Microsoft has reversed its stance on indie game developers over the past few months, opening up its arms and inviting them to take part in its ID@Xbox program, which spotlights new titles from them and puts them smack dab in the middle of the Xbox Live Marketplace for the Xbox One system.
However, it appears that this process does come at a price — and it’s no small fee if you’re an indie developer on a shoestring budget. Jamie Fristrom, a developer at Happion Laboratories, recently released a game for the system called Sixty Second Shooter Prime, a twin-stick shooter reminiscent of the Xbox 360 downloadable classic Geometry Wars. Fristrom recently provided a full breakdown of costs in regards to how much it takes to publish a game on Microsoft’s console.
According to Fristrom, costs are around $5000, including sending another development kit to a partner, using hardware such as a video capture device, localization for different languages, and maintaining a URL. Perhaps the most costly steps involve earning foreign ratings from different boards like PEGI and USK, which ranges around $2,000, and getting insurance in case of errors or omissions, which is about the same amount.
According to Fristrom, errors and omissions insurance is required by Microsoft, as “it has to cover IP and copyright violations, so the cheap E & O insurance you can easily find online doesn’t qualify.”
Ratings board payment is also a requirement. “If you want to release in a given territory, you have to get your game rated by the official ratings boards of that territory. It’s sad but true, getting your game rated in some territories can be a lot more expensive than simply translating your game to that territory’s language!” said Fristrom.
But with all the expenses, the process isn’t heartbreaking, especially considering that Microsoft provides the development kits at no charge. “Although those costs were somewhat daunting for a shoestring developer like myself, it was absolutely worth it. Although we haven’t gotten our first sales report yet, there were at least ten thousand entries on the leaderboards last we checked, so we’ve certainly covered our costs and made a living wage to boot – which is kind of rare in the indie game development world, in my experience – so I’m really happy we jumped aboard the ID@Xbox wagon.”