In April 2013, Microsoft dropped the fee that developers had previously been charged to have their game patches certified to Microsoft’s satisfcation. Xbox Live’s Director of Programming, Larry Hryb (otherwise known as Major Nelson) confirmed the news in a tweet 13 hours ago:
This news is especially good for local game developers, as it implies that making games for the Xbox Live platform has just become more affordable. International developers will breathe a sigh of relief too, as it any reduction in costs means improved profitability.
The Eurogamer article that initially broke the news revealed that the fee for issuing a Title Update was “tens of thousands of dollars” before Microsoft revised the policy. With the lower costs involved in supporting released games thanks to this policy revision, smaller development studios like those typically found in South Africa should find the platform a little more enticing.
As reported on Slashgear, independent developer Polytron ran into a problem with the pay-to-patch system in 2012. They issued a patch for their platformer Fez, but it caused savegame corruption for some players. Because they couldn’t afford the re-certification process (the reason Microsoft charges a fee for Title Updates), they were unable to upload a fix to the patch, leaving the problem in place.
Thanks to this change in policy, scenarios like this should no longer play out. However, the repercussions of the move could still be felt in the future, as Eurogamer’s article states that “Microsoft’s title update fee was designed to encourage Xbox developers to spend as much time as possible making sure their games were up to scratch before they were released”.
With this no longer in place, Xbox Live Arcade game developers could quite possibly slip into a mindset of “release now, patch later“, something PC gamers have endured for years. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.