Is Microsoft’s Reign of Terror at an End?


Microsoft’s method of keeping game exclusives has been somewhat shady: they pay exorbitant amounts of money and do not allow companies to publish elsewhere for at least six months. Even high-profile companies like Bethesda had to stay true to this, as their Dawnguard expansion is still exclusive to the XBOX360, even though the developer has stated that they intend to release for the DLC for the PC and PS3. With the next generation of consoles arriving and modifications rumored to be a major feature on them, will Microsoft be able to keep up their charades?

One of the main sources of drama stemming from Microsoft is its exorbitant price for registering a game—even if that game is only patched to fix bugs, and already available on XBLA. Developer Polytron claims that registering their patched game would take $10,000—which might seem like a small amount to a large publishing company or major developer, but for a small indie studio that already shoveled out money for a bug-fixing patch, it can break a company.

If consoles want to keep up with the accessibility of a PC, they will need to support mods, competitive prices, and indie developers, as well as minimize their DRM policies. These are all traits that have kept Steam successful since its launch in 2003, and continuing to ignore it now that it is a major competitor would not bode well for console companies. Since Microsoft is very consistent with its policy in charging high prices for game licenses, even for patches, their tactic of paying for exclusivity won’t hold over into the next generation. After the way the company has treated indie companies like Polytron, indie developers will steer away from the bait. Although the XBOX 360 is a good platform, with many potential customers, the risk is not worth it.

Combined with how Microsoft treats larger companies, Microsoft’s next console is unlikely to receive the kind of developer support it had in this generation. After Microsoft acquired Rare in 2002, the company was slowly turned into a development team centered around the Kinect, instead of the typical platformers that they founded the company to make. While large companies may not be able to control their stock in its entirety, seeing the way Microsoft shuffled important employees in Rare might convince them from selling what they have to Microsoft in the first place.

Of course, there’s still quite a while to go before we see the XBOX 720 or PS4. There’s always a possibility that the next generation consoles will be completely different—more akin to modifiable PCs—or perhaps go the way of cloud gaming, with a simple console in-between to keep latency low and provide support for the television. Either way, mods, patches, and indie companies are a huge part of modern gaming, and if Microsoft does not take them into account in the next generation and continues with their money-grabbing policies, they will be left behind by developers.

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12 Comments

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  1. Sara, you made this entire story up based on a single ambiguous comment by a developer which Microsoft has since stated is not an accurate reflection of that actually happens.

    Also, the figure of speech ‘keep up a charade’ does not mean what you think it does, and exorbitant is typically used for fees paid *to* someone, not to money paid *by* them of their own free will.

    D-

  2. you make it sound like bethesda was forced to release the dlc for xbox first… they were not.

    chances are MS gave them free patches in return for DLC months before other competition.

    Yes the prices of updating games is too much it shouldn’t be nearly as much as it is. and the publishing fees on xbox are absurd, but this article is pointless and full of incorrect data.

  3. i can tell you did far to little research in you article.

    1) the first patch Developer Polytron did was free which was what caused the problem. which was a reason they had to pay for the second one. where Polytron felt the 1% wasn’t worth the money to patch the problem they caused.
    2) tim schafer confirm both sony and micrsoft charge the same for patching games at the beginning of this year.

    i think you need to do some research and stop jumping on the hate wagon

  4. If you have a B.A of English, what the hell makes you think you’re qualified to write on business topics?

    Paying a substantial sum to have exclusivity rights, for any length of time, is not shady. It’s not unethical and it’s certainly not illegal.

    Go back to school and get a business degree before you start passing judgement on businesses, yes?

  5. Facts! Research! These are your friends!

    Firstly – Polytron had not “already shoveled out money for a bug-fixing patch” – the first patch is free. They delivered a broken/bugged patch. Then chose not to update it/pay the fee. And for a small dev, who’d sold over 100k copies – I find it quite reprehensible.

    It should also be noted – Sony charge the same amount. And fair play to them.

    MS did not invent the paid exclusive, or even the timed exclusive – in fact all 3 platform holders partake in this practice.

    PC gamers are used to patches – and broken game releases. On consoles (Ps3/360/Wii) – the platform holders try to encourage devs not to take a “ship now, fix later” attitude – as it adversely affects not only the reputation of the dev – but the reputation of the platform holder.

  6. This story reeks of fanboyism and poor journalism. Guess what, patching on the PlayStation cost the same amount, ask Double Fine, who admitted that. Microsoft is actually doing a good job on this exclusivity front and they don’t force developers. The developers make their own decisions and take the money. This practice will continue into the next generation until at least PlayStation is dead. And looking at Sonys crashing stock and rapidly decreasing company value that could be sooner rather than later.

    1. Everything Jason said, except the notion that Sony would bow out of gaming because of their struggles in other areas effecting the company overall.

  7. Your premise is sound, except for one key factor… it’s the money. It’s always the money. And developers will continue to “sell out” to Microsoft if the benefits of doing so means quick and ample cash returns.

  8. This information is not accurate. M$ does provide deals with developers to keep there stuff exclusive to their platform for a while, but its obvious that the developer agrees to this as it is more profitable for them.

    As for patching games, yes it costs money on 360, but its not like its free on PS3… In fact developers has to pay money to Sony based on the bandwidth their games take up on PSN. This is also why some developers will take down demos or game servers after a while on PS3.

    Steam is the best platform for developers yes, but its not without its faults either and both consoles, not just Xbox takes a lot of money for services which could be free.

    But on the other hand, the gaming industry is healthier than it has ever been, so console developers must be doing something right…

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