If you thought that Microsoft’s infamous parity clause was a thing from the past, you may want to reconsider. Gang Beasts developer Boneloaf has pointed at this policy, which pushes independent studios to release a game first on Xbox One or adding exclusive content, as the main reason why their platformer title is still not in development for the console, and may even release first on Nintendo Switch.
The news come from an interview with GamesIndustry.biz at EGX Rezzed, in which the studio’s co-founder James Brown explained that the team has the development kits for Xbox One and they have actually been in talks with Microsoft, but their requirement to either include the home console among the first platforms to receive the game, or to create some exclusive content afterwards, takes too much work and resources for the small studio: “How can we commit resource until we have approval to release on that platform? It’s backwards, it doesn’t make sense.”
At the moment, Gang Beasts is in development for PC and PlayStation 4. An alpha version of the game is available on Early Access on Steam and Oculus Rift, and the studio hopes to move beyond that stage by the end of the second quarter of 2017.
Microsoft’s policy popularly known as the parity clause requires independent studios from ID@Xbox program to release their titles on Xbox One at the same time than other platforms. In the case the studio had sign some sort of exclusivity deal with another company, then they need to create some new content and make it exclusive to the Xbox version.
This policy has been active since the launch of the console. It was conceived as a way to make sure the platform received the same releases as its competitors, or at least the exclusive content made Xbox versions the priority of users.
However, many studios have been complaining over time how this policy actually made them abandon the idea of developing an Xbox One port of their games, as their limited resources made it impossible to work on many versions of their game at the same time, and they did not want to develop extra content just for Xbox. For James Brown, developing exclusive content only makes sense when it’s locked to that platform, and mentions the hypothetical case that they added Sackboy or Nathan Drake on the PS4 version.
The head of the Xbox Division, Phil Spencer, has claimed in the past that he thought the parity clause was not an issue anymore, and that Microsoft was loosening its restrictions, but recent cases like Gang Beasts contradict his words.