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Xbox One will not see indies at launch, says Phil Harrison

Joe Donnelly September 24, 2013 - 9:24 am

As Microsofts touts its Independent Developers @ Xbox programme, Phil Harrison has admitted that – although it is difficult to define what an indie developer is – indie games probably won’t surface on Xbox One until some point in early 2014.

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Xbox One is just around the corner – November 22, to be precise. If you live in America, the PS4 is a wee nose hair in front, set to debut on November 15.

It’s a close race. But as far as indie development is concerned, Sony appears to be in many respects furlongs in front, even considering Microsoft’s backtracking and the recent introduction of the Independent Developers @ Xbox programme.

In an interview with Games Industry, Phil Harrison – Microsoft’s corporate vice president – spoke of an “avalanche of interest”, and that as they now work through the load of applications, they are able to decide who gets a development kit, and how many. The end game, he says, is “that every Xbox One console becomes a dev kit.”

“There’s been a lot of debate about what is an independent developer?” says Harrison, when asked when the public can expect to see the console’s first indie releases. “Is it Capy with two people, or is it Crytek with 200 people? I think it’s both and it’s everybody in between. There’s been too much focus on the financial structure as to whether they qualify for being an indie. For me, it means they are independent of their own design decisions, they’re independent in thought, they’re independent in motivation and creative direction.

“The current structure of retailer and publisher and financial investor in a studio inevitably means there are a load of executive producers. Executive producers are a good thing, they add value, but they can also mean that certain kinds of games get built over and over again because they are more predictable in nature. They’re more easy to forecast, easier to sell to a retailer and easier to pigeon hole.”

But ultimately, there are less than two months till launch. Xbox and Microsoft’s initial restricted response to indies looks to have caught up with them, as Harrison admits seeing indie games at launch is an unrealistic goal.

“I don’t think we’re going to see things at launch,” he says. “I don’t think it’s realistic to see a developer get the programme and build a game and get it into the market on November 22. It’s reasonable to expect in early 2014 we’ll start seeing the first games come through.”

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