Ever since E3, Microsoft (MSFT) and Sony (SNE) have been in a video game arms race, escalating the stakes for the next generation of video game consoles as we approach holiday release dates.
Microsoft stole the latest headlines by announcing the full lineup of games that will be available at launch for the Xbox One. The Xbox One will launch with several exclusive titles:
- Ryse: Son of Rome
- Forza Motorsport 5
- Killer Instinct
- Crimson Dragon
- Dead Rising 3
- Zoo Tycoon
- Powerstar Golf
Another 15 cross-platform games will be available at launch, including Electronic Arts’ (EA) Battlefield 4 and Activision’s (ATVI) Skylanders: Swap Force.
But another interesting development broke today: Microsoft is offering Xbox One development kits to approved small-team independent game makers. The news seems to be a response to criticism that Microsoft is not as friendly toward indie developers as Sony is.
At E3, Sony spent noticeably more time talking about indie games than Microsoft did. Then, the PS4 maker announced that it would loan dev kits to indie developers for free (for the first year). Microsoft, meanwhile, refuses to let indie developers self-publish on the Xbox 360 or the upcoming Xbox One.
All this has led to significant backlash from the gaming community, accusing Microsoft of being too invested in big-budget games, and bullying indie developers into signing with bigger publishers. Small teams who want to maintain creative control of their work have a lot more incentive to develop for the PS4.
Microsoft’s latest move, rather than being progressive, seems like another attempt at convincing consumers (and developers) that the Xbox One isn’t really all that bad. Of course, this comes on the heels of other policy changes, like removing the console’s always-online requirement, and more recently announcing that the Xbox One would no longer require the Kinect (which was promoted as being “always listening”) to function.
Ultimately, it looks like a good change for indie developers. But given Sony’s open embrace of indie gaming, it’s tough to see why developers would stick with Microsoft — free dev kit or not.
Adam Benjamin is an Assistant Editor of InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.