Even as Microsoft revealed that it would ditch the Xbox Live Arcade designation for games in the new version of Xbox Live – likely to be launched with the release of Xbox One later this year, the company also revealed that it would not let indie game developers self-publish their games. This makes sense considering that it ditched support for its entire XNA program last year.
First, the part about ditching XBLA game designations: Apparently, in Microsoft's view it is better to put ALL games regardless of who makes them into one gigantic pool. One of the biggest complaints about Xbox Live for indie game developers is the lack of discoverability once they release a game into the ecosystem. Short of some amazing online buzz or promotion by Microsoft, a lot of indie games would end up getting buried after release. So now all games will be equal, according to Microsoft, and with the use of global trends and popularity among friends, indie games will be able to get more exposure.
But the big news for indies is that they will need to either partner up with Microsoft or a third-party publisher in order to gain entry into the walled garden that is Xbox Live.
When asked if developers will still need a publisher to get content onto Xbox Live, Matt Booty, general manager of Redmond Game Studios and Platforms, told Shacknews that "as of right now, yes. We intend to continue to court developers in the ways that we have."
"I would also expect that for this new generation, that we're going to continue to explore new business models and new ways of surfacing content. But Microsoft Studios is a publisher that works with a wide range of partners, as do a lot of other people, to bring digital content to the box," he added.
Interestingly enough, Gamasutra polled a number of indie developers that it had polled in the past after the Wii U and PS4 were announced and found that a majority of them were either not planning on making Xbox One games or were never properly courted by Microsoft. Sony and Nintendo have shown a lot more effort at this point in courting indie developers to their respective platforms.