Microsoft is not changing its policies on indie games. Indie developers still must find a publisher.
In recent years, indie games have come to the mainstream thanks to platforms like Steam Greenlight, PlayStation Mobile, and Desura. Indie games have become so popular that Nintendo and Sony, in order to curry the favor of developers, have lowered the bar for entry on their respective platforms and even allow self-publishing.
Microsoft still retains a firm grip on indie developers. Those looking to seek publishing on the Xbox Live Arcade must have a third party publisher or seek publishing from the console giant itself. This practice isn't going to change even with the advent of the Xbox One. "As of right now, we intend to continue to court developers in the ways that we have," said Matt Booty, general manager of Redmond Game Studios and Platforms. "I would also expect that for this new generation, that we're going to continue to explore new business models and new ways of surfacing content. But Microsoft Studios is a publisher that works with a wide range of partners, as do a lot of other people, to bring digital content to the box."
However, on Xbox One, Xbox Live Arcade and Xbox Live Indie Games will no longer be separate sections. This would allow indie developers a much better chance to be discovered by gamers, since gamers aren't necessarily going to be browsing through the Xbox Live Indie Games section. “In the past we had retail games which came on disc, we had Xbox Live Arcade and we had Indie Games, and they had their own discrete channels or discrete silos,” said Microsoft VP Phil Harrison in regards to the change. “With Xbox One and the new marketplace, they’re games. We don’t make a distinction between whether a game is a 50-hour RPG epic or whether it is a puzzle game or whether it is something that fits halfway between the two.”
This change may prove a blessing and a curse to indie games. They'll now be given equal treatment to triple-A titles, but there's also a good chance that they may end up drowned in a sea of much bigger and much better publicized games.
In the past few years, indie games like Super Meat Boy, Braid, and Journey have been able to attain great success, and it's likely that the trend will continue. As of late, Sony's been pushing hard to accommodate and bring indie developers to its side. Microsoft, in retaining its policy of not allowing indie developers to self-publish, may be hurting itself in the long run in developing relationships with indies. But maybe that's not the direction that Microsoft envisions for itself. After all, it's got plenty to work with, with the big name TV deals that its worked out for the Xbox One.