While Sony was showing off its headline-grabbing virtual reality headset at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Microsoft was a few hundred feet away, making a little announcement of its own.
The company has revealed that 25 indie titles are lined up for release on Xbox One, courtesy of the Id@Xbox programme.
Among the games are several well-known projects from highly respected developers. Toronoto-based studio Capybara is bringing across Super Time Force, its innovative time-twisting platformer originally cited for Xbox 360, while Q.U.B.E. Director’s Cut from Toxic Games updates the award-winning first-person PC puzzler. Elsewhere 1001 Spikes is a hardcore side-scroller from Nicalis, perhaps best known for collaborating on cult hit, VVVVVV, and CastleStorm from Zen Studios is a mash-up of Tower Defense title and physics destruction sim. The beautiful Zelda tribute Hyper Light Drifter, previously earmarked for PS4 and Vita, is also coming across.
“Since we first announced the program in August, we’ve been working closely with developers to bring a diverse array of independent games to Xbox One,” said ID@Xbox games director, Chris Charla. “Our goal is to make the process as easy as possible so developers can focus on what matters most: creating the games you’re beginning to see today.”
Two of the 25 titles have been designed specifically to explore the capabilities of the Xbox One hardware. It Draws a Red Box by Other Ocean is a social eight-player Bomberman tribute, and FRU by Through Games is a Kinect-based puzzler.
Microsoft was originally criticised for disallowing self-publishing on Xbox One which appeared to put the platform out of reach for many small studios without publishers. However, the company later announced that self-publishing would be supported and that every consumer Xbox One unit would be able to function as a development machine.
“Our goal has always been to make Xbox One the best place to play games, and that means having a diverse portfolio for gamers to choose from,” said Phil Spencer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Studios. “We’ve worked closely with independent developers to bring their own brand of creativity and innovation to the platform and today is just the beginning.”
However, Sony has also been courting the indie sector, securing exclusives such as The Witness and featuring smaller studios heavily in its press conferences at E3 and Gamescom. The company’s decision to unveil its virtual reality hardware at GDC rather than a major marketing event like E3 has been seen as an attempt to accentuate its close relationship with the development community.
Whatever the case, the console manufacturers have learned from crossover hits like Minecraft and Hotline Miami that offbeat, often surreal, titles have a large fanbase online. Digital games services like Steam and Xbox Live Arcade have made idiosyncratic titles available to a global audience, and the scene is flourishing. Furthermore, cult studios like Vlambeer and Mojang have large communities that console makers hope can be mobilised toward their hardware. In the battle for influence and kudos, securing a range of indie hits is becoming as important as the multimillion dollar deals to grab Triple A blockbusters.
The other titles announced so far are Calibre 10 Racing Series by Bongfish GmbH, Chariot by Frima, Chuck’s Challenge 3D by Niffler, Contrast by Compulsion Games, Divekick Addition Edition + by Iron Galaxy Studios, Forced by BetaDwarf ApS, Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition by DrinkBox Studios and Gunscape by Blowfish Studios.
There are as yet no firm release details, although it’s likely some of these titles will be available via the Xbox One version of Microsoft’s Games With Gold feature, which – like PlayStation Plus – will provide free titles to subscribers when launched.
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