Microsoft has quietly dropped its policy of charging developers to patch Xbox 360 and Xbox Live Arcade games, as reported on Eurogamer and confirmed by OXM sources. Any chance of that Fez update now, Phil Fish?
Under the previous approach, Xbox 360 developers had to pay a fee to Microsoft to certify that the game works according to the company's requirements, which cover everything from controller behaviour to minimum screen resolution. Once a game has cleared certification, it was awarded one free update, and charged an unspecified sum for subsequent updates - $40,000 is the figure given by Double Fine's Tim Schafer.
This has been deemed a nuisance by a number of developers, as you'd expect, but Microsoft has defended the practice on the grounds that it ensures a certain level of perfectionism. The manufacturer has experimented with alternative tactics for certain, key releases, however, most notably 4J Studios' port of Mojang AB's Minecraft.
An update in April changed that. Now, after the initial fee, all title updates are free - enabling developers to roll out things like new game modes, bug fixes and character updates without having to pay each time.
Eurogamer's contacts note that there are still a few caveats - there may be a charge for "excessive" resubmissions due to an update failing certification, for instance. We've reached out to our own contacts, and they've corroborated the report.
Update:Furthermore, we understand it is now the case that XBLA games are no longer charged for resubmission if they fail certification - there is a single charge for the first submission, but if it fails then the developer is not charged for resubmitting it.
This has apparently been added to assist smaller development teams who don't have the resources to test games as thoroughly as the larger publishers - although as with the title updates, Microsoft reserves the right to charge for excessive submissions.
We spoke briefly to State of Decay developer Undead Labs about title update fees earlier in the week "That's a contractual detail we can't discuss," the developer commented, as part of a wide-ranging interview on the game's prospects. "Suffice it to say that there is nothing preventing us from releasing as many Title Updates as needed to ensure the game is stable and awesome."
It all makes Xbox Live a slightly easier place to release your game on. Wonder why Microsoft didn't announce it themselves?
Update - We have further confirmation, via Marc Whitten:
@Polygon: FYI Microsoft eliminated fees for Title Updates on Xbox 360 Arcade games in April 2013— Marc Whitten (@notwen) June 27, 2013