Microsoft have qualified their position on self-publishing with Xbox One, detailing plans that offer widespread, comprehensive access to development kits, service support and system tools, saying that there'll be no fees for game updates (about damn time!), but that Microsoft themselves will set prices.
"The developer can set their own wholesale price and we act as the retailer. So Xbox Live acts as a reseller, and Xbox Live Store will be setting the ultimate retail price to the consumer. That's the way in which our store has always been structured," Phil Harrison told Games Industry.
With the revenue split across the industry around 70/30 in favour of developers as standard, Harrison described the revenue share on Xbox One as being "very industry standard." He also reiterated support for flexible pricing models and free-to-play games on Xbox LIVE.
"We absolutely will be supporting free-to-play, as you've seen we've made some substantial investments and announcements on free-to-play on Xbox 360, and that will continue on Xbox One," he said. "We think it's a very important business model for the future of our industry.
"I think that when you are building a game for a retail business model that definitely puts certain financial restriction or financial boundaries on the product because you've got to build a certain amount of inventory, you have to have physical distribution of your software to the retailer, all of which is very expensive.
"That has an unintended consequence of impacting on the creative decisions that publishers and developers make. All of those restrictions go away with this programme. So as I said earlier this is going to be a great thing for gamers because they will get access to new and interesting content but I also think it's a good thing for the industry, so yes, I think it's positive all round."
Harrison revealed that entry into the programme -- named [email protected] -- will be "curated" at first, and that those allowed access will receive two dev kits, full access to Xbox One services and support, and prominence on the Xbox LIVE storefront.
"While we are in this early phase, where we are making professional development kits available to developers, there is this element of curation and we are definitely going to be focusing on developers who have more of a track record," said Harrison. "But longer term our goal is that the Xbox One console can be used as a development kit, and then clearly we're going to be opening this up much more broadly.
"As you would expect there will be certain content types that we will not permit to be released onto the platform, but they'd be what I'd describe as industry standard content types that would be excluded from the platform, I don't think we're going to be doing anything different. The ambition is that we welcome the broadest possible landscape of creators to bring their visions to reality on our platform and that is so exciting."
So there are still caveats, and Microsoft are gatekeeping the service for the time-being. It's perhaps not surprising that the Redmond company want to tighten their grip on what has been a shoddy and haphazard campaign thus far, but there are glimpses of a bright future for self-publishing on the Xbox One.
"I think number one is this is good for gamers, this means that people who buy an Xbox One are going to be getting access to some incredible game experiences that our internal studios or traditional third party publisher relationships would not have brought to the platform, so that's great if you're a gamer.
"I think this will have long-term benefits for the industry as a whole because it will prove to be a valuable on-ramp into the industry for talent which, you may have heard me speak about in the past, is a real area of passion of mine - how do people with talent, with vision, with energy for this space get into the industry? So I think this is a good move.
"Fundamentally it's allowing developers to be connected directly to gamers with as little friction in-between as possible, and it levels the playing field. This is allowing a developer who is perhaps working entirely on their own or with a very small team - Chris Hecker is a good example - all the way up to a company like Crytek which has hundreds of employees and having everybody in between be treated equally in the eyes of the consumer, in the way that their games are merchandised in the store, they have a chance to be hits based on all of the discovery tools that we have built into the architecture of Xbox One.
"I think that is the thing developers have given us feedback on, that they really love our vision here. They want their game to have an equal chance of success and that has been something that we have given a great deal of thought to."