Microsoft apparently intends to speed up its certification procedure for game patches, with the upcoming Xbox Live Arcade release ofMinecraft potentially the first game to feature constant updates.
The claim comes from Paddy Burns, chief technology officer at 4J Studios, the Dundee developer handling the XBLA port of Mojang's PC hit. In an interview, he told us that the initial Xbox release will be a conversion of PC's beta 1.6.6 - released last May, days before the XBLA version was announced at E3.
The plan, Burns said, is for a succession of updates to eventually catch up with version 1.0, the official 'final' release of Minecraft that Mojang developer Markus "Notch" Persson launched at the Minecon event in Las Vegas in November. For that to be possible, Microsoft needs to streamline its famously glacial certification process for game updates - something Burns says the company plans to do.
"Microsoft knows that to do a similar thing that's on PC where they constantly update it, that's a very difficult thing to do on Xbox because you have to go through the full tests," he told us. "But they are quite keen to move towards that - they do see it as the future, so I think we might be the first to do constant updates."
Burns, however, is keen to stress that we shouldn't expect the Xbox 360 release to match the frequency of updates that PC has enjoyed. "I don't think it'll ever come to that," he said, when asked if 4J would be releasing updates on its own terms. "I think that there will always be Microsoft testing involved.
"But the whole turnaround of that testing they're hoping to speed up, so we can maybe roll out very two months. We'll have to see how that goes … I'm really looking forward to it being updated with patches and new features after it's released."
If correct, it's a welcome change of thinking at Microsoft; the pace - or lack of it - of console update procedures has been a source of developer frustration for some time. With PC, mobile and social games doing so much to define, and popularise, the concept of games as services, console platforms are in danger of falling behind the times.
There's a ten-page feature on Minecraft, with input from Burns as well as Mojang's Carl Manneh, Daniel Kaplan and newly crowned Minecraft lead Jens Bergensten, in our latest issue, E237, which is out now. As for an XBLA release date, Kaplan told us: "Microsoft has said late winter, and I have to say the same. Late winter or early spring, something like that.
"Winter in Sweden is very long, so you can expect … just kidding. Late winter."