When it comes to freedom for independent game developers on media platforms, PC is the way to go.
In his book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard Law School professor, describes the PC as a generative platform that has promoted innovation and contribution from individuals.
However the fact that the PC is such a generative and open platform unfortunately makes it extremely vulnerable to piracy.
Because of this, many independent developers have taken their work somewhere more secure: such as the XBOX! The Xbox 360 has become a major figure in the electronic entertainment area. Since its launch, 76 million Xbox 360s have been sold and 46 million people have subscribed to Xbox LIVE. Independent developers gain access to the users when they move on to the Xbox 360 platform. Developers can rely on users seeing their game and don’t have to worry about advertising.
Xbox 360 is both an open and closed platform when it comes to allowing independent game developers to upload games on Xbox LIVE for consumers to purchase and download. They are allowed the freedom to upload any independent game they want onto the Xbox LIVE Indie games store. They are not allowed to upload to the Xbox LIVE Arcade, that is only for the major publishers.
If an independent developer wishes to put their game onto Xbox LIVE Indie games, they need only a minimum standard of quality for consumers to gain approval from Microsoft. To put their game onto Xbox LIVE Arcade, they must first be accepted into a separate program that does not include any games they have created previously. A game has to go through multiple approval processes before Microsoft decides whether it wants to put the game onto Arcade.
Are locked or generative platforms better at empowering users?
While locked platforms are in many cases the safer option, they can prevent users from sharing what they have created. A generative platform can be a risk when it comes to piracy, yet it can give users the freedom to share their creations and perhaps provide a new source of entertainment or cause for conversation to other users. So yes a generative platform is better at empowering users, but is it a good thing? Will lack of control lead to panic and confusion?
Microsoft does have control and ownership over aspects of the Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE. However it is trying to give freedom to users with access to certain parts of the platform. What Microsoft is doing is giving people two platforms. One (closed) that gives users access to games by major publishers that are sure to be safe, reliable and good quality. And another (open) that gives users access to games by independent developers that will be unique and probably cheaper.
It’s a compromise, trying to make both sides happy, and maybe that’s the best solution for media right now.