The Xbox One is about to become a development platform for everyone. This summer’s Anniversary Update will allow developers who create UWPs to turn their Xbox Ones into a development unit and use them to debug and test applications. $99 for businesses).
But there’s one category of applications they can’t write: games. Microsoft already has schemes for creating games on Xbox, with its existing partner program and independent developer program, ID@Xbox. All developers wishing to submit UWP games must be a member of ID@Xbox. While that doesn’t cost anything, it’s also not accessible to everyone like registration is for Windows developers. Companies must be approved for ID@Xbox and then agree to an NDA.
This is in contrast to desktop Windows, where UWP games are open to any developer and Microsoft is doing its best to actively encourage their development. The company is making UWPs in Windows 10 better for gaming in the Anniversary Update by giving developers control over v-sync and access to G-Sync and FreeSync, the adaptive frame-rate technology from Nvidia and AMD, respectively.
Company representatives say apps are tested when they are submitted to the store to ensure no mainstream developers are trying to sneak into a game.
While this might be understandable for games using Xbox One’s bare metal virtual machine, as there’s a lot more room for misbehavior and thus a much higher quality bar, it’s an odd decision for UWP programs running in the Xbox One’s Windows VM. console, and it introduces a rather peculiar wrinkle in the process. It means game developers can target any Microsoft platform except one: the device Microsoft has built specifically to play games. The implication here is that while Microsoft would like developers to make UWP games for Windows on the desktop, it would much rather they make UWP apps for Windows on the Xbox One.
Turning an Xbox One into a development unit is easy; a new app, “Dev Mode Activation”, is coming to the store that converts the console into a development system. This will restart the Xbox in development mode. Normal Xbox apps and games are not allowed in this mode (presumably as a way to protect them from attempts to break out of the sandbox and attack or modify them), but Windows PCs can connect to deploy and debug new apps.
If you want to play games on the system, you have to turn off the developer switch and restart.