Schafer: console patches cost $40,000

Double Fine head Tim Schafer has said that independent developers are drifting away from the "closed" console download services because of prohibitive costs, claiming that patches alone cost $40,000.

Speaking to Hookshot Inc, Schafer said that while Xbox Live Arcade and PSN were genuine options for indies when their host platforms launched, the likes of Steam, and the Minecraft model, are now much better routes to market.

"Ever since I played Geometry Wars I thought, 'what a great portal," Schafer said of XBLA. "But it seems that this year, the idea didn't explode like it should have. Back when Castle Crashers came out, it seemed it was going to grow and grow.

"I just wish there was more support, more marketing, more placement on the dashboard. It could have been our own little Sundance Film Festival, a great sandbox for indie development.

"But the indie community is now moving elsewhere; we're figuring out how to fund and distribute games ourselves, and we're getting more control over them. Those systems, as great as they are, are closed. You have to jump through a lot of hoops, even for important stuff like patching and supporting your game.

"Those are things we really want to do, but we can’t do it on these systems. I mean, it costs $40,000 to put up a patch – we can't afford that! Open systems like Steam, that allow us to set our own prices, that's where it's at, and doing it completely alone like Minecraft. That's where people are going."

Another place indies will now be going is Kickstarter, the crowdfunding website on which Double Fine last week sought $400,000 to finance the development of a PC graphic adventure. That total was reached in just eight hours, and within a day, the project had raised a million. At the time of writing it is approaching $1.7 million.

And it is little surprise that Schafer, and his indie peers, are looking elsewhere. Double Fine's Brutal Legend had, on PS3, bugs that were never fixed; publisher EA declined to stump up the funding for a patch, seemingly because it couldn't see the value in fixing a game that hadn't sold well enough to justify the investment.

Similarly, a game-breaking bug in 2010 action-RPG Costume Quest was never fixed. At the time, Schafer said that Double Fine's limited testing resources prevented a patch; it now appears there was more to it than that.

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