What to expect from Microsoft in 2014, Part 3. Xbox One

In my third article of what to expect from Microsoft in 2014, I’ll try to predict what we might see in the Xbox One ecosystem in the next year.

In my previous two articles about what to expect in 2014 in Windows Phone and Windows 8 I’ve already summarized my thoughts about these two platforms. I’ve been working with both these platforms for some time and I published already several nontrivial apps, but I’ve actually never written anything for any Xbox console (not counting my two XNA games for Windows Phone). I’ve also got my first Xbox 360 only about year ago, but the thing with Xbox One is different.

Let’s start first with the current status of Xbox One ecosystem. Xbox One was released just 1 month ago in November 2013 with about 20 games released at the start, including several exclusive titles. Right now there is no option available for Indie game or App development. Program for Indie game developers ID@Xbox was already announced and smaller game studios or even independent developers can apply with a chance to get dev kit “sometime in 2014”. All we know regarding this is probably on that page, nothing more. Note I’m not going to discuss the future of ID@Xbox program and indie game development on Xbox One in this article. I’m no game developer and as we know, the game development headed always in a bit different direction than app development on Windows, Phone and Xbox 360 platform.

Beside the ID@Xbox program, there nothing we know right now about possible indie App development for Xbox One. Although there are already some “major” apps on Xbox One, there is no public information how to create similar apps, even no information about used framework. As far as I know these are just modified web pages running on Xbox one with some private API for accessing Xbox One features.
Since the release of Xbox One there were only some rumors about possible indie app development, but just couple of days ago Microsoft announced the new Build 2014 conference in April 2014 and here is why I think we might get similar app Store on Xbox One just like we have on Windows 8.1 today…

First let’s gather some evidence:

  • Xbox One uses the core of Windows 8 including part of the Windows Runtime
  • There were already some leaks that Xbox One may run Windows RT apps
  • If you read between lines the announcement of Build 2014, you can see a subtle hint about the Xbox One app development:
    Developers can create new experiences to reach hundreds of millions of devices on people’s desks, in their pockets and in their living rooms.
  • Developing apps for Windows Phone 8 is now quite similar to developing Windows 8.1 apps, and upcoming WP8.1 should bring these environments even closer together. Having third similar ecosystem here will boost the development on all platforms even more.
  • For Microsoft it just makes sense to enable development for all three major platforms using the same languages (C#, HTML5/JavaScript, C++), using very similar Windows Runtime on all platforms and using Visual Studio 2013+ as the only perfect tool for development.

These are some nice findings, but let’s just not jump out of our chairs yet. This could be all just my “wishful thinking” and here is why:

  • It’s only one month since the release of Xbox One and it will be 4+ months at the Build 2014 since the release. It’s quite too early for such a massive update.
  • Creating fully working Store, app runtime optimized for Xbox/Controller/Kinect and delivering Visual Studio SDK including Xbox One emulator is not a simple task.
  • There is definitely higher expected monitezation in indie games for Xbox One than in apps – releasing the ID@Xbox program might be the priority now.

But because I’m optimist, I’m betting on the first scenario. I think we won’t see a fully working App and Indie Game store on Xbox One in the first half of 2014, but maybe Microsoft will release at the Build 2014 Xbox One beta App SDK together with ID@Xbox beta SDK and Visual Studio 2014 beta with the expected RTM in the fall of 2014. This sounds like a reasonable timeline to finalize and prepare everything.

So that’s my short list of thoughts about Xbox One ecosystem in 2014. Let’s see in couple of months how accurate this list is/was.

Disclaimer – all these features are just my subjective notes I have gathered either from various blog posts, heard from fellow developers “what should be really implemented” or I wish them myself. It’s probable, that the reality might be quite different.