Building a game for multiple launch platforms can be hazardous for indie developers, transferring energy from building games to bureaucracy, Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail tells Joystiq. When Vlambeer learned about Microsoft's launch parity clause, it immediately contacted Sony to set up launch exclusivity on PS4 for its next-gen game Nuclear Throne.
"Microsoft was doing reach-out to certain developers back in the early days of ID@XBOX, and we discussed potentially bringing Nuclear Throne to Xbox One with them," Ismail says. "There had been mentions beforehand that there was a launch parity clause in the contract, with the exception of games that were already signed to another platform during the announcement of their self-publishing program. Thus, before we signed with Microsoft, we e-mailed Sony that we quickly wanted to sign Nuclear Throne with them with a month of exclusivity."
This move wasn't out of spite for Microsoft, Ismail says, and Nuclear Throne is slated for both PS4 and Xbox One – it'll just hit PS4 first.
"Honestly, we've had enough trouble with our promise for a simultaneous release for Luftrausers, so by getting rid of parity we'd be able to focus on one platform for Nuclear Throne first. We also liked that we got to honor our long and super-pleasant cooperation with the people at Sony that way."
Vlambeer has established itself with games such as Ridiculous Fishing and Super Crate Box, lending it leeway to play with the system in a way that smaller developers can't. Asking novice studios to develop for multiple platforms at launch means they'll be less focused on making games and more tied up in corporate stress – it's risky for everyone, Ismail says:
"We'd rather Microsoft allow us not only the freedom to self-publish, but also to publish in whatever order we prefer .... We'll keep pushing for Microsoft to drop the clause, and we'd recommend any other developer to do the same."
When Microsoft announced the ID@Xbox program in August, Director Chris Charla told us that he welcomed constructive criticism.
"We like criticism," Charla said. "It never feels good to be criticized, but that's how you get better, right? I think we've come up with something that devs will be really happy with, and that's really just focused on getting the best possible original games onto Xbox One."
"Obviously, we're not under the impression that we have any power over how Microsoft does its business, but every time something like this works out, we hope we can use it to make things better for everybody," he says. "Often we'll try and negotiate deals in a way that allow other indies to use us as a precedent of sorts, or to emphasize certain problematic structures in a company or contract.
"To be honest, we're in the ID@XBOX program mostly because we think Chris Charla is a person that genuinely cares about games and because we feel that with our visibility, it might be a good idea to go through the gauntlet and report back on whether it's a risky or unpleasant experience."
ID@Xbox is a step in the right direction, in Ismail's book.
"So far, there's nothing but good news when it comes to the program – Microsoft seems to have taken the cue from Sony and joined the platforms that allow for self-publishing," he says. "Especially considering that this is still sort a pilot program, they're doing great. More platforms allowing for self-publishing is good news for everyone that makes games, and in the end, that's the part we really care about."