One's controversial parity policy criticized by Stealth Inc. developer

"For us, it’s an annoyance," says Curve Studios marketing manager Rob Clarke on Xbox One policy.

The UK developer behind recently unveiled Wii U exclusive Stealth Inc. 2, Curve Studios, has called Microsoft's launch parity clause--which only lets indie developers release games on Xbox One if they haven't already launched for PS4, PC, or Wii U--an "annoyance" and a "shame".

"For us, it’s an annoyance," said Curve Studios marketing manager Rob Clarke in an interview with IGN. "It’s preventing us from bringing some of the older stuff through and doing what we want. There’s 40 of us, and we’re still saying we should be able to work around it, so you can imagine how hard it is for smaller developers in one and two man teams who are faced with having to release on PlayStation and Xbox simultaneously. "

Clarke adds that Curve Studios is hopeful about being on Xbox One at some stage. "We’ve been with ID@Xbox since launch," he adds. "We weren’t in the initial announcement only because it conflicted with something going on with Sony at the time. We’ve had the kits for a long time and we’ve been talking to them for a long time about Xbox One. Almost six months. Hopefully we’ll get there soon, but then that’s because we’re big enough to handle the launch parity thing."

Microsoft's launch parity clause has attracted its fair share of criticism from, well, pretty much everybody. "Hopefully Microsoft will drop it," says Clarke. "They’ve been told by a lot of the industry it’d be better if they did, but they haven’t yet. It’s a shame. The frustrating thing for a lot of developers is they have dropped it for a lot of people, but it’s not very clear why. Is it a case of size? Is it a case of how well you know people at the company? It’s not a great way to treat indies because they see it as being unbalanced. I went to a UKIE [trade association] talk about how to get your game on Microsoft systems, and a lot of the reaction seemed to be the demand was there among the developers, but it just isn’t clear."

Microsoft has said that the launch parity clause is considered on a case-by-case basis, but that it will continue in the future. "The winners in all of this are game players," said Microsoft exec Phil Harrison about both Microsoft and Sony's attempts to lure indie developers to their fancy new consoles.

Martin Gaston is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @squidmania
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Discussion

202 comments
binbin90
binbin90

ID@Xbox with this parity clause still puts quite a limitation for developers in general.....even if they get devkits for free

coruscant
coruscant

Its just hypocritical of MS when they often pay companies to release DLC or even games on Xbox first.

bdrtfm
bdrtfm

This is a sticky one. I don't like Indie's. I don't think I've ever played one that I found enjoyable for more than a few minutes. I do get them for the kids, however, as they enjoy them now and again.


On one hand, I can see MS wanting release parity if they are expected to shell out free dev kits and other perks. It makes good sense in theory. However, when Sony announces that they have 1000 developers making indies for them right now and MS only has 250 then, Houston, we have a problem. I'm thinking when you're already facing an uphill battle, you might not want to start adding any extra hurdles. 


At the same time, I don't want the Xbox One to be flooded with hundreds of crap indies like the PS4 will undoubtedly be with so many games coming out.  Its like both companies are going to opposite extremes. MS is saying we expect X and Y before you can publish. Whereas, Sony seems to be letting anyone and everyone publish anything on their console. I'm not sure which idea disturbs me more?

dannydopamine8
dannydopamine8

indie games are garbage anyways.. once you get over the "support indie dev" feel-good hipster crap you are just left with a shitty game in the long run

anvilone
anvilone moderator

I have mixed feelings about this because I haven't forgotten the EPIC sea of garbage on the 360 XBLIG market.

