The popular 8-bit platformer, Fez, recently received a patch that fixed a number of problems for players, but unfortunately inconvenienced approximately 1% of users with game-crippling bugs. As unlucky as that is, what’s even more pathetic is the price that Microsoft is charging the independent indie developer tens of thousands of dollars to re-certify the game to fix several small issues that couldn’t possibly take any large amount of server space.
While it’s sad that every single Fez player may not be given the most optimal experience possible, the truly depressing issue at hand here is that Microsoft is actually charging a hefty sum for games to be patched and updated. Where on Earth does the company get off thinking that they can deny gamers important patches and updates when a developer simply cannot afford to drop over ten thousand dollars to introduce an update that is under 20 megabytes large?
Developers get hammered on by fans for not pushing out updates quickly and efficiently, and considering that Microsoft doesn’t allow free content to be placed on the Marketplace without their explicit consent, such blame is incorrectly placed. As if that wasn’t bad enough, developers actually have to PAY Microsoft to be exclusive to their platform. No waived fees, no special privileges, just a bit of gratitude and a whole bunch of profits for everyone but the people actually making the game. Of course, Microsoft cuts deals with big developers making system-seller games (Halo, Gears of War, etc) but for the indie developer who wants to find a humble beginning on the profitable XBLA platform, no sympathies are had.
From a business perspective, it’s understandable: XBLA is a big platform with a huge demographic and a price point to entice all but the most frugal of gamers, so why not charge devs the opportunity to feature their games there? Licensing fees, server storage, distribution, it all costs money. But charging developers to support their game? That’s where a line has to be drawn. It’s no wonder that more and more indie developers are migrating to Valve’s Steam service to cut costs as much as possible, considering the enormous developer/publisher is much friendlier to independent developers. Hell, even Valve themselves don’t update their games on consoles as frequently as they do on PC, considering Microsoft’s insane certification and delivery process, which, as we now know, is extremely ineffective at doing its job.
Time will tell how such inadequacies are handled in the next generation of gaming, but it’s clear that Microsoft’s attentiveness to the indie crowd is not nearly as friendly as they may lead on. Until then, redirect any of your frustrations with delays in patching or updates to the big M. For more information on Fez’s unfortunate patch situation as it develops, stay tuned to Xbox 360 Cheats.