According to a Eurogamer report, earlier this year Microsoft decided to stop charging developers upwards of “tens of thousands of dollars” to issue patches for their Xbox 360 games.
Citing “multiple development sources,” the report states that under the old system Microsoft would charge studios a fee when they first submitted their game to the platform holder’s certification process, which would give them one title update free of charge. Once that first patch went live, any further updates would require the developer to pay another re-certification fee.
While large third-party publishers rarely had trouble paying the multi-certification fee for updates, smaller studios were often forced to make hard decisions. The most infamous of these public battles over the required second fee took place in July 2012 when Polytron was forced to re-issue a broken update for Fez that was corrupting a small number of save files.
At the time of the Fez-patch-gate, Polytron’s Phil Fish had the following harsh words to say about the situation:
“Microsoft gave us a choice: either pay a ton of money to re-certify the game and issue a new patch (which for all we know could introduce new issues, for which we’d need yet another costly patch), or simply put the patch back online. They looked into it, and the issue happens so rarely that they still consider the patch to be ‘good enough’.”
“As a small independent, paying so much money for patches makes NO SENSE AT ALL. especially when you consider the alternative. Had FEZ been released on steam instead of XBLA, the game would have been fixed two weeks after release, at no cost to us. And if there was an issue with that patch, we could have fixed that right away too.”
Under the terms of the new policy for issuing Xbox 360 software patches, Microsoft has reportedly stopped requiring a re-certification fee for both full retail and XBLA games. There are certain exceptions to the updated policy — like if a studio is determined to be abusing the system by making an excessive number of re-submissions — but for the most part this change should go a long way towards putting Microsoft on equal footing with other gaming platforms.