Indie Power
Official Xbox Magazine|March 2019

As Id@xbox Releases Its One-Thousandth Game, Oxm Celebrates the Revolutionary Program.

Adam Bryant

From a modest 25 titles to a massive 1,000, the ID@ Xbox program has come a long way since its launch in 2014 and blossomed into a driving force for indie games on consoles. Last October Microsoft marked the occasion with the release of three indie titles: Sinner: Sacrifice For Redemption, Mark Of The Ninja Remastered, and Guns, Gore & Cannoli 2, all of which were released on the same day and so share the privilege of becoming that 1,000th game.

The ID@Xbox program has served in some ways as an ambassador to getting developers on the Xbox One, but mostly it’s helped change the way we think about indie games. Over the years we’ve seen the release of some truly amazing titles via the program, such as Cuphead, Inside, Below and Ashen. We wanted to find out how the program has helped developers and sought the company of those who are enrolled in it to talk about their experiences. We also managed to spend some time with the director of ID@ Xbox, Chris Charla, to get a behind-the-scenes view and find out more about the future of the program.

The origins of the ID@Xbox program go back years before the launch of the Xbox One, to the height of the Xbox 360’s popularity. Microsoft pioneered digital distribution of console games with the Xbox 360, through Xbox Live Arcade, and independent developers saw this as a fantastic opportunity to get their games on a console with the same level of awareness that a triple-A game might enjoy with Xbox players.

This ushered in a wave of creativity and the release of some groundbreaking and innovative games. The first Summer of Arcade back in 2008 is seen by many as a great example of this, with the launch of original titles like Castle Crashers and Braid. This was the moment that independent games burst into the mainstream. It continued to grow and evolve at such a pace that it was clear to Microsoft that for its next console it would need to change how it worked with indies.

Enter ID@Xbox. Back in 2012, Chris Charla and his team travelled around the globe visiting developers to find out what they wanted for indie games on Xbox. “We did a huge listening tour,” explains Charla. “Well I say huge, it felt huge at the time. It was little more than 50 developers, and today with more than 3,000 developers in the program it doesn’t seem that huge! This listening tour determined that what developers wanted was ease of access to the platform and the ability to self-publish.”

Microsoft’s vision for the Xbox One was to give players access to the broadest variety of games possible and knew the best way to achieve this was to have independent developers on the platform. Figuring out how to get developers to self-publish on the system was essential. This became part of what Chris Charla often refers to as the ‘North Star’ of ID@Xbox: to make it as easy as humanly possible to have independent developers get their games onto Xbox, which is something that hasn’t changed throughout the program’s life. According to Charla, the only things that have changed are the mechanics behind making this happen. Initially this involved ensuring Microsoft’s back-end tools and technologies were easy for devs to use, but as time passed this focus shifted. “Now it goes a lot towards promotion and marketing and more of us using our resources as Microsoft in order to understand what’s going on with the market,” says Charla. “Then we’d share that with developers so they can make smart decisions, not about what games to develop but when to launch and the best way to market their game.”

The reception given to the ID@ Xbox program was hugely positive. “When we started we didn’t know how many folks were going to apply and how many developers we were going to be working with, and I would say we dramatically underestimated it,” says Charla. “I sort of anticipated that in the first two or three years we would maybe have a thousand folks apply. I think we had more than a thousand developers signed up within the first year.”

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