Microsoft is bringing the '80s back with a new plan for Xbox domination

Phil SpencerKevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesPhil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox Division

Back in the ’80s, literally anyone could get into the video game business. For instance, in 1983, a 12-year-old Elon Musk once sold a video game called “Blastar” to a computer magazine for $US500.

But starting in the late ’80s, the rise of video game consoles led to a change in model that raised the hurdles to getting a game built, distributed, and sold. To get into the video game business today, you either need to make a deal with a big publisher, or otherwise figure out some way to get your game distributed and sold.

Now, Microsoft is trying to bring back those earlier days with the Xbox Live Creators Program, a platform that totally knocks down the barriers and lets literally anyone anywhere make a game and sell it from Windows 10 and the Xbox One’s digital games store.

“Make no mistake, the Xbox One is now an open platform for publishing,” says Chris Charla, director of Microsoft’s [email protected] independent developer outreach program. “I think it’s gonna be rad.”

There are a few caveats: These games will be listed under a special “Creators” section of Microsoft’s digital games store, and there’s a one-time fee of at least $US20 to get started. And any games in the Creators program won’t be able to use Microsoft’s Xbox Live service for online multiplayer.

Still, there’s no approval process (though Microsoft is reserving the right to take down any games with illegal or unsavoury content), meaning that anyone anywhere can release the game they made to the many millions of Xbox One and Windows 10 gamers out there. And thanks to Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform technology, building a game for Xbox One also makes it work on Windows 10 with a minimum of extra effort.

For players, Charla says, it means that players get access to an even wider range of games from a broad spectrum of developers. And for developers, it removes the barriers to getting started, so the next Elon Musk can find his or her start, too.

And for Microsoft as a whole, it bolsters the selection of games in the Windows Store, which is a key driver in getting people to move up to Windows 10 in the first place.

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