Three years ago, Microsoft introduced [email protected] during Gamescom as a new initiative to help indie developers release their games on the Xbox One, and the program has since generated millions of dollars in revenue for independent game developers.
As the program has since expanded beyond the Xbox One to Windows 10 PCs, phones and HoloLens mixed-reality headsets, indie game developers now have even more opportunities to reach gamers across many platforms. "There are seats at the table for everyone" said Katie Stone Perez, Senior Program Manager for Microsoft’s [email protected] program in her lengthy profile published by the company earlier this week.
After studying child psychology at the University of Washington, Perez landed her first job at Microsoft where she was tasked with evaluating family games for a mysterious project that would soon become the Xbox. In the following years, Perez built the Xbox Live Arcade program which introduced digital games to the Xbox 360, but this first initiative wasn't completely open to indie developers who still needed business contacts to bring their projects to the gaming console. However, following the launch of the Xbox One in 2013 Perez got the chance to join [email protected] Director Chris Carla to develop the brand new program that would soon contribute to bringing more diversity to the video games industry.
"Everyone on our team is really passionate about seeing the devs achieve success on Xbox,” explained Perez who sees [email protected] as a "win-win" approach for both the Xbox team and indie developers. While there is still a "quality bar" to join the program, Perez added that "there is no resume or required pedigree. It’s a completely democratic system open to the whole world and no console has ever done that before.”
According to Perez, the [email protected] program is also a reflection of Microsoft's new focus on diversity and inclusion:
The wind is now in our sails and everyone gets it. And while there have always been a few game successes that were different from the norm, the new generation out there increasingly expects that diversity of us. If only the same creators are making content and telling narratives, then we are repeatedly speaking to same audiences. Finding new voices is how we expand our audience and consumer base. Having the broadest and most diverse set of creators and content will give us the broadest and most diverse audience.
Perez is particularly enthusiastic about allowing more young developers to unleash their creativity, and she recently helped a group of high school students to publish their first game, a top-down RPG adventure called The Hole Story through [email protected] "People in the broader industry are seeing that gaming is for everyone. And to do that, we have to talk the talk and walk the walk," she added. Do you think the [email protected] program could really improve the quality and diversity of video games in the future? Let us know your thoughts about the program by dropping us a comment below.