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Making Consoles Games – Part 1: Dev Kits and Dev Access

Welcome to my first article about developing games for consoles!

Over the years I have pushed to many platforms, but I wanted to start building games for console for the first time starting with Zombie Town.  This is not a small en-devour by any means, and there are a lot of mysteries on the way.  In today’s article I wanted to share my findings after trying to get setup and selling apps and games on different platforms over a period of 3 months.  Hopefully this will give you an idea of what to expect if you take the plunge to more platforms!

Purpose

In these articles I will share my findings as I begin to develop for console using Unity3D.  In today’s article, I will share my experiences with getting setup with the various vendors (and my experiences on the way) so you know what to expect as you navigate the maze.

Fact Checking

There are plenty of rumours going around about how easy and cheap it is to build for consoles… and with declining mobile app sales, this is what peaked my interest in the first place!  First, a quick response for the many inaccurate “news articles” around the internet regarding console development.

Rumour #1: Any Xbox One can be a dev kit.

Reality:  False. 

According to the ID team, In 2016 Microsoft will be push Windows 10 to Xbox One after it finishes releasing it on mobile and desktop.  During this process, developers with Windows 10 and Windows 10 Universal applications can make changes to allow for Xbox One support – and Microsoft is hoping that Xbox One can be locally developer unlocked at that time.  Right now they have a very limited amount of development systems, and have been only selecting larger companies with games ready to release any minute.  You can read an official response where Microsoft changed their minds here.

Rumour:  Sony is giving away dev-kits like candy.

Reality:  False.

In fact, they require you to purchase both a PS4 Dev-kit (4,800 dollars) and Test-kit (1,200 dollars).  If you want to target PSVita you require a PSVita Dev-kit (2,600 dollars) and Test-kit (1,000 dollars).  Keep in mind, these kits cannot play retail games, so if you want to view other games to get a feel of the platform – you will need to buy those too.

Rumour:  WiiU supports Unity3D

Reality:  False.

Right now WiiU support for Unity3D is in a very early closed beta, with no estimated release date.  They do have a plugin, but it is an external plugin that gets added to Unity (instead of shipping with it).

Rumour:  PSVita only needs a Retail Kit

Reality:  False.

This used to be true until very recently.  When Sony closed PSM, it forced developers to use dev-kits for any debug builds and test-kits for pre-validation prior to release.

Rumour:  Xbox One is targeting indie developers

Reality:  False.

This actually won’t be in effect until 2016, if ever.  Right now they are actively seeking games that are complete and high volume from publishers.

Getting Vendor Accounts – Consoles

Sony

  • Cost:  Free signup
  • Dev-kit:  Custom PS4 Dev&Test-kit (6,000 USD), Custom PS Vita (3,600 USD)
  • Dev-build Operating Systems:  Mac OS X, Linux and Windows
  • Sign-up time:  ~1 month
  • Review system takes approximately 1 month

Sony was the easiest console vendor to communicate with and get setup.  They are well streamlined for vendors and require a registered company, a detailed product plan, and a static IP for your development studio.

Setting up of accounts and information takes a while as they work it through different systems, but they provide a dedicated representative who will work through it with you.  Their internal systems are very difficult to manage, and finding accurate information can be challenging and often times conflicting.

Development is free, hardware will run you 10k.  They are definitely meant for small businesses.

Nintendo

  • Cost:  Free signup
  • Dev-kit:  Custom WiiU dev-kit (Price TBD)
  • Dev-build Operating Systems:  Mac OS X, Linux and Windows
  • Sign-up time:  ~3 months just for initial contact
  • Review system unknown

I’m very excited to be looking at WiiU.  Trying to get information, however, has been insanely difficult.  Over the last three months, I have filled out their contact form 5 times and left them many different voice messages. They have called my house a few times during working hours, and it is very exciting to hear someone say they are calling from Nintendo.  However the response lines are always busy, so it is too soon to know the Nintendo experience.

