How hard do you think it would be to pay someone their share of the profits if you sold their product? For Microsoft it seems like it’s next to impossible. In what will probably be another blow to their indie developer relations, news is breaking that Microsoft is now late in making their Q3 payments to Xbox Live Indie Games Marketplace developers. How late? That depends who you ask and how you frame the question.
For those who don’t know, Xbox Live Indie Games Marketplace, or XBLIG as it is known, was Microsoft’s indie game self publishing division on the previous generation Xbox 360. XBLIG was designed as a way for small devs to get their games onto the Xbox platform developed on Microsoft’s own XNA platform. The games were usually quite small, relying on things like self testing and community feedback and word of mouth. It was home to some awesome and quirky indie games such as Bleed, Beat Hazard Ultra, Drinkards, I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1 and many others.
The way these developers get paid their share of game sales is quarterly. Every three months Microsoft sends them their payment. The last payment was due on September 30th and it still hasn’t arrived.
MS still hasn't paid the Xbox Indie Game Devs, they force us to wait 3 months + 45 days as it stands... They are over half a month late.—
Freelance Games (@FreelanceGames) November 27, 2014
Now some clarification on that tweet, and what Freelance Games means by 3 months plus 45 days. As mentioned, developers are paid every three months for their share of their indie game sales, but Microsoft has allowed itself a grace period of 45 days to make said payments. A clause in the XBLIG system says that a payment is not considered late until it’s beyond 45 days from the initial payment date, which is pretty generous, and insane. At this point Microsoft is 63 days late in paying some of its indie game devs money it owes them.
To its credit ID@Xbox (the current gen version of XBLIG) have issued an apology over Twitter:
Enclosed is an official statement and apology from Microsoft on the Xbox Live Indie Games for Xbox 360 payment issue http://t.co/FJJ2hqqffG—
ID@Xbox (@ID_Xbox) December 03, 2014
Although I’d say it is suspect that they “recently learned” about issues of payments to certain devs at the same time news of these missed payments broke in the gaming press. And as for a technical issue, unless the system was programmed by 343 Industries, I find it unbelievable that Microsoft would have a problem getting money from one place to another for 63 days. If this story hadn’t broken would the indie devs have gotten paid before Christmas? They might not anyway, but at least now they have a fighting chance.
In 63 days not one person at Microsoft has noticed that some of its developers haven’t been paid? No chance. How hard is it for one person with common sense at Microsoft (if such a person exists) to simply say “okay, lets keep trying to fix the system, but for now lets work out how much we owe to who, and give them the money we owe them.” As soon as that 45 days is up, the money needs to be in the hands of the developers who have earned it, no matter how you have to do it.
This isn’t the first time Microsoft have been late paying its XBLIG developers, even by its own definition of the term. Twice before the giant megacorporation with seemingly bottomless pits of money have been unable (unwilling?) to pay up past the extremely generous 45 days late clause.
Microsoft has a lot of problems when it comes to indie developers, and almost all of them are problems of their own creation. With a new man at the helm of its Xbox division changes have been made, but the company needs to take a good, long look at the way it treats and handles indie developers, because issues such as this will drive some of the most talented, creative people working into the industry away from the Xbox platform completely.