Microsoft announced at GDC 2017 that anyone can release games for the Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs via the new Xbox Live Creators Program. The company also highlighted several other features, such as the Beam streaming tool and the performance-boosting Game Mode, that should debut soon.
Xbox Live Creators Program
The new program opens up Xbox One and Windows 10 game development and distribution to basically anyone with a hankering to make something. The Xbox Live Creators Program will allow development on retail Xbox One consoles instead of requiring a dev kit, for example, and developers will be able to publish to a dedicated Creators section of the Xbox Games Store. (Games will also be made available for Windows 10 PCs via the Windows Store.)
Here's what Microsoft said about the program in a blog post (opens in new tab):
With the Creators Program, anyone can integrate Xbox Live sign-in, presence, and social features into their UWP games, then publish their game to Xbox One and Windows 10. This means their title can see exposure to every Xbox One owner across the Xbox One family of devices, including Project Scorpio this holiday, as well as hundreds of millions of Windows 10 PCs, and millions of folks using the Xbox app on mobile platforms.
One notable omission from the Xbox Live Creators Program is support for multiplayer gameplay and achievements; those features will be limited to members of the more exclusive ID@Xbox program. More information about the Xbox Live Creators Program can be found on Microsoft's website (opens in new tab). The company said that sign-ups will be limited at first so it can fine-tune the program, but it plans to open up the program to everyone later on.
Microsoft's decision to open up Xbox and Windows 10 game development comes at an interesting time: Valve recently changed the rules for its Steam marketplace to be more restrictive. The Xbox Live Creators Program is likely meant to capitalize on those new limitations and encourage devs to create Universal Windows Platform (UWP) games. Time will tell if opening the floodgates will cause the same problems for Microsoft that it did for Valve.
Beam, Game Mode, And More
The rest of Microsoft's announcement focused on small updates to features and services we already knew about. The Xbox Game Pass--which offers unlimited access to Xbox One and "backwards compatible" Xbox 360 titles for $10 per month-- servicerevealed earlier this week got a shout-out. So did Beam, which was announced in October 2016 and will offer "fast, low-latency, interactive game broadcasting." Here's the big news about Beam:
Building on this, today we shared preliminary details of the Beam Interactivity 2.0 SDK with developers – coming in March, this SDK will make developing interactive streaming features much easier and enable a wide range of new design scenarios. More details about this SDK will be published on the Beam blog and detailed in the Beam-specific GDC talk tomorrow.
Microsoft also drew attention to Game Mode, a feature coming in the Windows 10 Creators Update this Spring that promises to boost game performance, and new additions to the Xbox Play Anywhere platform that allows Xbox One and Windows 10 PC owners to play games on either platform at will. The company said that 10 games already support Xbox Play Anywhere and 16 more are going to embrace the platform some time in the near future.