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Lorne Lanning: 'Indies don't matter to Microsoft'

"Microsoft isn't acknowledging people like us" says Oddworld creator

Microsoft is failing to acknowledge smaller studios and indie developers at a business level, according to Oddworld Inhabitant co-founder Lorne Lanning, who has said "it doesn't seem like any of the little guys are on the radar".

Speaking to VG247 about Microsoft's foggy approach to publishing indie games on Xbox One, Lanning recounted the studio's tribulations in releasing Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath HD on Xbox Live Marketplace.

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"The target kept on moving, and eventually we couldn't get clear answers for 15 months," he said. "We were like, 'Look. We're on seven other networks. It's been no-brainers on all of them. We're not asking you for money. We're not asking you for advertising."

"We're little guys, we have to release. We can't get a straight answer. Then we release on PSN, and we get a mail the next day that says, 'Oh, you released on PSN at a lower price point, you didn't meet our margins, sorry you can't be on the system.' Boom. And that was it.

"We're not on the radar. We're little guys. It doesn't seem like any of the little guys are on the radar. When we listen to them talk, we have to laugh. It's pure rhetoric."

Microsoft's current indie game strategy on Xbox One has attracted much ire from developers. Unlike the Xbox 360, the Xbox One's online marketplace will not file games into discrete categories such as 'Xbox Live Arcade' or 'Indie Games', sparking comments that the platform holder is effectively abandoning indie game developers.

Encouraging the idea is Microsoft's policy that indie game developers will not be able to self-publish on Xbox One, and will instead be required to make partnerships with larger game publishers. This strategy is in direct contrast to Sony's approach with the PlayStation 4.

Lanning was one of the numerous developers spotlighted during an indie games portion of Sony's E3 press conference. Recently, Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO and president Jack Tretton played up the role of indie game developers in the current gaming landscape, saying the "Steven Spielbergs of our industry coming out of one- and two-man teams".

Lanning echoed the sentiment, and warned that Microsoft's current strategy could burn bridges it may need to utilise in the future.

"Right now people like us are clearly not in Xbox One's business model. And there's nothing we can do about that," he added. "Ten years from now, the biggest banners out there, the hundred million dollar games, are going to be what happened in the indie community."

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"Someone's going to be burning the next hundred million dollar properties here, and it might be the least likely guy that was on that stage at the Sony conference. But that's where it's going to come from, and the smart people know that. I don't see any indication of that foresight up in Redmond. They do not seem to be listening to their audience."

Lanning advised drastic measures to resolve the issues: "It's a bit puzzling. It's clear they're not listening. I'm not sure who they're listening to. Whoever their PR people are, whoever their marketing agents are, they should fire them all. That's where they should start.

"There should be a big, mass firing and they should publicise that. Then they'd get people saying, 'Hey, maybe there's going to be a good change.' But if they keep the rhetoric flowing, obviously everyone's looking at it saying, 'This isn't real.' How are they going to keep what they've got today? That's a big question."

In the wake of criticism, Microsoft has pledged to support indie developers on Xbox One. Before his departure Xbox boss Don Mattrick said the console will "have an independent creator program".

CVG understands Microsoft is preparing for a Gamescom press conference, and may reveal the details of its new indie policy at the show.

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