When the Xbox One was first announced, Microsoft said that it wouldn't allow indie developers to self publish on the platform. Without an indie games channel on the Xbox One, this meant that indie developers would once again have to find a publisher to reach the Xbox One audience. The company quickly reneged on this policy, however, and said that indies would be able to self publish. Now it's using Gamescom as an opportunity to detail its indie publishing program.
This morning, Microsoft announced ID@Xbox for the Xbox One. The name stands for "Indie developers at Xbox" and it's a platform that will allow any and all indie developers to publish on the Xbox One in the future. For now, however, the program will start out slow with a select few developers.
Before getting to that though, it's important to note that ID@Xbox is not a rehash of the Xbox Live Indie Games channel. In other words, Microsoft will not be treating indie games like second class citizens anymore. Indie games built for Xbox One will have access to every feature that large developers get, including achievements, Gamerscore, Kinect, Xbox SmarGlass, Xbox cloud services and more.
Microsoft also notes that indie games will be sold on the same marketplace as retail and XBLA games on the Xbox One. That means indie games will no longer be pushed into their own marketplace to be forgotten by all except for the most ardent of indie game supporters.
So, how does ID@Xbox work? Well, Microsoft will be pushing it out in waves so that means not everybody will suddenly be able to make indie games for the Xbox One. To start out, established indie developers with a track record of publishing games on any platform will be eligible to receive two free dev kits from Microsoft. After that, Microsoft will roll out the program to more developers with the eventual goal being that anybody with an Xbox One can use it as a dev kit to develop games for Microsoft's platform.
With this latest development, Microsoft may end up being the most indie friendly platform holder out of the big three. We'll have to see how the company handles release dates as a common complaint from many indie developers is that Microsoft is particularly bad about letting developers release games when they want. Still, it's a pretty big for Microsoft as it continues to fight back against Sony's E3 advantage.