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Microsoft Opens Xbox One Publishing to Indies

In a drastic change, every retail Xbox One can be used for development purposes.

Sony has gained a great deal of heat since E3 2013 with its strong push for more indies on the Playstation Network. At the same time its primary rival, Microsoft, has remained mired in its old certification system, requiring a known publisher for any game to hit Xbox Live. Just a few days ago, Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning said Microsoft was making the same old mistakes in not acknowledging the rise of smaller developers.

Well it's a different week, and we're seeing another sweeping policy change by Microsoft. Earlier this afternoon, GameInformer ran with a report that Microsoft was changing its certification process to allow developers to self-publish on the Xbox One. Even more shocking was the rumor that Xbox One retail consoles would work as full dev kits for independent developers.

Microsoft later confirmed part of GameInformer's report. The company told Engadget that every Xbox One will be able run in-progress game code at a later date. GameInformer's report also mentioned that Microsoft would need to authorize a retail unit to run debug code, but Microsoft's statement to Engadget did not mention any of those details.

"Our vision is that every person can be a creator. That every Xbox One can be used for development," Xbox One chief product officer Marc Whitten told Engadget in a statement. "That every game and experience can take advantage of all of the features of Xbox One and Xbox Live. This means self-publishing. This means Kinect, the cloud, achievements. This means great discoverability on Xbox Live. We'll have more details on the program and the timeline at Gamescom in August."

Microsoft's new process for the Xbox One will reportedly work like iTunes or Google Play. Instead of Microsoft doing a thorough check of the game's code, the company will merely make sure games don't violate the terms of service or have significant bugs. Developers will also be able to set their own release dates and pricing.

"In a market where Apple, Steam, and PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 allow indies to self publish, Microsoft has to do this to compete for indie developer attention. More options for developers means more interesting games getting out to players. It's a win for everyone," Uber Entertainment executive producer Chandana Ekanayake told Polygon. "We haven't considered [publishing to Xbox One] at all due to their policies, but hopefully things will change."

"We [previously] did not have plans to publish on Xbox One in the near future, but now it is a possibility, which is nice," Skull of the Shogun developer and 17-Bit CEO Jake Kazdal also told Polygon. "A healthy range of choices for small developers is nothing but good news."

It's another big change for Microsoft and one that could help the Xbox One gain ground against Sony. Now all we need are the details.

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