Sideways8_4ever
Sideways8_4ever

thats funny, because the xbone is an annoyance to everyone

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

So, play by their rules or you can't play? For indi titles, no one is going to pay for timed exclusivity and customers aren't going to pick one console over another based on indis. MS is saying in this genre, that is stupid to play the timed or exclusive game. And good for them.

kargion
kargion

"The winners in all of this are game players".....Awesome Indie game is out on PS4......can't come to xbox1 now due to releasing first on ps4.  Sounds like to me gamers on xb1 are not winning.  Re-think the policy so your xb1 gamers get games no matter what.

sandman338
sandman338

The way I understand it is that Microsoft is providing free software to create games with and the parity clause states that the developer can't release it on another platform first.  This article makes it sound like the developer has to release somewhere else first.  Also, the parity clause does not say that can't release it on multiple platforms, only that it has to also release on Microsoft platforms at the same time.


I don't really see a problem with asking a developer not to release their games somewhere else first if Microsoft is giving them free software to make the game with.  I know that other companies make the developers paid thousands of dollars for game creation software.

KilltheFANBOYS
KilltheFANBOYS

Hmm! I am confused. They say it does not allow games to be released on Xbox One that are already released on other platforms, yet the last time I checked I found Contrast on the list. Wasn't that game given for free on PS+ on launch?

HAMMERCLAW
HAMMERCLAW

It's a two edged sword. If you release on another platform first and your game bombs, they'll say no. If your game turns out to be popular, they'll say yes. That's where the case-by-case thing comes in.So, it's your choice; shoot yourself in the foot or don't. It might not be good for indies, but it will certainly keep some crap games off the Xbox.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Microsoft supports indies, ha.  Yeah right.

KilltheFANBOYS
KilltheFANBOYS

I see that people are unhappy with X Box One. Why may I say?

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

Ok, Phil. Explain to me how locking down games to one platform is beneficial to gamers? How are gamers "winning" if 50+% of gamers can't get the game because it's not on a platform they own?

Developers who are being asked to sign off on this clause are being forced either into a deal that limits their ability to grow or to choose the competing platforms as the launch platforms for the game so that when it goes to Xbox, they can't use the clause; if that developer chooses to go with Xbox at all once they've been successful on the others.

It doesn't make sense; like many other decisions Microsoft has made with the Xbox platform and the services running on it.

Stepn2myworld
Stepn2myworld

@bdrtfm  Actually, Microsoft is not saying X and Y before you publish. They are saying, if you haven't released to another platform, THEN, you can ONLY release on Xbox One. Keep your console Microsoft. If an indie title becomes a huge hit, Microsoft will follow the money. That is the reason it is on a case by case basis. 

repetitious
repetitious

You mean the indie market in general, right?

greaseman1985
greaseman1985

@Sideways8_4ever Yes of course, its an annoyance to the millions of people that have made it the third fastest selling console in history.

pspearman
pspearman

@kargion It can release on the X1, you either speak with Microsoft and discuss your case or you find a publisher to release it on your behalf. The release parity clause only applies if you are wanting to self publish.

kargion
kargion

@sandman338  This is a major problem.  I am lost on why people think because they give them the kits for free they should be forced to release on all plats at the same time.  If your an indie developer and you have say PC and WiiU done you want to get that out the door to start making money to keep moving on the PS4, and say xb1 version.  But now you can't go on xb1 because of this stupid clause.  It needs to change.  This is not for gamers, this is to make sure xb1 gets the games same time as other platforms so someone doesn't go "oh that game is on ps4 right now, ill just get a ps4".

KilltheFANBOYS
KilltheFANBOYS

@sandman338 I think that same way. There may not be harm to ask them to put timed exclusivity or simultaneous release on games. But then again we can't say what's right and wrong from business point of view.

KilltheFANBOYS
KilltheFANBOYS

@HAMMERCLAW Crap games off the xbox? I heard a Soda Drinking Game for XB1. Now isn't that crap?

HAMMERCLAW
HAMMERCLAW

@Thanatos2k Oh, right. They just give indies a free SDK AND free hardware to develop their games on. How awful of them.

kargion
kargion

@KilltheFANBOYS  I have both, i like my xb1 for titan fall, ps4 works better imo right now and you have more games to play.  Both are close to the same in the end.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@Hvac0120 If all games should be available on all platforms, what is the point of different platforms?

pspearman
pspearman

@Hvac0120  MS are not trying to lock down games to a single platform, they are just trying to make sure that if a developers uses the devkits and middleware they supply, they don't release on another system first.

