Developing for consoles
as an indie in 2019
Dave Voyles, Microsoft Technical Evangelist
(slides courtesy of Sarah Sexton)
Comcast: Xbox &
Microsoft: Xbox &
Ported Night Trap to
Xbox Live Indie Games
Getting on Consoles as an Indie in 2019
Consoles are closed platforms. They demand quality over quantity.
(Some platforms are more closed than others.)
To prove you are serious, you should:
Be a Registered Company or Sole Proprietor
Have a “track record”
Have a VAT (value-added tax) or Tax number
“The Big Three”
Xbox One (Microsoft)
PS4 / PS Vita (Sony)
3DS / Switch (Nintendo)
What do you mean, “Track Record”?
“One shipped game, three years’ experience.”
…More like guidelines than actual rules.
More of a way to ward off people that aren’t serious.
Console-makers want a legal business entity.
Sole Proprietor (Single Individual)
The corporation itself is a taxable entity
The individual is a taxable entity
LLP (Limited Liability Partnership)
Microsoft requires two-step (factor) authentication.
Nintendo requires a single username and password to look at
documents on their website.
You have to encrypt uploaded files.
Previously required that dev kits be contained in a locked room
The Process begins with…
The Big 3 (Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo) expect simultaneous release across all consoles.
In the mind of the console-maker:
If the features are the same, the release date ought to be the same.
Otherwise, there should be unique features to the platform to justify a late arrival.
Another work-around is often renaming the game (example, “Gold Edition”).
Speak to your Dev Account Manager (DAM) for more information for negotiation.
What is the “Parity Clause”?
Games already released
Errors & Omissions Insurance
Covers Intellectual Property & Copyright violations, etc.
Using an insurance broker, the cheapest E&O insurance you might
find could be to the tune of around $2,000.
To release in foreign countries, your game must be rated by the
official ratings boards, PEGI (Pan-European Game Information).
This can also cost roughly $2,000, depending on the country.
United States requires Entertainment Software Rating Board
(ESRB) rating, approx. $800
Start Up Costs
Expenses to get your studio up and running
Adobe Premier, Photoshop, Unity/Unreal, etc.
Windows Developer’s License is $19 individually, $99 for a company.
Maintaining your game’s domain name
USB & video cables, HDMI capture, etc.
Video capture device for making a trailer ($60)
Legal fees to protect Intellectual Property
Work space / Utilities (Rent a desk at a co-op, etc.)
Console Development Environment
SDK is downloaded from each company and installed.
Dev Kits are connected over a local network.
Visual Studio integration allows deploying to consoles and loading files from
PC over the network, without explicitly making and pushing builds.
Tools available for profiling bottlenecks on Xbox and PlayStation platforms.
PIX, Dev tuning & Debugger
Additional tools are included for final packaging, which can be cumbersome.
These are the most common approaches to developing games:
C and C++ work on every console
DirectX on Xbox
Open GL on all others
Unity or Unreal
You can barter for what you need.
Timing: When in the year does it launch?
Exclusivity length: How long does it need to be exclusive?
Marketing & funding
Console Design Considerations
Naming and branding guidelines must be adhered to for release.
(Proper names for buttons, proper usage of capitalization.)
Important visual elements must be within TV-safe margins.
User management and controller assignment edge cases must be thoroughly tested.
Requirements must be met for load times, warnings, and other issues related to
maintaining general consistency on each particular platform.
Additional items like achievements, saves, leaderboards, generally require a fair
amount of implementation time.
Apply for the ID@XBOX program.
If accepted, you receive two (2) Xbox One Dev Kits and a Unity Pro license
This process may take several weeks / months.
Overwhelmingly large number of applicants
People often do not fill out the form correctly, so Microsoft cannot contact them
If you know someone at ID@XBOX or Microsoft who is willing to stick their
Reach out on a monthly basis to Microsoft:
Send game-play videos! Screenshots!
Send a PC build!
Sign an NDA,
submit your Game
and then we’ll
you want to build
for Windows 10,
Xbox One, or both
Get access to SDKs,
dev forums, free
two free Xbox dev
kits for approved
Publish, certify and
update your game
at no cost
Developer Road Map
Xbox Live Creators Program: Open to All
Any developer can build an Xbox Live-enabled UWP game for Xbox One & Windows 10.
Indie/Student/Small Game Developers can submit apps to the Xbox store with 4 steps.
If you know of a game that would be great to highlight on the platform… Tweet @Saelia!
Sony doesn’t own your IP rights
You can get an advance on sales/royalties in exchange for limited
Response time from Sony is fast – only 1-2 weeks.
Sony generously doles out Dev Kits.
As an indie, start focusing exclusively on Switch and 3DS.
Apply for Nintendo’s Self-Publishing Program.
They loan Dev Kits for 1 year
There is an opportunity to buy refurbished Dev Kits in addition to what you
are loaned for about the cost of a PC ($800).
All console makers want something
Farewell, Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) 2008 – 2017
All console makers will want something special.
Reach out to your Dev Account Manager (DAM) and ask them,
“What are you trying to highlight right now?”
Xbox: Unique integration into Mixer for streamers/viewers
Cross-Play (ability to play between Xbox One and PC)
PlayStation Plus: Cross-device Multiplayer
Nintendo Switch: HD-Rumble pack, local-based social play
If the console-makers don’t believe you have a good game, they will not be quick
to get back to you.
If you show great promise as a developer, all three of these companies have
opportunities to loan/give you their Dev Kit for free.
The Chicago games community is very supportive!!
Indie City Games
Chicago Unity 3D MeetUp
Indie City Co-Op + weekly Friday Indie Lunch
Voxelles: Chicago’s Women in Game Development
International Game Developers Association (IGDA)
Indie Video Game Developer Association
GDC 2017 Presentations
Meet the Converged Windows Store for Windows and Xbox
Reaching More Gamers Through Xbox Accessibility Features on Xbox One & PC
Windows Holographic Rendering – One SDK to target VR and AR ecosystems
Game Mode and the Evolution of Cross-Platform UWP Game Development
Xbox Live Creators Program
D3D12 Performance Tuning and Debugging with PIX and GPU Validation