Last month, the long-in-development XBLA puzzler/platformer, Fez, received a patch that was to fix a number of issues with the game. The problem is, the patch came with a few issues of its own – game breaking issues that caused some players to lose their save files. The issue was so bad, apparently, that Microsoft pulled the patch from Xbox Live a few days later.
Well, according to Polytron’s blog, the patch is going live again, with save corruption issues still in-tact. Phil Fish, Fez’s ever outspoken creator, says the patch will not be fixed because “Microsoft would charge us tens of thousands of dollars to re-certify the game” and that “as a small independent, paying so much money for patches makes NO SENSE AT ALL.”
While that all may be true, the thing is, Fish and Polytron knew what they were getting into when they signed an exclusive publishing agreement with Microsoft in the first place. “Had FEZ been released on steam instead of XBLA, the game would have been fixed two weeks after release, at no cost to us”, Fish continues. So that begs the question then – why choose XBLA over Steam in the first place?
Fish is right about one thing – it IS expensive to put a game on Xbox Live Arcade as opposed to the Xbox Live Indie Games channel. It costs thousands of dollars for the privilege, which is definitely prohibitive to some. But what you’re getting for that price is the full support of Microsoft’s in-house Xbox Live team. Those people need to get paid too, don’t they? It’s the same thing for patches – devs get the first title update for free, but after that, they need to pay for each update so that the people at Microsoft who test and certify it can also be paid.
But here’s the real issue to this story – Fez has made a lot of money for Polytron. Since its release, the game has sold well over 100,000 copies, meaning the cost of another patch is perfectly feasible for them. They don’t have to like it, but what about the people who bought the game and have had their saves wiped by the patch? All Fish is really saying is that he needs that money so badly that he can’t be bothered to spend it on a patch to satisfy the small percentage of players who experienced issues with the first patch – and I just don’t buy that.
Microsoft is just the scapegoat here. It once again begs the question – why choose Microsoft in the first place? And why keep your mouth shut for 5 years while working with them if they were such a pain in the ass? It’s not like their policies are some closely guarded secret. Fish and Polytron could have walked away at any time instead of signing themselves up with big, bad Microsoft.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I loved Fez. It’s one of my favorite games of the year – possibly of all time. And while I never experienced most of the issues that warranted the patch in the first place, developers – be they large or small – have a responsibility to their customers, no matter how small the percentage, to fix issues that are causing them grief. If Fish had even half as much of the “indie spirit” he claims to have, he might still voice his objections, but would ultimately bite the bullet and give the fans a more functional game.
Somewhere along the line, clearly I made the mistake of thinking Phil Fish was a man with integrity.