GDC 2018 Interview: Xbox Creator’s Program And Indie Games

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

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Creator's Program | LogoHere at Operation Rainfall, we love indie games. It is one of the core things we focus our coverage on, after all. And it turns out that we’re not the only ones who do. During GDC 2018, I had the opportunity to speak with Diana Im, the Product Marketing Manager for the Xbox Creator’s Program. During our time together, we discussed topics ranging from what the Creator’s Program is and why a developer or student would want to participate in it, to how successful the program has been for game developers.

If you want to check out the Developer’s Program, you can visit their homepage. If you want the latest news on Xbox Games (including games that are up-and-coming through the Creator’s Program) other than here on Operation Rainfall, check out Xbox Wire. You can also follow Xbox on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest.


This interview has been lightly edited for content and clarity.

Operation Rainfall: My name is Quentin H., and I am with Operation Rainfall. And you are?

Diana Im [Xbox Creator’s Program]: I am Diana Im, the Product Marketing Manager with the Creator’s Program.


“We want the Creator’s Program to be a platform [where] whoever you [are] and whatever game you want to share with the world – you get [to] share it.”


OR: We are here at GDC 2018, and Microsoft is showing off the Creator’s Program and the ID@ Program. What is the difference between the two?

DI: The ID@ Program at Xbox is a managed program- meaning that people are selected to be a part of the ID@ Xbox Program. You have someone working with you directly to get you through the timeline until you publish your game. On the flipside, with the Creator’s Program, you don’t have one person working with you throughout it. The Creator’s Program, on the backend, has a bunch of developers working on the program to make it what it is, but there is no direct one-to-one support. So that’s one key difference.

Another key difference is that Creator’s Program games do not support Achievements or online multiplayer. But we do support couch co-op multiplayer.

And those are our key differences. ID@ Xbox is an older program now, a few years [old, and] they’ve released a bunch of great games. Creator’s Program is eight months old. You can also see Creator’s Program as a ‘stepping stone’ into ID@ Xbox. If we identify [your game] as a really great Creator’s Program game, then we have the ability to fast-track you into ID@ Xbox.

OR: This may sound like a silly question, but why would anybody ever want to go into the Creator’s Program instead of the ID@ Program, where you can have support from Microsoft, build Achievements, and everything else?

DI: Oh, that’s a good question.

The target audience for the Creator’s Program is really for anyone. But for the students and the people learning to become developers that want to release their game onto a platform and test it out, one benefit is that you immediately get to be on the Creator’s Program.

OR: How about how long does a game remain in Creator’s Program before it actually goes live on the Xbox Live Store?

DI: So the Creator’s Program – once you publish in the Creator’s Program- once it goes on console, it lives in the Creator’s Collection in the [Xbox Live] Store. There’s no wait time once it gets approved.

OR: An issue with Steam is that ‘bloatware’, where you have a lot of terrible games that come out. How does Microsoft address that issue with these programs [such as] Creator’s Program?

DI: So we have a curated list within the Creator’s Collection. We are [also] in the midst of developing a ‘Staff’s Picks’. So we are trying to make sure that the best games are the ones that are on the forefront. We can’t prevent the range of games that come through our program from getting notoriety, but that’s not something we want to do. We want the Creator’s Program to be a platform [where] whoever you [are] and whatever game you want to share with the world – you get [to] share it. Now, who gets the ‘best’ publicity? That’s going to depend on how good your game is.

And we also help in terms of marketing. So we have a feature right now where we have a developer and creator’s game of the month. And so we feature them on Xbox Wire with an interview and we also do a livestream with them on Mixer and Twitch. [OR Note: Mixer is a video live-streaming platform owned by Microsoft.] So there are ways that we are publicizing them. Not to be the extent that ID@ is, just because they have managed partners who work with you to do that, but we give you a lot of the tools to be able to do that on your own as well as those supports like Xbox Wire and Mixer.


“…For [the] Creator’s Program, there is no [platform] exclusivity.”


OR: What are some successful games that have come out of Creator’s Program so far?

DI: So I can’t give specifics about that – but we have had games that are doing very well in the store. [They are] making a good amount of money and getting a good amount of downloads. Now I wasn’t part of the marketing – so once [those games] came in [into the Creator’s Program], they had different partnerships and they had their own website that they already published by the time that their game came out on the Creator’s Program, so that might have added to it. We are still figuring out what it was that made them so popular.

There are [also] a couple of games that have reached the higher echelon that we would fast-track into ID@ Xbox. But that’s [just] two, and it’s only been eight months since Creator’s Program’s launch. We only have around a hundred to a hundred-and-fifty games, I think. So I would say that the odds are great there [to be successful] for now. As we increase the publicity and awareness for the [Creator’s] Program, things are only going to get better and only expand in terms of where it’s being talked about within Xbox. So I think it’s a good time right now to be a part of our Creator’s Program.

OR: With these games that are coming out for ID@ and Creator’s Program, is there an exclusivity for Xbox only?

DI: No. I can’t speak for ID@, but for Creator’s Program, there is no exclusivity.

OR: A big thing with Xbox is that you play [a game] on Xbox One, you can also play it on Windows 10.

DI: Yes.

OR: Do [Creator’s Program developers] have to design games for both [platforms], or can they design it only for Xbox One?

DI: Only one is fine, [but] it’s up to you.

OR: Is there anything else you can tell me about the Creator’s Program?

DI: Well, one thing is that we are compatible with a ton of engines. There is a Unity plugin specifically for the Creator’s Program. There are also plugins for GameMaker, Construct 2 and 3, MonoGame, and Xenko. Or you can even do your own custom, but it’s a little harder just because we don’t have the custom-built plugin for that. But we try to make it easier with partnerships with those engines, and so I think that’s what makes [Creator’s Program] so special.

OR: Thank you very much.



On a personal note- just from talking with Ms. Im and seeing how the Creator’s Program was represented at GDC 2018, you can immediately tell that they have a genuine and passionate love for indie games just like how we do here at Operation Rainfall. I was extremely pleased to see that Microsoft and the Xbox team truly cares just as much about the just-beginning indie developer as they do the big and established teams behind franchises like Halo, Forza, and Gears of War.

Have you thought about publishing a game on Xbox through the Creator’s Program? What is an indie game that you would like to see come to Xbox One?

Let us know in the comments below!

About Quentin H.

Likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. And video games. Cannot forget those video games. Anime too. Should not forget that either.