Microsoft’s rule book exposed – how not to get your game on 360

It’s always been known that Microsoft have strict guidelines for their XBLA service, and it’s arguably been for the better when we look at some of the games exclusive to the system. But just how strict are the company’s publishing rules, not just for XBLA but all 360 titles? Eurogamer found out.

The site recently got a peak at Microsoft’s Content Submission and Release Policy, which outlines the following rules for third-parties: “Titles for Xbox 360 must ship at least simultaneously with other video game platform, and must have at least feature and content parity on-disc with the other video game platform versions in all regions where the title is available.”

So it’s basically demanding no timed exclusives and no PS3-exclusive content. It goes on: “If these conditions are not met, Microsoft reserves the right to not allow the content to be released on Xbox 360.”

Now obviously Microsoft don’t outright reject any game that hits PS3 first or with bonus content; both L.A. Noire and Red Dead Redemption had exclusive PS3 missions but Xbox still got its versions, but it is still a startlingly strict policy.

The exact same rules apply for titles on Xbox Live Marketplace too.

“We’re a little biased, so obviously we’re going to look to protect our own space as best we can and get exclusivity,” Euro Xbox boss Chris Lewis told EG.

“Whilst I can’t be specific about the terms and conditions, you can be very confident we seek to maximise our own advantage to ensure the playing field is even, and certainly plays to our advantage wherever possible.

“As you can also imagine, our partners have to be mindful of the relationship they have with all platform holders, and they need to be equitable. But there are contractual situations where we get agreement with different people to do different things, and through what we have available on Xbox Live, we are able to offer things other people can’t offer, that allows that exclusivity and unique elements to it that might not otherwise be available elsewhere.”

He concluded: “But, honestly, and this is going to sound a bit contrived, we just want what our consumers want from us. We want to be where they want us to be. We want the quality bar of what they experience from us to continue to go up. I think it has to happen. Everybody’s got to do that. If we want to continue to command healthy average selling prices, which we all do, that which we offer our consumers has got to keep getting better.

“Despite the fact it can be irksome to have such strong competition all the time, it actually does keep us on our toes. It’s great for everyone, and it makes for a very healthy race to higher and higher levels of quality of game experiences.”

As gamers we may well see this as a harsh set of rules, but from Microsoft’s perspective it’s just good business. The question is, do Sony need to ramp up their rules to boost the success of PSN?