Last year, we told you how developers had to pay up to $40 000 to get their own games patched on consoles – which is why some indie games, like Polytron’s Fez, are stuck on Xbox Live in a near-broken state; the developers just can’t afford to fix them. That’s now changed – as Microsoft has axed the fees for Title Updates on both retail and XBLA games.
Microsoft has generally charged studios to patch their games as they have to undergo a certification approval process each time; a process that costs several thousand dollars – and is one of the reasons indies haven’t quite been so keen on releasing their games on the 360.
On one hand, this is a good thing. It means developers can actually patch and update their games without going broke, so games like Team Fortress 2 – which is far removed from the PC version of the game – might not be quite as rubbish as they are on the Xbox. Might we finally see patches for games like Fez, and Alpha Protocol? Probably not.
There’s also a caveat, in that Microsoft now reserves the right to charge if a submission repeatedly fails approval – but that’s really quite acceptable.
The fee was put in place to ensure that devs and publishers put out high quality, working games in the first place – and now that they can nearly patch their games willy-nilly, we might see a few more unfinished games put to market.
"Microsoft eliminated fees for Title Updates on Xbox 360 Arcade games in April 2013," A Microsoft spokesperson told Polygon. "We’re constantly evaluating our policies and implementing feedback. While our development policies are confidential, and will remain so, we’re pleased to say that this is just one of many ongoing changes and improvements we’ve made to ensure Xbox is the best place possible for developers and gamers."
This news likely makes Bethesda rather happy, as they will now save at least a billion dollars with each of their games. It could also be the start of a new wave of indie games on Microsoft’s platforms, a sector that the company’s been neglecting of late.
Hopefully, this policy continues through to the Xbox One, because it’s too little, too late for the Xbox 360.