Microsoft will discuss its relationship with independent developers at forthcoming press events, Lionhead's creative director Gary Carr has revealed to OXM, in what could be a sign that the manufacturer's stance is shifting as regards Xbox One's publishing policies. We'll also hear more "very soon" from Phil Harrison, former Sony Worldwide Studios president, who's now in charge of Microsoft's European developer relations.
Harrison's absence from E3's stage was keenly felt - the tall, balding Brit was a bit of a Sony fan favourite, back when he was responsible for the growth of such franchises as LittleBigPlanet and Killzone. "Oh, I think you'll find he's coming," Carr told me with a grin during the inaugural, immensely charming Kodu Kup finals. "His platform is very soon, don't you worry about that."
He was unable to say anything further, naturally, but was able to discuss reaction to Microsoft's continuing refusal to allow developer self-publishing on Xbox Live. "I certainly know that Microsoft want to talk at future press events about their relationships with indies. I can't really talk about that, but they're very passionate about building a strong relationship with indie development - indie development is the future.
"I've been an indie developer for 23 of my 28 year career, so I completely - there is no future to the games business without independent developers, they always will shape the industry, and the big corporations will follow," Carr went on. "So that relationship is important.
"I don't mind having the big players like the Sonys, the Microsofts, the Amazons. I think you need these big giants out there, they kind of hold it all together in some way, but the real driving force of the industry has always been independent development. That's what shapes and changes and creates innovation. I think they can coexist."
Speaking exclusively to OXM, Microsoft Studios head Phil Spencer attempted to discuss the firm's reservations about self-publishing shortly before the Xbox One's reveal. The short version is that Microsoft wants to preserve a certain level of quality across its service, and would rather seek out talented developers itself than lure them in by lowering the barriers to entry.
The merits of this approach are debatable - Microsoft arguably risks losing creators to Sony's comparatively open PS4 service - but it's hard to deny that Xbox One and Xbox 360 have a healthy roster of smaller-scale and/or creatively risky assortment of games on the way, most notably Capybara's Below and Super Time Force, Press Play's Max and the Curse of Brotherhood, Swery's D4, Team Dakota's Project Spark and Twisted Pixel's Lococycle. Microsoft also operates a developer incubation scheme at its Lift London studio, though it's likely the fruits of this will be mostly encountered on mobile platforms.
One more thing before you go: Lionhead appears to be working on a free-to-play title of some kind. Could be Fable 4, even.