Why don't you play indie games

Over 2,000 games in the ID @ Xbox program: A glimpse into the history and future of indie games


  • With the ID @ Xbox program, independent developers have already created over 2,000 games.
  • ID @ Xbox has paid over $ 1.5 billion in royalties to independent developers since the program began.
  • Another 2,000 games from independent publishers are currently in development.

The world of indie games is more exciting and fascinating than ever before. Talented new developers emerge who look at the history of the genre from a new angle. With the jump to the next generation of consoles with Xbox Series X, we take a look back at the eventful history of indie games. Microsoft, as a supporter who shapes the scene, and the growing ID @ Xbox program play a very special role here.

With the launch of Decoy Games Swimsanity, more than 2,000 independent developer games have appeared on Xbox One and Windows 10 PC. Since the ID @ Xbox program was launched, Microsoft has paid more than $ 1.5 billion in license fees to developers. The developers reached this important milestone in less than two years - the same period in which around 1,000 games were released with ID @ Xbox. These include huge MMOs like Black Desert, action-packed multiplayer like Warframe, relaxed farm simulations like Slime Rancher, tricky puzzles like Human Fall Flat or innovative platformer like Celeste. At first glance, it seems that all of these games don't have much in common apart from their versatility - but the impression is deceptive: They all show an unusual vision and represent the creative freedom that you can only find with independent developers.

Indie games are much older than you might think - they existed before the first games of big studios. The story goes back to the developer pioneers who already developed 8 bit games for Apple II, Commodore 64 or Sinclair, which still enjoy cult status today. These games were packaged as ziplock files and sold with hand-copied instructions in local computer stores. As the transition to a digitized world continued to advance, Xbox Live Arcade gave its first powerful impetus and transferred these indie games from OG Xbox to the new Xbox 360 platform in the dwindling days.

The Xbox Live Arcade as a platform for developers

The original founders of XBLA literally saw their invention as an arcade - a place where classic arcade titles and games can be played on a central game system for in between. But something unexpected happened: Some of the independent developers like Jonathan Blow or the team at The Behemoth, who were still developing games for PC, were inspired by these downloadable games. A little later, thanks to Microsoft's encouragement, more and more original games and indie games appeared on XBLA. Digital distribution freed console developers from the data constraints of a physical disc and gave them the freedom to explore a wide variety of game types.

These were titles that might never have met the demands of traditional publishers and thus never would have been released on a disc. With a maximum file size of 40MB, they were smaller and recorded genres such as 2D platformer, which had not reached the mainstream for a long time. And yet they cast a spell over the players with their magic. This enabled these pioneering developers to simply pursue their creative visions independently of a disc. And so they created games like Castle Crashers, Limbo, and Super Meat Boy that we still talk about and that still feel so fresh today, over ten years after they were released.

More indie games than ever thanks to Xbox Game Pass and backward compatibility

In the generation of Xbox One we are seeing incredible growth in the independent scene as the developers realize increasingly ambitious and innovative projects. Because as indie games moved to the center of the Xbox Media Briefing, even more players took in the unique magic of these titles. Games like INSIDE and We Happy Few were featured at E3, and Cuphead, created by a family with no prior game development experience, also made its debut at E3 in 2014.

Today these games are an indispensable part of gaming culture. Of course, there are still classic publishers who develop incredible titles. But independent creators now meet the big studios on an equal footing. An Xbox show would look completely different without the latest independent games - let alone indie shows like Game Fest. And thanks to developments such as the Xbox Game Pass, millions of gamers experience the creative worlds of diverse indie games every day.

The future of indie games on Xbox Series X

And how does it continue? It looks good: On the one hand, many of the games you play on Xbox One today will also be available on Xbox Series X from day one thanks to backward compatibility. So you take your games with you into the next generation and experience them again and again, while the developers continue to reach a huge audience.

On the other hand, independent developers will continue to be a significant part of the game variety on Xbox Series X. With over 2,000 games already being optimized or developed for the next generation console, there's plenty of variety. Hundreds of developers already own Xbox Series X Dev Kits - and that number keeps growing every day! Given the creativity we've already seen, we have no doubt that the upcoming games will leave us speechless. We have already received a few promising insights into this, which we will share with you soon.

A few words from our developers:

“For Cuphead, the ID @ Xbox program was a real quantum leap in the truest sense of the word. It was incredibly encouraging to know that Microsoft believed in the game when it was still in its infancy. Plus, with all of their expertise, the team was a huge help as they supported us every step of the way up to our very first release. And this love and passion for Cuphead is still unbroken today. The ID team is made up of people who really love video games and want to give players an unforgettable experience with body and soul. I can't think of a better partner for someone who is just taking their first steps as a developer. "

Maja Moldenhauer, Studio MDHR

“Night School has been part of the ID @ Xbox family since the studio was founded and Oxenfree was launched in 2016. The most motivating part of working with the ID team was fully supporting our creative vision. When we made a game about obsessed teenagers, the feedback was basically, 'Keep it up and let us know how we can help!' Then we came up with Afterparty where a group of dead friends played a hell of a drinking game with Satan plays, we received great support again. The ID team understands how we developers tick creatively and supports us at every moment. In this way, both teams ensure that the largest possible audience sees our title. In addition, the employees of the ID team are cool and nice people. All the best on over 2,000 games! "

 – Sean Krankel, Night School Studios

“Working with ID @ Xbox has been a fantastic experience. Knowing that a whole team of great employees is behind you and supports your dream of an indie game is an incredibly motivating feeling. During events, members of the ID @ Xbox team kept coming by and asking about us - for a small startup, this is the biggest! We are really looking forward to continuing this partnership in the future! "

Khalil Abdullah, Decoy Games

It is incredibly moving to see all of the various developers making video game history on Xbox. We are proud that with Xbox and ID @ Xbox we continue to drive the development of the gaming industry and help many developers achieve a breakthrough. We can hardly wait for the future together!

For all the latest information about ID @ Xbox and the latest news from the Xbox cosmos, check back regularly here on Xbox Wire DACH.