Microsoft reserves the right to refuse an Xbox 360 release for games that are released first on other platforms, according to reports.
Eurogamer reveals that Microsoft's developer terms also stipulate that the company may also refuse to allow an Xbox 360 release for games that offer more features or content on other platforms.
Microsoft's content submission and release policy reads: "Titles for Xbox 360 must ship at least simultaneously with other videogame platforms, and must have at least feature and content parity on-disc with other platform versions in all regions where the title is available.
"If these conditions are not met, Microsoft reserves the right to not allow the content to be released on Xbox 360."
The terms apply to Xbox Live Arcade games, too, with Microsoft's online content terms stipulating that games "must simultaneously release on Xbox Live Marketplace in all regions where the game is available." Demos, too, "must ship within the same week of its launch on other videogame platforms or via magazines."
Microsoft's vice president of interactive entertainment, Chris Lewis, defended the policy, saying: "We're a little biased, so obviously we're going to look to protect our own space as best we can and get exclusivity…we seek to maximise our own advantage to ensure the playing field is even, and certainly plays to our advantage wherever possible."
Lewis goes on to sound a familiar refrain by saying that the company's restrictive terms benefit its users. "Honestly – and this is going to sound a bit contrived – we just want what our consumers want from us," he said. "We want to be where they want us to be.
"We want the quality bar of what they experience from us to continue to go up. I think it has to happen; everybody's got to do that. If we want to continue to command healthy average selling prices, which we all do, that which we offer our consumers has got to keep getting better."
One publisher, speaking on condition of anonymity, strongly disagreed. "Microsoft is suggesting that anything but parity will result in them not carrying a title," the source said. "They may think this is competitive, but it's not. They are killing any creative exposure of titles to make up for their own platform's shortcomings."
While it is no secret that Microsoft demands exclusivity for Xbox Live Arcade games included in promotions like Summer Of Arcade, the news that it demands feature and release parity across the board is something of a surprise. The claim that it motivated by the needs of its consumers, too, seems a little odd, as it seems designed not to reward those who own Microsoft platforms so much as punish those that do not.