UPDATED: Retail Xbox Ones can be used as a dev kit starting today as an early release preview.
At Microsoft’s Build Conference this morning, the company said it will soon deliver on a promise made even before Xbox One’s launch – to allow devs to use any Xbox One as a dev kit.
The ability to develop games using Windows 10 and any retail Xbox One, in theory, significantly lowers the barrier to console game development, which is historically the highest-walled garden in the commercial game industry.
The free upcoming one-year Windows 10 anniversary update this summer will enable the full release for Xbox One dev kit functionality.
“The anniversary update will come to your Xbox One, now bringing all of your Windows applications into your living room, and enabling you to turn any retail Xbox One into a dev kit,” said Terry Myerson, EVP of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group.
Xbox head Phil Spencer later took the stage explaining more about the dev kit functionality. Microsoft's Ashley Speicher showed how Xbox One users can launch a "Dev Mode Activation" app on the console, allowing devs to register an Xbox One as a dev console.
She also demonstrated how a user can remote deploy an in-development app to an Xbox One with the push of a button, with Universal Windows Platform taking care of console optimization automatically, such as image-sizing and controller compatibility. As it's part of the UWP ecosystem, users have access to universal APIs like speech recognition.
A preview of Dev Mode is available today.
Spencer said Microsoft's transformation of retail Xbox Ones into dev kits "isn't a hobby, it's a commitment" to allow developers to address large TV audience.
There is still the question of how game developers will be able to publish their games and bring them to market. Chris Charla, head of ID@Xbox, said in an extensive demonstration with Polygon that devs will still have to apply with ID@Xbox for release on Xbox One and sign a contract with Microsoft. So while making Xbox One games is set to become easier, releasing them commercially on Xbox One will involve many of the same hurdles as today.
(Polygon's interview also noted that in the Dev Mode preview, users will only have access to 448MB of the 8GB of Xbox One's RAM. The full release this summer will allow access to 1GB.)
Microsoft said prior to Xbox One’s November 2013 launch that any Xbox One would be able to be used as a dev kit, but the company was mostly silent on the issue until today.