SavageEvil
SavageEvil

@pspearman  Which is where Sony is going to trounce MS if they aren't careful. If developers start making lots of fans on PS4, you know what is going to follow right? Gamers go where the games are, if you lock out any game for any reason or make it harder than it needs to be then you are doing yourself no favors since you need games on your games console.


Double speak abound at MS, we are about indies but if you want to self-publish it's got to be on our system first or else no way. We are about games and indies, as long as you play by our arbitrary and contrary rules. MS are the only company doing this and it's not like you hear indie developers championing these clauses now do you?

sandman338
sandman338

@kargion @sandman338  If the article above is stating it correctly than I agree with you across the board.  What I was saying is that I think the article above is not stating it correctly.  I believe that the parity clause says that they can NOT release games on other systems first IF they use the free Microsoft Dev Kits.  

I can see what you are saying about if they were to finish a version of the game for another system before they finished the Xbox version but if they are using a dev kit from Microsoft that is designed for Xbox then I can't see why they would finish a different version first.  If they can't 'handle' the launch parity than why not put it out on Xbox first and then the other systems?

Let's be honest, there is no corporation that is really here for the gamer.  Every corporation is here to make money and the more they can convince us that 'they' are the ones that care about us not the 'other' company the better their cash flow is.  So to think that a corporation would give you a free dev kit and not expect to something in return is wishful thinking.  

SavageEvil
SavageEvil

@kargion This hurts Xbox One only owners, but many of them wouldn't even stand up and take a stance against it. Nope just sit there and think every thing out of MS mouth is truth and the right way. Sad to see defense of such draconian slave driver like mentality, but this is to be expected when people love a faceless corporation that only seeks to pad it's wallet by any means necessary even if it include shafting nearly half it's customers.

SavageEvil
SavageEvil

@KilltheFANBOYS It was just explained that if the indie outfit is small they can't handle a launch parity, what are you blind? For someone with such a handle you should commit something that removes said annoyances.


The fact that MS plays favorites with different indies is telling and pretty much a BS stance after Mr. Spencer went on about exclusives hurt gamers and they are all about games...double speak since actions are clearly different from the words coming out of Spencer's mouth. Meaning that Spencer isn't in as much control as we are led to believe. 


Keep the faith buddy!

kargion
kargion

@HAMMERCLAW @Thanatos2k  And then tell them how and when to release their games. Yes that is awful of them.  If your an indie dev you need the game out the door and start making money.  If you have PC done and ps4 and xb1 going to take time so be it, but MS says sorry no you have to wait, keep taking a loss so you can release on all plats at same time.  Yea MS is wrong in this.  Dead wrong.

blindley
blindley

@Thanatos2k @Hvac0120
The point of different hardware platforms should be competition between hardware manufacturers. That is, the company which produces better hardware for a better price should be the dominant company. I won't say that all games should exist on all platforms. But if a game doesn't exist on a platform, it should not be because of a contract that the developer has with the hardware manufacturer. It should be because that hardware is the best hardware for the developer's game, and they do not have the resources to port it to another platform.

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

@Thanatos2K that's not the answer either. Of course there needs to be exclusives, but it shouldn't be done the way Microsoft is doing it. Microsoft ideally would like every indie dev to sign this clause, but the bigger ones that have the pull to fight that clause won't sign because they know it's bad for their business.

Microsoft should secure exclusive indies the same way the secure exclusive AAA. By enticing the dev with a truck full of money.

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

@pspearman do you also realize that those "devkits" are just Xbox Ones with the ability to debug games? The games are developed on standard PCs. I doubt Microsoft is providing any middleware licenses to devs. The devs likely license Unreal Engine, Unity, or some other popular software.

