In an interview with IGN Xbox, Microsoft's Director of Third-Party Relations for the Xbox sat down and shed some light on an exciting pair of new initiatives to attract small-time developers. The Independent Developer and Incubator programs, as they are called, are designed to encourage fledgling game creators to develop for the Xbox without requiring a full-fledged Xbox development kit.
The Independent Developer program hinges upon a tool named the Xbox Production Kit. Instead of including hardware, the XPK consists of a suite of software tools approximating the Xbox environment, and extensive development documentation. Using the XPK, would-be game creators can simply flesh out their ideas on a standard PC, rather than having to apply for and purchase a development kit. When finished, the XPK-created games can be shopped around to potential publishers for examination. If a publisher decides it's a worthwhile title, porting the XPK title to a live-fire Xbox title is a snap.
The Incubator program, while sharing a common goal with its brother, is a condensed & intensified version. Rather than go through the potentially time-consuming process of selling a publisher on an only partially finished game, Incubators will be able to purchase full Xbox development kits. They will receive full Microsoft support for six months, at which time developers can leave the program or, if Microsoft approves the extension, work under the program for another six-month term.
With these programs, Microsoft is further intensifying its efforts to sign as many worthwhile publishers as possible. In addition to the established companies, the Independent Developer and Incubator initiatives represent a big step forward in letting garage developers shine as brightly as their ideas allow. More details can be expected as the Xbox approaches launch in Fall 2001.