Microsoft

  • Cost:  Free signup
  • Dev-kit:  Custom Xbox One dev-kit (Price TBD, currently not for sale)
  • Dev-build Operating Systems:  Mac OS X, Linux and Windows
  • Sign-up time:  ~3 months
  • Review system unknown

Microsoft can be quite frustrating, but they are very focused right now only on apps and games that are released (or very near released) and highly profitable.

Throughout the process, they have asked for access to hands on demos and videos.  And lots of game information.  They will push hard on you to build for Windows mobile.  Often there are 2 to 3 week delays between responses.  Do not engage them until you are near completion, if the game isn’t ready to ship they will defer you to 2016.

They will not provide documents or technical information of any kind until they approve at least one game from you.

Getting Vendor Accounts – Desktop

Windows Store

  • Cost:  Free
  • Dev-kit:  N/A (any Windows system)
  • Dev-build Operating Systems:  Windows 8.1 Only (and requires Hyper-V)
  • Sign-up time:  Immediate
  • Review system takes approximately 3 days to 1 week.

Note:  The yearly model from them has changed 3 times since I joined, I’ve paid 100 a year, 30 a year and currently it is free.

Apple Store

GOG

  • Cost:  Free
  • Dev-kit:  N/A (any computer)
  • Dev-build Operating Systems:  Mac OS X, Linux and Windows
  • Sign-up time:  ~1 week to 1 month, per game
  • Review system forces games to go through their own team for review before allowed on the platform

GOG advised me that I’m too small of a company and that our arcade style games are too niche for their platform, which ironically describes GOG well.  Based on other developers feedback, it appears to be a difficult platform to work with based on game to game.

Steam

  • Cost:  100 (or was it 150)
  • Dev-kit:  N/A (any computer)
  • Dev-build Operating Systems:  Mac OS X, Linux and Windows
  • Sign-up time:  ~1 week
  • Review system forces games to go through a gauntlet reviewed by users

Note:  Sign-up cash goes to a charity, difficult to get on and requires community reviews.

Getting Vendor Accounts – Mobile

BlackBerry

  • Cost:  Free
  • Dev-kit:  Simulator & Any BlackBerry 10 device
  • Operating Systems:  Mac OS X, Linux and Windows
  • Sign-up time:  ~2 weeks, requires legal identification
  • Review system takes approximately 3 days to 1 week.  Same for Built for BlackBerry program.

Note: Increasingly fewer IDE’s are supporting the platform, and the ecosystem is under attack from Android apps within the platform.  The company is pushing hard against consumer applications and games.

Windows

  • Cost:  Free
  • Dev-kit:  Simulator & Almost any Windows Mobile, Tablet and PC device
  • Dev-build Operating Systems:  Windows 8.1 Only (and requires Hyper-V)
  • Sign-up time:  Immediate
  • Review system takes approximately 3 days to 1 week.

Note:  The yearly model from them has changed 3 times since I joined, I’ve paid 100 a year, 30 a year and currently it is free.

iOS

Note:  If you do not pay your fees, or miss a new agreement, your apps will become unavailable.

Google Play

  • Cost:  One time fee of 30 dollars. Free thereafter.
  • Dev-kit:  Simulator & Almost any Android device
  • Dev-build Operating Systems:  Mac OS X, Linux and Windows
  • Sign-up time:  Immediate
  • Review system happens post-release (transparent to user)

Amazon

  • Cost:  Free
  • Dev-kit:  Simulator & Almost any Android device
  • Dev-build Operating Systems:  Mac OS X, Linux and Windows
  • Sign-up time:  Immediate
  • Review system happens post-release (transparent to user)

 

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2 thoughts on “Making Consoles Games – Part 1: Dev Kits and Dev Access

  1. Hi, what about “Any Xbox One can be a dev kit”, if I am not wrong is already possibile, or the retail with devkit enabled are limited and not full devkit? thanks.

  2. Hi! We are interested in PS4 development. At this stage we are not sure weather we can buy only test kit for publishing the game since it costs way less than dev kit. Do you have any info on this? Thanks in advance. Cheers, Dragan.

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