Criticism for any of the Big Three is far from uncommon. One indie developer or another will appear to talk about the problems they've had, the red tape they've had to cut through. However, it's probably fair to say that Microsoft often gets more bad press in this regard. They've gained a reputation for being expensive and difficult to work with. Most recently, Brian Provinciano, developer of Retro City Rampage, has stated that his experience with Microsoft has been the worst of the lot. Also in the news, due to his latest game being a PS4 exclusive, Jonathan Blow said once more that he does not have a good relationship with Microsoft.
My question is, will this be something Microsoft addresses with their next gen console? They dominated in this area early, but now that others are catching up, developers have more of a choice than ever before. If Microsoft doesn't take steps to fix these issues, they might alienate enough developers that they end up far down the line in terms of platform consideration. Thoughts on the future of XBLA?
Jonathan Blow - Braid, The Witness
I used to think very positively about the xbox as well, but them Microsoft changed that by treating me pretty badly (and then treating other indie developers, including friends of mine, really horribly). -- http://the-witness.net/news/2013/02/a-clarification-about-our-ps4-exclusivity/
"I think the thing that they don't understand -- between that and the cert stuff that they do -- they just kind of make themselves a pain in the ass. For a big game, for a triple-A game that costs 60 bucks, and has a giant budget and all these people working on it, the amount extra that that pain in the ass adds is not that much," Blow said.
"But if you make an XBLA game, the amount of bullshit that adds is gigantic. It can take a third to a half of the effort required to build your game, in some cases, and I don't think that they understand that. I don't think that they understand that, at least for that size of game, they're competing very heavily with Steam and iOS for developer mindshare."
Cert -- or certification, in which a developer's game must meet certain technical requirements dictated by Microsoft before it can be released on the platform -- isn't the only problem.
"I can live a comfortable life, and just put my game on Steam without that much of a hassle, or I can have the XBLA business people dick me around and give me asshole contracts that I need to spend three months negotiating back to somewhere reasonable, that they knew," said Blow. "And then have all these arguments with them and go through this horrible cert process. It's like, at some point, the question 'Why should I do that?' arises." -- http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/126427/Interview_Jonathan_Blow__Xbox_Live_Arcade_A_Pain_In_The_Ass_For_Indies.php#.UTaCITswd8E
Brian Provinciano - Retro City Rampage
He also appeared critical of Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade, tweeting, "[It took] two bouts of 6+ months of pitching, paperwork, negotiation just to get onto XBLA. It's absurd. They don't make it easy." and added, "It cost more to do the XBLA version than all other SKUs combined. Made more on all other platforms. XBLA: 'a learning experience.'"
Conversely he praised both Nintendo and Sony saying, "Nintendo's great to work with. Both Sony and Nintendo are welcoming to indies." -- http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2013/02/26/retro-city-rampage-developer-says-vita-version-most-successful.aspx
Ron Carmel - World of Goo
Nearly three quarters of the developers surveyed said ease of working with a platform holder was paramount - followed by installed base and platform suitability.
When asked about specific platform holders, the majority deemed Steam, Facebook and Apple "very easy" to work with. Sony's PSN majority, like Google's Android, was "so-so". Most people found WiiWare "difficult", whereas Microsoft's XBLA was "excruciating".
"Given that ease of working with the platform owner was voted the most important factor in choice of platforms, it becomes perfectly clear why XBLA, despite being a very strong channel with a large audience and huge earning potential, is dropping in popularity among these developers," observed Carmel.
"But if things keep going the way they are, and XBLA keeps losing talented developers, I believe the diversity of games available on XBLA will diminish, quality will suffer, and revenue numbers will drop as players start to move away from an unremarkable portfolio of games. We will see a lot more 'genrefication' and big publisher franchises." -- http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-10-04-xbla-has-peaked-says-world-of-goo-dev
Team Meat - Super Meat Boy
Outspoken indies Team Meat will no longer have a commercial partnership with Microsoft, a co-founder at the studio has said.
Edmund McMillen has criticised the Xbox manufacturer for its lack of support during production of the 2010 XBLA hit Super Meat Boy.
“I don't think we'll work with them [Microsoft] ever again,” McMillen said on the IndieGames.com podcast. -- http://www.develop-online.net/news/38606/We-wont-work-with-Microsoft-again-Team-Meat
Jakub Dvorský - Machinarium
"First we wanted to create an Xbox Live version of Machinarium," Amanita boss Jakub Dvorský says. "Microsoft contacted us some time ago. They were interested and very nice. But after about half a year of negotiations, they told us they were not interested anymore because they decided they don't want to support games which are not Microsoft exclusive. We had already released the game for Mac and Linux, so they said they were not interested anymore."
Dvorský's experience is in part the result of a Microsoft policy exposed by Eurogamer earlier this year. In short, Microsoft reserves the right to not publish games on the Xbox Live if they have appeared on other platforms, such as the PlayStation 3 or Steam, first.
"It doesn't make much sense to me. Why would we need a third-party publisher? The game is ready. We do all the PR and marketing. You just need to put it there on the platform. Why would we need an EA for getting us there? It doesn't make any sense.
"So we decided to approach Sony and they agreed they wanted the game, so we started to port it" - an explanation, then, for why PS3 owners will get to enjoy Machinarium, and Xbox 360 owners will not. -- http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-11-21-making-an-xbla-game-the-inside-story-article