Xbox Live Creators Program lets anyone publish Xbox games

While the biggest profits in the gaming market naturally come from big titles, big developers, and big publishers, there is an undeniably big indie culture thriving there as well. While PCs have long been the home of indie games and developers, consoles have recently tried to woo this vibrant crowd as well. Microsoft's latest move at GDC 2017 tries to sweeten the pot even more by allowing anyone, which is to say indie devs, to make and publish games for the Xbox without going through rigorous scrutiny. Unsurprisingly, there are some rather big caveats to keep in mind.

Xbox actually already has an indie-friendly program, ID@Xbox. But while that does offers some perks, it also requires going through an approval process that may turn off truly indie developers. With the new Xbox Live Creators program, however, anyone and everyone can chuck that process through the window and make any Xbox game they want and put it on the Xbox store. But there's a catch. Actually, there are quite a few.

Perhaps the biggest catch is that the said game must be a Universal Windows Platform or UWP game. That basically means that it needs to be a game that can run on both the Xbox One as well as Windows 10 PCs. In addition, the program currently only supports a few game engines, namely Construct 2, MonoGame, Unity, and Xenko.

And while these games are being called Xbox games, they are limited in the Xbox Live features they have access to, compared to ID@Xbox indie games. They do have access to Xbox sign-in, hubs, DVR, and leaderboards, but they have limited access to presence and social graphs. And they don't have access at all to multiplayer or even Xbox achievements. There's a literal price to pay as well, though it seems Microsoft hasn't settled on pricing scheme yet. And perhaps most importantly, discovery will be a problem. Games under the Xbox Live Creators program will have their own section in the Xbox store, segregated from the other "blessed" games. Those who want to get that special treatment will have to sign up for ID@Xbox and all that entails.

The Xbox Live Creators Program could be seen as Xbox's response to Steam Direct, which replaced a similarly curated Steam Greenlight process. Undoubtedly, it will be seen by some as Microsoft's not so subtle attempt to grab a huge portion of the game development crowd away from the more open ecosystem of PCs. Epic Games' Tim Sweeney will surely have a thing or two to say about this soon.