by Joseph Leray
In a statement to Eurogamer, Microsoft has confirmed that it will no longer charge developers to patch their Xbox Live Arcade games. "Microsoft eliminated fees to Title Updates on Xbox 360 Arcade games in April 2013," explained a Microsoft spokesperson. "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."
Since the launch of the Xbox 360 in 2006, Microsoft's policy had been to allow developers to patch their games once for free and then charge for any subsequent updates. The Redmond party line has been, until now, that its policies encourage thorough quality assurance from developers.
"Fez" developer Phil Fish (in)famously pegged the cost of an Xbox Live patch at "tens of thousands of dollars," while Double Fine head Tim Schafer pinpoints the figure at $40,000 in an interview last year with Hookshot. Both studios have been explicit about certification costs as a reason to move away from the Xbox platform: "Fez 2" won't be coming to the Xbox One, and Double Fine have moved to Kickstarter as a consistent source of funding.
Microsoft's official statement and confirmation of the policy change come only after several sources in the development community discussed it with Eurogamer. According to that report, Microsoft's new policy includes retail games as well, though the company's statement only refers explicitly to Xbox Live Arcade titles.
Also according to Eurogamer, Microsoft still reserves the right to charge for title updates and re-certification if it deems a developers submissions "excessive."
One thing I don't understand is why Microsoft are course-correcting now, seven years into the life of the Xbox 360 and only a few months away from the release of the Xbox One. The whole thing seems a day late and a dollar short, not to mention that the switch was flipped in April and never publicized it.
What does the policy change mean for audiences, though? Hopefully, that Xbox Live Arcade development is a little cost prohibitive for small studios, and that patchable issues can be solved quickly and more effectively moving forward. Meanwhile, there's no word on how this policy change will affect the Xbox One, but it does little to change the fact that studios still aren't allowed to self-published on either Xbox.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter