With the commercial availability of the Xbox One fast approaching, Microsoft is quickly trying to cover all the bases, including supporting the people who will be populating its games store. Today, Microsoft has announced the fruits of a partnership with Unity that will give developers in its ID@Xbox program free access to the Xbox One add-on to popular game development middleware when it is released in 2014.
Microsoft found itself under a lot of heat when it initially made known that it will not allow self-publishing on its next-generation console. This has resulted in numerous criticism as well as an exodus of independent game developers towards the more indie-friendly Sony Playstation 4 system. Since then, Redmond has changed its position and has taken big steps in trying to win the hearts of game developers, including launching its ID@Xbox developer program to help indie developers more easily get their games approved and published.
According to Microsoft, one thing that it has learned from its developer program is that indie devs love using middleware or tools that let them easily prototype and create games. One of the most popular of these tools is Unity, the cross-platform game development middleware and game engine that lets its users create and deploy games on a variety of platforms, including, of course, Microsoft's Windows, Windows Phone, and the upcoming Xbox One. But instead of simply providing Unity licenses to a limited number of developers, Microsoft decided to go the distance and it give it all for free.
The Unity add-on that will allow developers to deploy games to the Xbox One is scheduled to launch next year. Once it does, all developers registered in the ID@Xbox program will be able to grab a copy for free. Of course, by using Unity, they will also be able to deploy to Microsoft's other platforms using the appropriate add-ons, which are also available at no cost. As a huge bonus, developers in the program will also be able to get a special Xbox One-only Unity Pro seat license, though pricing is still unknown.
There is no exact date yet when this will become available in 2014. Unity is planning to start its testing phases soon and will be holding a beta program in 2014, so it will still be quite a wait for those itching to bring their soon-to-be hit games to Microsoft's next console star.