Self-publishing for the 8th Gen Consoles

Updated March 20, 2014: Updated to reflect announcements made at 2014 GDC
Xbox One and PlayStation 4With all the talk of the indie-friendly PlayStation 4 during the first half of 2013, what is the indie development process for the 8th gen consoles really like now that the Xbox One, PS4, Ouya, and Wii U retail kits are available?

Here’s what I’ve learned. Obviously there are NDAs involved and all the information I’ve provided is publicly available through the console websites. I’ve reached out to some other developers I know and I will keep this post updated as I learn more information.

The table below is provided for quick reference, but I think it is important to note the subtle difference in the names of their respective programs (especially between Sony and Microsoft). I think this gives a strong clue to the philosophy of the program.

Console Sony’s PlayStation 4
(Also PS3, PSVita, PlayStation.Mobile)
Microsoft’s Xbox One Nintendo’s Wii U OUYA Microsoft’s Xbox 360
Provided for reference
Program Name Self-Publish On PlayStation®Network Independent Developer Publishing Program for
Xbox One (ID@Xbox)
Wii U Developer Program OUYA Developer Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG)
formerly Creator’s Club
Indie Registration Process Free [link]
Approval Required: Same registration form as professional developers.
Free [link]
Approval Required: Limited program called ID@Xbox, with future plans to open development to anyone.
Unknown [link]Approval Required Free [link] $99/year [link]
Open to anyone with $99
Hardware Required DevKit
Available to registered developers through
DevKit Loaner Program
DevKit
Two DevKits provided to registered developers. Future plans to allow development on retail kits.
DevKit
Purchase price is “equivalent to the cost of a high-end PC”. $1500?
Retail Kit Retail Kit
Corporate Entity Required Highly Recommended No Unknown No No
Static IP Required Yes No Unknown No No
Profit Sharing Unknown Unknown 70/30 70/30
Development Environment LLVM/Clang Compiler,
Unity Pro*, ATF: Authoring Tools Framework
(now open-source), GameMaker, MonoGame, and
additional open-source tools
Unknown
(likely C++/DirectX)
Unity3D Provided for Free
Nintendo Web Framework or Unity Android, Construct 2, Corona, Game Maker, Marmalade, Multimedia Fusion 2, libGDX,
MonoGame, Unreal, Unity
C# w/ XNA Game Studio

PS4: Self-Publish On PlayStation®Network

Through Self-Publish On PlayStation®Network you’ll still need a hardware developer’s kit (DevKit). This is something you can theoretically obtain through their DevKit loaner program once you are a registered developer (availability would be an issue). Sony has placed the following restrictions on applying to become a registered developer.

  • Must have a static IP for access to developer network.
  • Must have a legal signatory.
  • “Highly Recommended” to have a corporate entity and TaxID.
  • Must be physically located in the Americas.

I have not yet applied through this process, but as their name suggests this appears to be close to an actual self-publishing experience. This is what they tout on their website:

  • We Remove The Obstacles
  • You set the wholesale price and release date of your game!
  • No set-up fees to get licensed as an e-Publisher on PSN
  • Receive ESRB ratings FREE for all your digital titles
  • Streamlined submission process
  • DevKit Loaner Program (subject to availability and other restrictions)
  • Market your game to millions of PlayStation® fans through the PlayStation®Blog
  • A Platform for every project

All this info is provided for those in the Americas. If you’re from outside this geographic region, you’ll need to visit the correct region site for the information you’re looking for.

Xbox One: ID@Xbox

For the Xbox One Independent Developer Program (ID@Xbox) registration, it was a much simpler registration process and there was the promise of 2 devkits provided to registered developers. In addition, there is a promise of the future ability to develop games on the retail kit. That said, I applied months ago and have yet to be approved.

One of the more interesting announcements related to this program was that the Unity Game Engine will be provided to ID@Xbox developers.

But whereas Xbox Live Indie Games program (XBLIG) for the Xbox 360 was a peer-reviewed and truly independent/self-publishing process, it appears the current ID@Xbox program may be more closely aligned to working with Microsoft as a publisher (as documented in the development of Super Meat Boy in Indie Games the Movie).

Perhaps this will change in the future when development is available to anyone via the Xbox One retail kits. This is what they tout on the their website:

  • The ID@Xbox program enables qualified game developers of all sizes to unleash their creativity by self-publishing digital games on Xbox One.

Nintendo Wii U Developers

https://wiiu-developers.nintendo.com/

OUYA Developers

https://www.ouya.tv/developer-kit/

Xbox 360: XBLIG

I’ve kept the Xbox 360 information here for reference. As mentioned above, it is important to note that this is very different to being an Indie Developer that works through Microsoft as a publisher. Games are peer reviewed for functionality, but not for quality. (For better/worse)

Updates

If you have additional relevant information, please be sure to let me know and I’ll update the post. Thanks.

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