Tim Schafer: Indies Moving Away From XBLA, Console Patches Cost $40,000

Hookshot put up a lengthy interview with Tim Schafer discussing a wide variety of topics. Here's one notable excerpt.

There's a ton more at the link.

Hookshot said:
Independent’s Day

I ask about 2011, a year in which the studio released three excellent titles. Is that success? Is that what this is all about? “Double Fine is a company that values its independence,” says Schafer. “We really value our employees…” there’s a slight pause, and then Schafer shouts at someone else in the room, “why are you looking at me like that?! Of course I value you!” There is muffled laughter in the background and we’re back on. “And we have a responsibility to make things happen for ourselves. It’s not enough to come up with great ideas, you have to come up with great business ideas, too. You have to protect yourself.

“But yes, we’ve been trying all these different projects, and it’s great – we have multiple teams and multiple leaders like Lee Petty, Brad Meer and Nathan Martz, people who are new, who can take on these projects. We’ll try out iOS devices, or maybe free-to-play, we’ll try licenses. We’re having a lot of fun doing it.”

Double Fine, then, is making the most of the digital era, coping a feel of all the new platforms and delivery methods. But there are frustrations, too. Schafer has watched the Xbox Live Arcade and PSN services dwindle away from fantastically promising beginnings to troubled, even fading services. “Ever since I played Geometry Wars I thought, what a great new portal,” he enthuses.

“But it seems that this year, the idea didn’t explode like it should have. Back when Castle Crashers came out, it seemed it was going to grow and grow. I just wish there was more support, more marketing, more placement on the dashboard. It could have been our own little Sundance Film festival, a great sandbox for indie development.

“But the indie community is now moving elsewhere; we’re figuring out how to fund and distribute games ourselves, and we’re getting more control over them. Those systems as great as they are, they’re still closed. You have to jump through a lot of hoops, even for important stuff like patching and supporting your game. Those are things we really want to do, but we can’t do it on these systems. I mean, it costs $40,000 to put up a patch – we can’t afford that! Open systems like Steam, that allow us to set our own prices, that’s where it’s at, and doing it completely alone like Minecraft. That’s where people are going.”
Source: http://www.hookshotinc.com/interview-schafers-millions/


extra source of jiggaflops
It seems to be: Go on XBLA for the exposure and then on Steam for the money.

So is that why Brutal Legend didn't get an updated audio patch on PS3, despite the fact that it sounds like one was written?
That's what the official forums said. EA wouldn't pony up the dough because the game didn't sell enough.
Lots of merit, I really wish XBLA and PSN can adapt for next-gen. It'd be really sad to not get these cool things on the home consoles anymore. Geometry Wars is one of the best games of the current generation.

Also less 1600 point releases please.
I suppose it depends on how much you value closed-system audiences. I wonder how the profitability stacks up, given that much of Double Fine's minor works are still XBLA/PSN exclusive (for now)

/edit Minecraft updates every whenever, Sequence updated within about a day of Feep becoming aware of a really annoying bug... I never really thought too much about seat-of-your-pants patching before (or even stuff like the Portal 2 ARG only being possible because of constant updating)... if it really costs that much p/patch that's craaaaaazy shit!
Wow, MS and Sony might want to look at that for next gen and start making their money from sales instead of patches. I bet sales would be better if people could afford to patch their broken shit!
I suppose it depends on how much you value closed-system audiences. I wonder how the profitability stacks up, given that much of Double Fine's minor works are still XBLA/PSN exclusive (for now)
They have been on XBLA/PSN because of publisher choices, but now they´re being backed to get on PC by Dracogen and things like the Kickstarter money.
I see why they charge so much for patches. Every time you booted up you'd be greeted with a patch, if not. Plus greedy corps making profit, obviously.

But fuck that's a lot of money.
There must be more detail behind that $40,000, as it seems too out there.

It is supposed to cost $10,000 to apply for a position on XBLA (even if you get on there or not) so to x4 that for a post-game patch seems silly.
If true (and I'm sure it is), I'm amazed that XBLA / PSN games ever get patched.
It's true. First patch is free, afterwards it costs a shit ton on XBLA. But I heard a few weeks ago, that MS is changing it, but only for exclusive XBLA only products and on a case by case base, where some developers will be allowed to go villy nillly with patches at no fee.
XBLA got moved way way out of sight with the new dashboard. Not sure about the situation with PSN but it does seem like they're not interested in it anymore. And if they're making it hard for devs to develop for it and patch it and give bad support and marketing from MS then they just wasted a huge resource.

