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Post by trog @ 07:16pm 15/02/12 | 16 Comments
Tim Schafer is back in the news today with an interesting revelation in a great interview on indie game site Hook Shot Inc that gives some insight into how expensive patching an Xbox game is:
“But the indie community is now moving elsewhere; we’re figuring out how to fund and distribute games ourselves, and we’re getting more control over them. Those systems as great as they are, they’re still closed. You have to jump through a lot of hoops, even for important stuff like patching and supporting your game. Those are things we really want to do, but we can’t do it on these systems. I mean, it costs $40,000 to put up a patch – we can’t afford that! Open systems like Steam, that allow us to set our own prices, that’s where it’s at, and doing it completely alone like Minecraft. That’s where people are going.”
This is just one number from a single interview - I'm looking for some more confirmation on that figure from other developers, but indications so far is that it sounds fairly accurate. There are a lot of overheads in the patching process and apparently Microsoft deliberately make it an onerous and expensive process to try to ensure that the out-of-the-box experience is as rock-solid as possible.

The figure highlights the cost of doing business on console and goes some way to explaining why post-release DLC on consoles always comes with a price tag. The comparison on PC - where you can get sites like us that will practically beg to let us distribute your patches and updates for free - is pretty striking.

tim schaferconsoledlcpatchesxbox

Latest Comments
Posted 07:32pm 15/2/12
It's quite staggering to find out that microsoft do this. Charging devs for the privilege of being able to patch their game? The sole reason the xbox exists in the first place? How has no one mentioned this before? Do microsoft have some sort of contract with companies stating they aren't allowed to divulge information about this process? Wonder how much they charge for actual DLC instead of just bug fixes?
Posted 07:44pm 15/2/12
DM - Sony charge companies to host their demos. And that isn't cheap either. I think they charge per gig downloaded as well.

Only article I can find. They may have changed policy by now but I doubt it.

That situation changed with the PS3 on October 1 of last year, when Sony implemented a 16 cents per Gigabyte fee to publishers for paid and free downloadable content, according to publishing sources familiar with Sony's policy.
For a demo that is sized at exactly 1GB and is downloaded one million times, that would add an extra $160,000
Posted 07:47pm 15/2/12
Any comparisons to itunes app store and android market place interms of pushing updates???

Interesting angle to the digital distro model I hadn't considered before.. I imagined that the cut apple takes from the sales would have been 'enough'
Posted 07:54pm 15/2/12
make it an onerous and expensive process to try to ensure that the out-of-the-box experience is as rock-solid as possible.

Oh the irony that even upon buying a brand new MS game on the day it launches and when I put it in it tells me there's an update. I bet MS don't pay themselves to put up their own patches to their own games.
Posted 09:15pm 15/2/12
It explains why certain games take so long between patches, or even to get hte first one out.

Perhaps Microsoft see the fee as incentive to make sure your bugs are squashed prior to shipment.
Posted 09:17pm 15/2/12
Posted 09:36pm 15/2/12
Oh the irony that even upon buying a brand new MS game on the day it launches and when I put it in it tells me there's an update. I bet MS don't pay themselves to put up their own patches to their own games.

I bet they do. The business units act independently of one another; so the marketplace business unit just sees this as an opportunity to make more $. Ultimately it's just pushing money from one account to another internally, but all the same there will be people who have bonuses riding on hitting a number - and they'll be getting it however they can; even if it means charging an internal customer through the nose.
Posted 11:22pm 15/2/12
Of course it costs money for XBLA games. Microsoft has to QA everything that goes up and they have very strict requirements. I wouldn't expect most to cost 40k, but surely a minimum of 5k.
Posted 11:29pm 15/2/12
Yeah your right storm i work in the mines and even though the company owns their own dozers and diggers ect they hire them though the workshop and when maintence is up on a machine the mine departmant charges the workshop,I think it has a lot to do with taxes or tax dodge.
Posted 08:25am 16/2/12
This is pretty much accurate. The last couple of projects I worked on were buggy as hell on release simply because we were rushed to the deadline with no possible way to patch afterwards (cost too much). So this is why so many games are released in such a fashion.
Posted 10:22am 16/2/12
Most of the cost is the cost of certification I think. I dunno the exact figures cos I was never involved with the business end of it, but any time you want to release a game on XBox (or Ps3 or Wii for that matter) you have to get it certified by Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo, and any time you want to release a patch for the game, you also have to get it certified. The whole process can take a while (especially if your certification gets knocked back and you need to make changes and resubmit), so thats why you often see patches for console versions coming out later than patches for PC versions. And I dunno what it costs, but I know it was pretty expensive, and there was a lot of pressure on us to pass certification the first time so as not to incur more costs.

Its pretty easy to fail certification too, the requirements are insanely anal, like I remember on Looney Toons in one of the save dialog boxes we referred to the system as "Sony PS2" instead of "Sony Playsytation 2" and Sony failed us on certification because of that. Theres pages and pages and pages of requirements you have to meet, its an absolute pain in the ass, so yeah I'm not suprised indie devs look to publish on platforms where they don't have to deal with that s***.
Posted 10:39am 16/2/12
So in other words, console is epic failed and PC still win?
Posted 10:46am 16/2/12
40K per patch doesn't sound unreasonable. I'd expect that a myriad of Dev & QA people get involved for a few weeks to patch and re-certify the game & their time all costs money.

I can understand indie developers on a shoestring wanting to avoid a bill like that if it's not necessary though. It's unfortunate that there was no breakdown on costs, so it's difficult to say whether that figure is good value or not.
Posted 11:34am 16/2/12
@Khel: It's actually "PlayStation 2" that capital S is just as important to them. If you want bonus points you can also add in the ® "SONY PlayStation®2"
Posted 11:50am 16/2/12
Yeah, referring to the peripherals was even worse, like you couldn't just say "Don't remove the memory card while the game is saving" you had to say "Don't remove the 8mb memory card for Sony PlayStation 2 while saving". And you couldn't just say "controller" and be generic it had to be "Dualshock controller for Sony PlayStation 2". Its a real pain in the ass when you have limited space and you need to cram all that text into a dialog box.
Posted 06:30pm 16/2/12
@Dazhel: I think the $40,000 is a fee from MS to simply put the patch onto the LIVE system. I very much doubt MS actually involves any of their Dev & QA people in the process. At most, MS would have personnel upload and integrate the patch onto their system for use, this couldn't cost anywhere near $40,000 to do.
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