Multiple sources are reporting that Microsoft is no longer charging developers to patch games. The decision follows recent criticism of the company by developers for charging to patch games.

Before a game’s release the developer must submit the game to Microsoft for certification. Microsoft then checks the game for bugs before approving it for release. At this point a developer must pay a fee to have the game published and Microsoft in-turn grants them their first update free. But if a game should require a further update, then the developer must submit the game for recertification again. At this point Microsoft charges every time the game enters the recertification process. The recertification process is essential since it prevents any buggy or rushed updates from corrupting save files or worse, hard drives.

Currently developers are reporting that this is no longer the case. The process of recertification remains the same but Microsoft is no longer charging a fee. Dean Hall said recently that DayZ could skip release on Xbox One because they couldn’t afford to pay for multiple patches.

“It’s gonna take a long time for us to be able to iron this out and we don’t wanna have to pay ten, twenty thousand dollars, whatever it is, every time we want to do an update.”

It’s a sentiment that’s been shared with a lot of other developers. Creators Tim Schaffer, Phil Fish and Lorne Lanning have all shared similar opinions on Microsoft’s charging policy over the last year. Fez developer Phil Fish faced problems when he was forced to reissue a patch that caused some save files to corrupt. Rather than pay for recertification of a new patch to fix the problem. He reiterated his problems with Microsoft when he confirmed Fez 2 would skip release on Xbox One and 360.

“Had Fez been released on Steam instead of XBLA, the game would have been fixed two weeks ago after release, at no cost to us. And if there was an issue with the patch, we could have fixed that right away too!”

The change in policy was made, albeit quietly, sometime toward the beginning of the year. Given the recent criticism from devs on Microsoft’s patch policies the sudden revelation of the u-turn smells like PR stunt. But it’s good news for developers and gamers all-round.

The recertification process was created to prevent developers rushing untested patches to fix nagging problems. It was designed to force developers to take their time when designing patches.

Considering the negative feedback from developers on Microsoft’s policies the u-turn is a step in the right direction. But it still needs a further push to help it compete in the next-gen. Microsoft are still charging developers to self-publish whereas Sony are offering free self-publishing on next-gen.

So what do you think? Is this a step in the right direction for Microsoft? Or is it simply too little too late?

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