And I hate using the word but it does seem like they are getting a bit "arrogant" since the 360 is the best selling console now and Kinect was popular that they don't care about XBLA and are burning some bridges in the process.
Whoa. I sincerely hope Double Fine isn't planning on developing DFAdventure for the XBLA then. And if they actually plan to, it'd better be bug-free with the first revision. :/
I thought the first two patches were free and the fee came in? Also, wasn't it implemented to stop devs from releasing broken games?
Then 40k is probably more a deterrent TO patching than anything else. But then I think it'd be better to force that early on so you aren't dumb and have a botched release that needs several patches, then ease up later on because why even care that much?

Alternatively: it's a deterrent... for RETAIL GAMES. They're just dumb and apply the same exact policy to XBLA games. Which also wouldn't surprise me, some of that mandatory crap was stupefyingly short sighted of them, like leaderboards. What if people want to release less arcade-y game!? Nevermind some of the other stuff like requiring Start to always function the same way.
Yeah, I think pricing is the main problem here. I have a backlog of 100 XBLA games. I used to buy every second new release if it even slightly interested me. Cause they were only 800 points. When the first wave of 1200 points games started to roll in I thought twice about any purchases. I think I have since bought about ten games over the last three years. And most of those as part of some promotion. I know they started to release more 800 points games again but I really couldn't care less. I don't even download the free trials anymore, I've moved on. For the first year after the XBLA price rise I spend my money on XBLCG (now Xbox Indies). So it didn't make a difference to Microsoft, they got my 20 bucks a month either way. But then I moved on to Steam and that's where I am going to stay. I go back to XBLA every now and then to get games like Fez or Trials Evolution and I buy them even for 1200 points, because they are worth that to me. But they really made me not do instant purchases on mediocre games anymore because of their pricing.

However: The first two patches of a full game on Xbox Live are free of charge and I think the first for an XBLA game. The way I see it they should just try to release bugfree games and they don't get into trouble. Castle Crashers is still selling well each week. That's not exactly proof of his point that there is no growth on XBLA. Quite the opposite in fact. Maybe they just make games that don't have the mass appeal they think they deserve. TBH I ignored their XBLA games because I was disappointed by Brütal Legend.
Whoa. I sincerely hope Double Fine isn't planning on developing DFAdventure for the XBLA then. And if they actually plan to, it'd better be bug-free with the first revision. :/
If they release a buggy game on XBLA, maybe they can Kickstart the patch too, and have that documented too! I'm sure it will be funny! Lol.
Holy hell...

If you are reading this, Ravidrath... I apologize on behalf of all us Skullgirls fans who keep bugging you guys about the game's release date. This service is freaking insane. I can see why you guys want to take your time with certification, balancing and completion of the game as a whole.

Damn, I thought the price for a patch was more like 10k or even 20k at most.
Sony should adopt Steam officially for PS4- it's not going to happen, but it would be a genius move.
I only recently started using Steam for those small indie titles and occasional deals. I have never used XBLA or PSN in the same way.

PS Plus is a great though; I have to admit. It's saved me a lot of money and has all rejuvenated the service as far as I'm concerned.
I haven't bought anything on XBLA for a couple of years. Seeing the sudden price increase in some titles and the amount of absolute gaibage on it slowly turned me away from it.

In the case of both Sony and Microsoft, the prices for downloadable titles is too high and from this interview; there is entirely too much focus from both companies on scabbing money from developers at every given oppurtunity. With that said, I can't see either company adopting a Steam or appstore model for the next generation.
40K sounds great. So devs how about releasing a working game for once? Ah who am I kidding they'd rather just release a broken game and pay up afterwards.
40K sounds great. So devs how about releasing a working game for once? Ah who am I kidding they'd rather just release a broken game and pay up afterwards.
Are you oblivious to what patches actually mean for modern indie games, or are you just trying to be a smart ass?

With their current funding they can afford the first 20 patches.
Probably not after they decide to cast Will Smith in the lead.
Well, these are new platforms and with these new platforms came a set of rules. I'm sure Microsoft are well aware that they could improve the service for developers and for themselves. I'm pretty sure they're already starting on this, with Minecraft having to be patched regularly and all of that. Same thing with Free to Play, the platform needs to change to accommodate for how the industry is changing.

And I think part of the idea behind the 40k was just to make sure that developers would not rush buggy stuff onto the consoles - It's probably a little bit crazy to punish devs this way, but before you pay 40k for a small patch, you sure as shit test things multiple times before you commit it.
Which is ridiculous, because Steam has almost the same restrictions as XBLA.
You're going to have to support that one. Turnaround time on patches can be way, way faster because you don't have to futz around with cert, Steam doesn't have weird ass size limititations and restrictive DLC policies and you don't have to pay them to let you patch apparently. Also, Steam doesn't have restrictive and very specific guidelines on what MUST be included in your game to even qualify for consideration.

What is the same about them other than having to get approval to get into the system (which Steam also seems to be a lot more lenient on?)