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26 Nov 2013

How to Join the Independent Developers Publishing Program on Xbox One

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Recently, I wrote a post detailing how to register to become an indie developer on the PS4, yet it isn’t the only new console in town. Despite the huge Xbox One controversy surrounding indie developers earlier this year (hint: indie developers would either need to find a publisher or have their game published via Microsoft), Microsoft quickly backtracked and ensured indie devs that they can indeed self-publish their games on the Xbox One. Thus, if you are interested in developing and self-publishing your game on Microsoft’s newest ‘black box,’ read on below to find out everything you need to know.



But before we begin, let’s get a few things out of the way: Namely, who can become a developer.

If I’m an indie developer, I’m a little wary about why Microsoft was not going to allow self-publishing to begin with. Obviously, they backtracked from this stance due to public outcry, so what does this mean for their current policy? Well, it turns out that the folks overseeing the Independent Developers Publishing Program (ID@Xbox) will certainly be evaluating each developer application that sent to them. In the first phase of ID@Xbox, Microsoft is only going to be accepting applications from developers that have a proven track record of releasing games on consoles, PC, or mobile devices, yet they state that their long-term plan is to allow anyone to be able to develop, publish, and sell their game via Xbox Live. Whether that will happen and when is an entirely different matter.



Standards and certification

ID@Xbox will not allow any games that are incredibly vulgar or offensive. Yet Microsoft stresses that they are not being censors either (i.e. they are not going to have the same censoring attitude Nintendo of America had in the 80’s and 90’s). Instead, ‘reasonable, common sense’ guidelines are being applied. What does this mean? 99% of indie developers probably won’t run into a problem with needing to censor their game.

Games released via ID@Xbox will also need to go through a certification process where their game will be tested to ensure it is behaving correctly. Microsoft stresses they have release managers that will help indie developers to navigate the process of certification in addition to providing documentation that clearly states how to acquire ESRB ratings, etc. Moreover, Microsoft does not charge publishers or developers to update their games on Xbox One, and they can update it as many times as they wish. This is a welcome changed from the Xbox 360, as updating any game was incredibly expensive.




All games released on the Xbox One Marketplace will be treated more equally than they were on the Xbox 360. Players can find new games in the spotlight section of the Marketplace (a section curated primarily by Microsoft), the trending section (highlighting games that are popular with friends and Xbox Live players), and recommendations (based on what you and your friends play).



With that out of the way, here is how to apply to become a developer with ID@Xbox

Navigate here to fill out the application. As opposed to applying to become an indie developer for Sony, the application process is much more straightforward, in that there is only one form to fill out no matter where you are located in the world. The application is split up into a few sections.



Your Studio

Detail the name of your studio or team along with your country, street address, city, region (i.e. state, province, etc.), and your zip code. If your studio/team has a website (and it should), write it in the appropriate field, add a contact number, the number of years your studio/team has been developing games, the number of people in your team/studio, and the amount of games you have shipped.

“What if I’m the sole proprietor of my studio?”

If this is the case and you do not have a name for your studio/team, now is a good time to create a unique name. If you want to continue using your actual name for your games, feel free to do so as well (e.g. if your name is ‘Tom Jones,’ simply write ‘Tom Jones’ in the studio/team name field).



Your Work

Write the most recent game you shipped, the release date of the game, and the platform the game was designed for. Next, select ‘+Add Another’ to add another game you published. Continue doing this until you have detailed every game designed by your current team/studio.



Key People

Are there key people in your team/studio? If so, include their full name, years of experience, years at the studio/team, and the titles they are credited to. If applicable, add another ‘key person’ by selecting ‘+Add Another.’



Primary Contact

Who is the primary contact in your team/studio? It’s probably you right? I knew it! At any rate, include the first and last name of the primary contact along with their title, email address, and contact number. Finally, select the checkbox next to ‘Agree to this program’s terms & conditions’ under ‘Terms and Conditions,’ and select ‘Submit Application.’

And that’s it! Hopefully, you will hear back from Microsoft sooner than later (there is no timeframe given to detail how long it will take to receive a response from Microsoft), and if you are chosen to become a part of ID@Xbox? Microsoft is providing a free Unity license to those that choose to develop games on Xbox One. Not a bad deal.

What do you guys think about ID@Xbox? Are you contemplating developing and releasing your games on Xbox One, or would you rather choose another platform? Let us know in the comments below!

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