Xbox may be lagging behind Sony in the race for the best blockbuster exclusives this generation, but when it comes to indies Microsoft’s console has long been the place to play. That’s all thanks to the company’s ID@Xbox Program, an initiative that has been helping independent studios self-publish their games on the Xbox One since it was announced back in 2013. The initiative is now running stronger than ever, only growing in size and impact as Microsoft expands its outreach to work with developers across the globe – helping to establish Xbox as a home for the best and brightest indie studios around.
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You only need only to look at the stats behind ID@Xbox to get a firm grasp over how successful this has been for Microsoft, with the company now boasting over 1000 games released, $1.2 billion generated in revenue, and 886 million Achievements unlocked in a little under six years of the service's existence. All of this only serves to highlight how well Xbox is doing in this space, pulling more and more attention on its attempts to push the boundaries of inclusion and create an even better consumer-first business model.
So far, you can thank ID@Xbox for being able to play the likes of Superhot, Warframe, Outlast, and much more on your Xbox One, but GamesRadar+ recently got the chance to preview some of the games that are on their way to the Xbox One in 2019 through the program, and the output is looking as impressive as ever. As Microsoft continues to integrate ID@Xbox more closely with its two other flagship services – Xbox Game Preview and Xbox Game Pass – the program is as valuable for Xbox One owners as it is for the games industry at large, ideal for those who want to check out great new exclusives at launch or discover hidden gems for a rainy day.
The war for independence
To emphasise the sheer variety of titles that are cultivated under the ID@Xbox umbrella, I only have to describe a few of the games that I recently got to spend some time with. There’s Afterparty, a Double Fine-esque adventure game in which you’re tasked with outdrinking Satan at a frat party in Hell; Operencia: The Stolen Sun, an old school dungeon crawler inspired by Hungarian folklore as much as Baldur’s Gate; Creaks, a hand-drawn platformer that plays with the concept of pareidolia (the tendency to see things that aren’t really there); and Void Bastards, a strategic shooter from the co-founder of Irrational Games who wanted to go back to his System Shock roots.
Oh, and then there's Supermarket Shriek, a party kart racer where you control the supersonic screams of a man and a goat to power a shopping trolley. I’m dead serious. This kind of playful diversity is inherent to the indie scene, and ID@Xbox is fanning the flames of that creative culture in 2019 by actively seeking out and aiding studios based in countries and regions outside of the traditional game development hubs of the world.
Every game I played at the showcase, for example, hailed from a different country in Europe, and – through its Greenshoots Investment Initiative in the UK – Microsoft is particularly focused on supporting studios located outside of the London bubble. While both PlayStation and Nintendo have robust partnership programs for small developers to self-publish on their respective platforms, neither are as comprehensive, inclusive, or sensitive to the challenges of indie development as Microsoft’s, and that’s something the company deserves to be proud of.
The winds of change may be in the air as Phil Spencer and his team begin to look towards the next-generation of gaming hardware with the upcoming reveal of Xbox Project Scarlett, but if my time with ID@Xbox leaves me certain of one thing, it’s that Microsoft’s passion for independent developers remains as steadfast as ever, and its first-in-class support structure for this valuable, often vulnerable sector of the games industry isn’t going anywhere.
Amidst all the noise and buzz around bigger exclusives like Halo: Infinite, Gears 5, and more, Team Xbox is quietly ushering your next favourite indie game along the path to a successful release. In an age when games development is fraught with challenge and danger for even the biggest creators, then, the importance of ID@Xbox’s continued work cannot be understated.
Check out the biggest the best upcoming Xbox One games to keep an eye on for 2019 and beyond, or watch the video below for more on the year ahead.