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

@pspearman "...which only lets indie developers release games on Xbox One if they haven't already launched for PS4, PC, or Wii U..."

I haven't read the details of the clause, but from this statement it sounds like you have to get out on the other systems first or you never will be allowed to release on those systems.

softassassin1
softassassin1

Your screen name suits your bot comment very nicely.

pspearman
pspearman

You are right, the X1 is currently the most restricted console. I however prefer it this way, it means the X1 will not be bombarded with all the trash the more open systems will. The bigger more prolific Indies will release there games on both systems regardless, whether by meeting the release parity criteria or striking a deal with MS. Its a win win as far as I'm concerned.

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

You need to calm down - indis are indis for a reason.

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

@Sevenizz Only releasing an indie title on a single platform is often times dumb because you take a game that is already going to struggle and decreasing its visibility and ability to get itself noticed. For small teams, that exclusiveness could break them.

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

We don't really care - these are just indi titles. Have you seen the majority of the selection?

MS is saying that playing the timed or exclusive game in this segment is dumb - and they're right.

SavageEvil
SavageEvil

@pspearman Wrong, he even stated it in the article "There’s 40 of us, and we’re still saying we should be able to work around it, so you can imagine how hard it is for smaller developers in one and two man teams who are faced with having to release on PlayStation and Xbox simultaneously. "


Seriously you shouldn't go around assuming things, he stated that they thought they could go around and do the launch parity thing but it's a no go. No matter how similar the One and PS4 are in order to ensure things work on both perfectly you will have to have teams that can focus on each. 


They have a dev kit also stated in the article, doesn't mean that they have to put out a game. Fact that you want to defend this sort of crap is full on console bias. Sony hasn't given an such clauses, they don't care where it launched first although they will try to court devs to their system. They don't say if you don't give it to us first, then we don't want it.  


MS are behaving like virginity hunters.

pspearman
pspearman

@SavageEvil @KilltheFANBOYS Of course they would be able to handle the launch parity, they will most likely be making a PC version of the game as that is the most open platform, therefore porting the game to X1 will be a doddle as the ecosystem is very similar.


Besides, if they have signed up to the ID@Xbox program, they must be well aware of the clause and thus savvy enough to make the X1 a primary platform for development, at least if they are planning to self publish.

KilltheFANBOYS
KilltheFANBOYS

@SavageEvil No need to attack me bro. I am not here to start an argument. I agree with your view.

SavageEvil
SavageEvil

@KilltheFANBOYS Really? If you want more games on your machine, would you A )have some arbitrary clause that puts unrealistic stipulations on smaller indie developers that they cannot afford to comply with or B) remove the restriction.  It's more about what makes the most sense, MS is playing a game where they want games on their console first, nothing wrong with that but problem is if an indie developer has had success on one console or he sees that the larger installed base makes sense to deliver their wares to first to take advantage of that. Why should they forego making money just to satisfy some arbitrary and cutting of your nose to spite your face attitude MS is giving them?  Indies are there to make money too, not just MS.

pspearman
pspearman

@kargion @HAMMERCLAW@Thanatos2k Simple, if you are wanting to take advantage of self publishing on the X1, you make the X1 one of your primary platforms, leaving the X1 as an afterthought is clearly not what MS want.


If for some reason you can't satisfy the release parity criteria, just get a publisher to release on the X1 instead.

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

@pspearman Shouldn't there be the option as a dev to say "No" to that Unity license? Shouldn't the dev be able to say "we'll pay for our dev kits" ?

Devs should have the choice so they aren't locked in to a deal they may not like later down the road.

pspearman
pspearman

Signing up to id@xbox gives the developer a free Unity pro license as well as the devkits. Its actually a great deal as you don't pay MS a penny in development costs.

HAMMERCLAW
HAMMERCLAW

@Hvac0120 No, but if you release on another platform first, your game better be popular, or else you've nixed the chance to release on theirs.