Xbox game development has historically been e domain of big corporate studios. But what if you, a gaming app development wants to put you game in front of the millions of Xbox gamers around the globe?
This is the process followed by skilled game developers while releasing games on Xbox game careers and has resulted in first time concept approvals and certification passes.
The Microsoft Gaming Ecosystem:
The Microsoft gaming ecosystem is more than just the Xbox One, Microsoft also publishes games for its Windows 10 platform. The Windows 10 platform market has a huge install base and could also be worthy of your consideration. You will need to develop a Universal Windows Platform title if you want to access the full suite of Microsoft platforms, Xbox One, Windows 10 and Mobile.
Microsoft sells games digitally in the Windows and Xbox One stores and you can typically earn 70% of revenues from the sales of your game after Microsoft takes its 30% platform fee. You can also simultaneously release your title on other competing platforms beyond the Microsoft platforms like Sony or Nintendo.
If you have a particularly good game, Microsoft may become interested in offering you a promotional benefits in return for having exclusive distribution on their platform for a period of time in perpetuity.
Once, you have chosen the Microsoft platform you are interested in, the next thing you need to do is establish a relationship with Microsoft by registering for an account on the ID @Xbox Website. This is the hub for everything to do with publishing within the Microsoft Ecosystem.
Games that are approved by ID @Xbox are a part of the curated offerings on the Xbox and get premium placement on the Xbox store. Your game will have to meet the standards of quality and appropriateness. Microsoft certification means that they stand behind your game.
After you create an account and sign an NDA, you will need to provide Microsoft with details on who you are and what are you looking to release on their platform.
This may include discussing your game concept details in hope of the approval that is necessary to release on their platforms.
So what kinds of games are suitable for Microsoft platforms?
The Xbox has a pretty broad offering of titles, from family friendly games and other titles that are for mature audience.
Microsoft’s states that, “While we are not trying to be censors, we are not interested in enabling extremely vulgar, offensive or objectionable content. In terms of content, we are looking for games that feel at home on their target platform and reflect what customers expect when gaming on Xbox One or Windows.”
Considering the above, when considering your game’s suitability take a peek at the existing Xbox titles. Does your product vision have comparable content on the platform? If so, you are in probably in good shape for concept approval.
Which engines can I use?
On the topic of engines, the good news about developing for Xbox or Windows is that you can essentially choose most of the mainstream development options. Microsoft has also come out with official statement in the past to supporting engines like Unity, Construct3, MonoGame, and Xenko.
But those are hardly the only options, you can develop in your engine of choice and be confident that your freshly authored game code will be put to good use.
What hardware and middleware do I need?
To develop for Xbox, you will typically need to secure an Xbox Development Kit.
Xbox Development Kit:
The Xbox Development Kit or XDK is a piece of hardware bundled with various software applications and is used to make games for Xbox. This toolkit includes libraries, a compiler, and various other tools to jumpstart development.
The XDK also includes a tool to record in-game footage, which has been widely used to create high quality screenshots and trailers for the marketing of any title. Note that each approved Microsoft developer gets two development kits for free.
Developers in ID @Xbox have full access to the Live Stack and support the exact same features as all the other digital content on Xbox One. This includes full support for multiplayer, Game DVR, Kinect, in-game transactions, updates, DLC, SmartGlass and more.
Once, development is complete you will need to submit your title for final certification. This is where Microsoft ensures that you game is of high quality and would not break or behave inappropriately.
For Xbox One titles, you will be provided a release manager, who will help you navigate the certification process, including clear documentation on certification requirements like ESRB or other ratings. For the Xbox, make sure to allot time to read over all of the certification guidelines and then allow for more time to execute on them.
You are going to need to support countless scenarios like the usage of the Xbox hardware and controllers. What happens to your game when an Xbox controller is pulled out? You will need plans for situations like these.
On top of this you will also need to support platform standards for front end to pause menus, including making sure your game provides users with the same standardized usage messaging as other Xbox Games.
How long should you allocate for the whole certification process?
It all depends on how “done” your final game build is when you submit it. If you have done a thoroughjob meeting all the Xbox requirements, you could get a first time pass through certification in a first few weeks.
The timeline could be much longer if you have to resubmit builds as a result of a lot of certification holes.The best thing to do is talk to your representative at ID @Xbox to get an understanding of the latest timeline estimates.
For Windows Games the certification process is much quicker with less stringent requirements around bugs and user notifications.