Xbox controller and games

Xbox Game Pass, Mixer, xCloud – it’s an exciting time to be an Xbox fan, says EMEA head of ID@Xbox

The launch of Game Stack, the growth of Xbox Game Pass and the prospect of xCloud mean it’s “a very exciting time to be an Xbox fan”, according to the head of ID@Xbox in Europe.

Agostino Simonetta, who oversees the $1.2 billion independent videogame developer programme in the region as well as the Middle East and Africa, said there are currently a lot of opportunities for people of all skill levels to make great games, especially in the UK.

Microsoft, which owns Xbox, streaming service Mixer, developer tools such as PlayFab and the Azure cloud platform, is the perfect place for developers to create great titles and share them with a global audience, he added.

“It’s the best time to be a game developer and publishing games,” Simonetta said. “It’s never been easier to access Xbox’s platforms and there’s never been more recognition of independent games.

“Xbox Game Pass, Xbox’s subscription service, is a great opportunity for developers, for example. It lets gamers try something new. When we launched Human Fall Flat in Game Pass, 40% of people who played it had never tried a puzzle game on Xbox before. That shows Xbox players are very happy to explore and push the boundaries of what they are comfortable with using Game Pass.

Agostino Simonetta, head of ID@Xbox in EMEA

Agostino Simonetta, head of ID@Xbox in EMEA, at the London event

“It offers opportunities for developers and gamers, so it’s a very exciting time to be an Xbox fan, too.”

Simonetta was speaking at an ID@Xbox event in London that showcased 11 games coming to the platform – from top-down shooters and a supermarket-themed action game, to an Indian-influenced adventure called Raji (below).

The UK is continuing to build on decades of groundbreaking game development but the rest of Europe was catching up, he said, with high-quality titles now emerging from Sweden, Poland, France, Spain and Germany, in particular.

The ID@Xbox programme has been showcasing titles from those countries since it was launched in 2013. It now features more than 3,000 developers, and launched 400 games across Xbox and Windows 10 in 2018 alone.

Those figures proved that ID@Xbox has been a critical and commercial success, Simonetta said.

“The ID@Xbox programme has gone from strength to strength, and that’s because we are helping a diverse range of developers create something that’s meaningful to them and release it to the world. We share that passion; believing in independent developers is in the DNA of the most senior people at Xbox.

“You can see that in the range of technologies available to them, such as Visual Studio and PlayFab, and the other tools we have brought together under the Game Stack heading.

“Then we have the prospect of Project xCloud, which will empower people to play the games they want, with the people they want, wherever they are, on any device. I’m really excited by that.”

James Stone was one of the developers at the ID@Xbox event. He gave up a 20-year career in the IT industry to build Xenosis: Alien Infection, a retro, top-down, sci-fi adventure game.

Xenosis is set on the Carpathian, an interstellar spaceship that has lain dormant for 50 years. Players must board the ship and retrieve the data core, while discovering what happened to the craft and its crew. After two years of development in the ID@Xbox programme, the game is due for release in early 2020.

“I’m a big fan of ID@Xbox, because it’s given me a level of support that I would never have got anywhere else,” Stone said. “It’s hard being a solo developer; I tried contacting a few companies and no one gave me the time of day. I was going to give up but then I met Agostino and showed him the prototype of Xenosis. He loved it. Now I have access to a host of expert development tools and technical resources, as well as a bunch of people who believe in what I’m doing. They can also help me approach members of the media, platforms and distributors; it gives you credibility in the industry.

“Xenosis is a labour of love, and the fact that the ID@Xbox team exists to help people like me self-publish on their platform is amazing. I want to stick with them and develop a bunch of games.”