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Microsoft attacked for five-figure Xbox 360 "patch fee" (updated)


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Microsoft attacked for five-figure Xbox 360 "patch fee" (updated)

Fez developer refuses to pay reported $40,000 to fix game-breaking bug.

by Kyle Orland - Jul 20, 2012 7:20 pm UTC


Fez - Photo Credit

UPDATE, 7/20/12: Microsoft provided the following statement to Ars Technica after this story was originally published: "Polytron and their investor, Trapdoor, made the decision not to work on an additional title update for Fez. Microsoft Studios chose to support this decision based on the belief that Polytron/Trapdoor were in the best position to determine what the acceptable quality level is for their game. While we do not disclose the cost of Title Updates, we did offer to work with Trapdoor to make sure that wasn’t a blocking issue. We remain huge fans of Fez." We have yet to hear back from Fish for further comment on the story.


Developer Phil Fish knows there's a problem preventing some people from enjoying his Xbox 360 puzzle platformer Fez as intended. But he's not going to fix it, thanks to what he says is an exorbitant fee of "tens of thousands of dollars" that Microsoft would charge to recertify the game after a needed patch.

The issue started on June 22, when Fish released a patch intended to fix some outstanding gameplay and performance issues with Fez. That patch gave rise to new problems for some players, though, by causing their save files to appear as corrupted, in effect erasing their progress through the game.

Microsoft pulled the initial patch for the game mere hours after it first went up, to prevent the bug it contained from spreading too far. But even though Fish initially described the issue as "fairly widespread," he now says he estimates the progress-destroying problem only affects the less than one percent of players that have already completed the game (or come very close) before installing the patch.

So rather than pay Microsoft "such a large sum of money" to approve a new patch that would fix the small issue (Double Fine's Tim Schaefer pegged the cost of submitting an Xbox 360 patch at $40,000 in an interview with Hookshot Inc. earlier this year), Fish has decided to put the initial, slightly error-prone patch back up on Microsoft's servers.

This entire saga would be a non-issue if Fez wasn't exclusive to Microsoft's system, Fish said. "Had Fez been released on Steam instead of [Xbox Live Arcade], the game would have been fixed two weeks after release, at no cost to us," Phil writes in a recent post on the Polytron blog. "And if there was an issue with that patch, we could have fixed that right away too!"

Fish offered his sincere apologies to the small number of dedicated players he says are "screwed" by the first patch, saying it broke his heart to leave them with a broken game. But paying what Fish calls "a ton of money" to fix such a minor issue "just doesn't make any sense, especially when Microsoft itself considers the current patch "good enough," according to Fish.

"We already owe Microsoft a LOT of money for the privilege of being on their platform," he said. "People often mistakenly believe that we got paid by Microsoft for being exclusive to their platform. Nothing could be further from the truth. WE pay THEM."

Microsoft didn't immediately respond to our request for comment, but it's hard to see why developers should be faced with such hefty costs to make their games better after release. Yes, Microsoft has an interest in making sure games on its hardware aren't going to cause permanent hardware or security issues. But the company would also do well to ensure its developers can provide the best version of their games to its customers without having to incur extra costs or jump through too many hoops.

Apple manages to review and approve thousands of iOS app updates for similar issues without charging developers extra money for each distinct update. Sure, iOS developers often complain about delays and headaches caused by Apple's approval process, but Xbox 360 developers have been known to make similar complaints about Xbox 360 certification. And Microsoft's process can sometimes miss major problems with title updates, despite the added monetary and time costs the developer incurs.

Then again, there's nothing physically stopping Fish from ironing out the game-breaking issue his own patch is causing for some players. For all his talk about Steam's more open update system, Fish presumably knew the roadblocks inherent in Microsoft's certification process when he signed up to make Fez an exclusive Xbox 360 release. You could argue that Fish owes it to his most devoted players to fix the game he himself broke with the earlier patch. (Fish also hasn't immediately responded to a request for comment.)

In the end, no one is served by a bureaucratic process that ends up letting a game with known, fixable issues stay broken.

SOURCE: http://arstechnica.c...x-360-patch-fee


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