According to Borut Pfeifer of Plush Apocalypse Productions, who collaborated to make Skulls of the Shogun, Microsoft Studios appears to be “institutionally incompetent”. Drawing the line between Microsoft and Microsoft Studios, he explains that it’s not an issue of Microsoft loving or hating indies – they are “an indifferent machine to it all”.
In his interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Pfeifer gives the detailed rundown of how they suffered as indie gamers, partially due to Microsoft and partially due to their own poor decisions about releasing solely on Microsoft platforms, particularly their choice to release exclusively for Windows 8. One of the main complaints was that Microsoft was late with payment, forcing the studios to take out loans in order to complete the game. However, he still says Microsoft is not malevolent.
“When people call Microsoft ‘evil’, while I don’t want to defend them, it’s kind of an undeserved compliment. To be evil, you have to have vision, you have to have communication, execution… None of those are traits are things that I would ascribe to Microsoft Studios.”
He goes on to say that Microsoft Studios
“… Came across as though they were institutionally incompetent. I think they’re not really set up to be a decent publisher.”
However, when it comes to indies, he says that Microsoft isn’t anti-indie.
“… it’s not that Microsoft loves or even hates indies. It’s just that they’re an indifferent machine to it all.”
I suppose this indifference would explain why Pfeifer says that they “never tried to interfere with us creatively” – they just didn’t care! I’m not whether this bodes well for indie game developers who sign on with Microsoft Studios in the future. I just hope that other indie game studios make better decisions. Pfeifer is now broke and it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing more games from him anytime soon. It would be sad if other developers suffered the same fate. I still believe indie games are some of the best for providing unique game play experiences – they may not be at the level of AAA titles, but sometimes they are more fun.