Microsoft is getting a bad rap lately. The rumour mill is bleeding contentious streams of whispers, employees are putting the feet in the proverbial across social networks, and now a few indies have come out to slam Microsoft's practices regarding smaller devs, and praise those of its competitor.
But not James Silva.
Earlier this week, Braid creator Jonathan Blow told Wired that “Microsoft treats independent developers very badly", before going on to say that Microsoft’s approach to indie developers is to “put you through as much pain as you will endure in order to extract whatever [it] feels like this week”.
This isn't the first time Blow has mouthed off about Microsoft, and we're certain that it won't be the last. He's been singing Sony's praises thus far and appeared onstage for them at the PS4 reveal in February.
He's not alone, either. Retro City Rampage dev Brian Provinciano had some rather negative words about working with MS too recently. According to Wired, who also spoke to Provinciano, Microsoft canned the release of RCR after Provinciano spoke out about the hoop jumping and inefficient process of getting his game onto XBLA, meaning he then had to resubmit and go through an extra six months of negotiations via an external publisher.
Even when it did release, Provinciano says that Microsoft cocked up.
“Someone made a mistake and released it on XBLA for $10 instead of $15, so most of the copies sold earned one-third less off the top,” he said in an email.
Sony, on the other hand, have been nothing but supportive:
Sony’s been incredibly supportive and promoted the game very well,” said Provinciano. “It’s received a generous amount of promotion at no cost to me, from [advertisements] on the PS Store to events such as E3 and even having it playable on kiosks at every Walmart, Best Buy, GameStop, Target and Future Shop across North America.
“Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected this to happen."
But it's not all doom and gloom from the indie sector for Microsoft. Ska Studios' James Silva, the man behind The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, has spoken up in support of MS and lamented what he sees as the effect negative reporting has on indie devs.
“Quite frankly, working with Microsoft is great. I have heard a few stories that contradict my experience, and I know quite a few people who are happier on platforms other than XBLA, and that’s fine for them,” he wrote in a recent blog post.
“XBLA is a closed, carefully curated platform with its own set of fairly rigid standards and protocols. For me, it was just a matter of ‘do the work, release the game,’ and that’s exactly what we did. Going from a hobbyist PC bedroom developer to having conference calls with Microsoft (admittedly, still from my bedroom) was such a rush that the supposed terrors of having to fill out lots of forms or fix messaging errors were absolutely lost on me.”
Silva suggested that positive reporting, an "everything's fine" approach, doesn’t make for good headlines, and that this has led to unbalanced views regarding MS.
“When one indie says they’re never working with Microsoft again, the gaming public becomes curious as to whether this is an isolated incident, or part of some sort of ugly truth, and pretty soon everyone wants to know if I’ve just been secretly hiding my experience with the ugly truth, or if I’ll be moving to PS4 because of the ugly truth, when in fact this perceived ugly truth is nothing more than four or five data points,” he went on.
“Reinforcing the ‘Microsoft is bad for indies’ narrative doesn’t hurt Microsoft, it hurts indies. [...] Telling thousands of readers that Microsoft is failing at indie gaming is telling thousands of potential customers that Microsoft is failing at indie gaming. And while everyone likes a sale, the ones who really, desperately need the money aren’t the Microsoft people who greenlight the projects, they’re the indie developers who are trying to quit their day jobs, trying to buy a house, trying to raise a baby.
“As a consumer, would you think twice about buying a game from a ‘failed platform?’ Would you hesitate at buying an indie game from a company that ‘screws indies?’ But that’s the current narrative, and while it sucks for Microsoft, it sucks a lot more for indie developers who are publishing on XBLA.”