Xbox One Dev Mode Launches, Cortana And Background Music Coming This Summer

The original reveal of the Xbox One included the promise to be able to turn a retail version of the console into a dev kit to make games and apps. Three years later, that vision has finally become a reality, as Microsoft launched a preview version of Xbox Dev Mode. Some future updates to the console coming this summer were also teased.

Announced during Microsoft’s annual Build conference, Xbox One Dev Mode was made available to developers as part of a preview program, with a full release planned for this summer. The new mode will allow anyone who has registered their home console a developer console with Microsoft to develop Universal Windows Program (UWP) games and apps.

Those interested in Xbox One Dev mode are required to have a Microsoft Dev Center account, which costs $19 to set up. A Dev Mode activation app can then be downloaded from the Xbox Games Store to convert the Xbox One from a retail console to a dev kit. The console can be switched back to retail mode with the click of a button as well.

Xbox One Dev Mode
Switching to Xbox One Dev Mode. [Image via Microsoft]

There are some other requirements and limitations with the Xbox One Dev mode, as reported by Polygon. In addition to the Microsoft Dev Center account, Microsoft requires the following.

  • Join the Windows Insider Program
  • Are running Windows 10 on your PC
  • Have a wired connection to your PC from your Xbox One
  • Install the latest Visual Studio 2015 and Windows builds
  • Have at least 30 GB of storage free on your console

The Windows 10 requirement is fairly obvious, as this is dependent on UWP, which was introduced with the operating system. Meanwhile, Visual Studio 2015 is necessary to actually write the apps, connect to the Xbox One, and deploy it there for debugging and testing.

Additionally, the preview version of Xbox One Dev Mode will only offer developers access to 448 MB of the Xbox One’s 8 GB of RAM. This will be raised to 1 GB when Dev Mode fully launches this summer but is still far short of the maximum accessible memory on the console. Developers will undoubtedly be keeping an eye out on this and pushing Microsoft to give them more memory.

Apps and games can be played on the Xbox One and even published to the Windows Store and Xbox Store. However, any app or game will still have to go through the ID@Xbox certification process if a developer wants to publish a game on the Xbox One or use Xbox LIVE on Windows 10.

“Concept approval is a process that every game that releases on Xbox One goes through to ensure that the games hit technical quality standards and are appropriate for Xbox One,” Director of ID@Xbox Chris Charla told Polygon. “We’re not looking to be censors and we’re excited to enable a broad range of experiences so that when players turn on their Xbox One, they have access to the most diverse portfolio of games possible.”

Xbox One Dev Mode
The Xbox one Dev Home app, where developers manage their settings and can switch back to retail mode. [Image via Microsoft]

The same process that is in place today for developers who want to publish a game to the Xbox Store will remain in place. This means the certification process as well as the standard contract to pay royalties on sales of a game.

“If a developer has a game that they want to publish, they apply to ID@Xbox, tell us about the game, and once the concept is approved we sign a contract,” he said. “Then as they get closer, we help them out getting through certification. We also do promotion of the game at events like what we had at GDC, where we invite a lot of press.”

The big difference is developers can now use a retail Xbox One as a dev kit to start the process. Previously, a developer had to pitch their ideas to Microsoft up front in the hopes of receiving an official dev kit from the company. It also allows budding developers to experiment with whether they eventually publish a game or app or not.

Microsoft also announced Cortana will arrive this July to the Xbox One as part of the Windows 10 Anniversary update. The long-awaited ability to play background music on the Xbox One while playing a game is also coming in the update to the console plus more new features to be announced during E3 in June.

[Image via Microsoft]

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