The challenge of supporting consoles
Godot’s growth over the past years has been very strong, as evidenced by a large year- over-year increase of games published on Steam, itch.io, and other platforms.
This growth has occurred despite the inability of the Godot project to support publishing to consoles officially. Consoles are the main revenue drivers for game developers: Switch, followed by Xbox, are the most profitable platforms for publishing games today.
When Godot users ask, however, about what the plans to support consoles are, there has been little clarity in the answers. This is because legal points that surround this issue are obscure and protected under NDA agreements. Consoles are entirely closed platforms, their interfaces and SDKs are secret and there is no way that any of them can legally see the light of day.
The most comprehensive explanation of why this situation is so difficult can be found in this article published in the Godot Engine website.
Enter W4 Games
While it has been generally possible to port Godot games to some console platforms thanks to the excellent work from companies such as Lone Wolf or Pineapple Works, these companies mainly focus on porting services, rather than middleware versions of Godot Engine for the different consoles.
In contrast, W4 Games is working on a complementary offering that is simpler in nature. We are developing and plan to offer fully middleware approved console ports for all platforms (Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony). This will place Godot in the same category (and offer the same assurances) as the large commercial game engines.
Instead of offering porting services (which are still required by many developers and publishers), W4 Games will offer fully working console ports. These ports are intended to be middleware approved, meaning that the console manufacturer approves the port and certifies that it meets the required standards of quality, as well as supporting the full (or as close as possible) feature set of the console, including full integration to the console SDKs (for ease of development and deployment).
The W4 Games console ports will be focused on offering the same ease of use that is characteristic of Godot itself; i.e., bringing a console porting experience as similar as feasible to what the workflow for desktop and mobile platforms is today. Therefore, most developers will be able to port their own games by themselves, with less reliance on third parties. We will also host community platforms where you can exchange information with other users (and also the W4 Games team) in order to find solutions to the most common problems and help us improve the offerings.
The main version of Godot offered by W4 Games will be Godot 4.0, which is going to be in stable release at the point it can be licensed for consoles. While demand for the Godot 3.x branch exists, this version is far too difficult to port efficiently to consoles due to its heavy reliance on OpenGL.
These ports are written under supervision of many of the technical leads of the Godot Engine project, so they are as close to something official as possible. However, due to the secretive nature of the platforms, and because many console manufacturers request that support is offered by the middleware provider (and even liability coverage to some extent), they are expensive to write and hence need to be provided as a commercial offering.
At the same time, we understand the reality of most independent developers and want to make console development with Godot as accessible as possible. Because of this, we have striven to find the best tradeoff available between employing a sustainable business model and keeping console ports affordable.
One of the most popular business models today among game developers is revenue share . With this model, very successful developers (who are considered to be those who make over a million in revenue, or roughly 3% of games published to platforms such as Steam or the Nintendo Switch according to recent business reports), pay in place of the 97% remaining (who did not manage to reach that level of income).
The problem is that, as Godot is FOSS software, at some point it would become cheaper for successful studios to roll their own ports to consoles than to continue paying revenue share. This makes the revenue share model unsustainable. (Only companies that own the full platform can really offer this business model. W4 Games does not own Godot Engine but rather only provides enterprise products and services over it.)
Because of this, the best business model instead (and the route that W4 Games will most certainly take) is to offer Godot console ports as an affordable and transparent yearly subscription that includes all platforms (the admission to each platform is, of course, conditioned on being approved as a licensed developer by the respective console manufacturer).
The pricing scheme will aim to be on par with other commercially available game engines that offer a yearly subscription, but it will additionally offer significant advantages such as full source code access to the ports and the inclusion of larger team sizes for every type of subscription. We will also include, as part of the subscription, access to many of our upcoming W4 cloud services such as online assistance (support), CI (for custom console builds), performance analytics, teams and back-end services (for authenticating users). More will be announced in the coming weeks about this, so stay tuned!
But we still want to allow developers to test their games on consoles without needing to pay for a subscription, so we are evaluating ways to make this happen. We hope we will be able to announce something like this in the future.
In line with our core values, W4 Games continues to sustain its pledge that anything that makes sense to be included in Godot will be donated to the project with no strings attached. In line with this commitment, we will be donating to the Godot Engine large amounts of rendering engine and platform improvements. We have already opened a pull request for Direct3D 12 support in Godot and we will eventually donate the parts that can be open-sourced from the Microsoft GDK integration.
If at some point in the future, any of the console manufacturers make their APIs publicly available (without the need to sign any sort of non-disclosure agreement) and compatible with the MIT license, and this is something that makes sense to include in the core of Godot Engine (according to Godot Foundation’s own mission statement), W4 will donate this code for potential inclusion into it as soon as possible.
In other words, if any console becomes as open as devices such as iOS or Android, W4 Games pledges it will donate the source code required to support this platform as FOSS.
At GDC we will begin enrolling game developers in our private beta of the console ports. If you sign up, you will be able to obtain them, use them and give us feedback. As thanks, we will offer the stable versions to you at a significantly discounted price.
We are looking forward to working with you in the future and helping you bring your games to all platforms!
Learn more about W4 Games and Godot Engine: