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Xbox One indie policy under scrutiny again

Launch day parity clause should be abolished, says Vlambeer dev

A Microsoft publishing policy which asks independent developers to release games on Xbox One at the same time as PS4 has again come under scrutiny.

The ID@Xbox program, which launched in August, was met with generally favourable reception from independent developers, though the 'launch day parity' clause was one policy that came under scrutiny.

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As part of the contract to self-publish on Xbox One, Microsoft says "we do ask for day one parity with other console game platforms".

It was this clause which spurred Vlambeer - the studio behind cult iOS titles such as Super Crate Box - to seek a timed exclusivity deal with Sony. Rami Ismail, co-founder of the Netherlands indie outfit, claimed that the team rushed to make an agreement in order to jump a loophole.

"Microsoft was doing reach-out to certain developers back in the early days of ID@XBOX, and we discussed potentially bringing Nuclear Throne to Xbox One with them," Ismail said in an interview with Joystiq.

"There had been mentions beforehand that there was a launch parity clause in the contract, with the exception of games that were already signed to another platform during the announcement of their self-publishing program.

"Thus, before we signed with Microsoft, we e-mailed Sony that we quickly wanted to sign Nuclear Throne with them with a month of exclusivity."

However, new indie game contracts signed for Xbox One must adhere to the launch-day parity policy - something which has sparked criticism among developers.

Ismail believes the policy should be abolished.

"Honestly, we've had enough trouble with our promise for a simultaneous release for Luftrausers, so by getting rid of parity we'd be able to focus on one platform for Nuclear Throne first," he said.

"We'd rather Microsoft allow us not only the freedom to self-publish, but also to publish in whatever order we prefer.... We'll keep pushing for Microsoft to drop the clause, and we'd recommend any other developer to do the same."

Ismail also said that Microsoft holds the interest of developers in high regard, which is why Vlambeer continues to partner with it.

"To be honest, we're in the ID@XBOX program mostly because we think [ID@Xbox director] Chris Charla is a person that genuinely cares about games and because we feel that with our visibility, it might be a good idea to go through the gauntlet and report back on whether it's a risky or unpleasant experience.

"So far, there's nothing but good news when it comes to the program - Microsoft seems to have taken the cue from Sony and joined the platforms that allow for self-publishing," he added. "Especially considering that this is still sort a pilot program, they're doing great. More platforms allowing for self-publishing is good news for everyone that makes games, and in the end, that's the part we really care about."

On Wednesday, Microsoft released a list of more than 30 indie developers set to self-publish on Xbox One including Crytek, Double Fine, Keiji Inafune's Comcept and Bit. Trip studio Gaijin Games.

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