Microsoft takes a step towards user content

Gamasutra has some news about Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio Express, a game development tookit geared towards the amateur/hobbyist developer. From the article :

 

The details of the new tech are as follows: XNA Game Studio Express will be available for free to anyone with a Windows XP-based PC, and will provide them with what’s described as “Microsoft’s next-generation platform for game development.” In addition, by joining a “creators club” for an annual subscription fee of $99, users will be able to build, test and share their games on Xbox 360, as well as access a wealth of materials to help speed the game development progress.

 

So it looks like Microsoft is taking the first steps towards making the need for modchips obsolete! Maybe. According to the article, the content created won’t be available to “regular” 360 owners, just to those who are part of the creator’s club. However, they go on to state that the content may be available via Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) at some point in the future. It’s not explicitly stated, but it looks like PC owners will have access to the content regardless of membership.

Other companies have already pledged support. GarageGames has already ported their Torque Engine over to the studio, and Autodesk has confirmed support for their FBX file exchange format. Apparently some universities and game development schools have decided to add the studio to their curriculum and will use the XBox 360 exclusively. While I’m not sure I like the lock-in to the 360 console, it is nice to see awareness and knowledge growing.

So, what does this mean for the indie developer? Well, in short, it gives access to a pretty powerful console. And since it’s officially sanctioned by Microsoft you can expect mailing lists and forums dedicated to development. Ownership of a 360 isn’t necessary either as the studio runs on a Windows XP PC. It may also mean a revenue stream as well. If Microsoft opts to allow content to be available on XBLA, they may also allow the developer to charge for downloads. I’m sure Microsoft will get their cut, but this could mean some serious cash for the young developer.

Overall, this is definitely a step in the right direction. Despite what you and I may think of Microsoft, I think they’re doing something right here. Only time will tell how it turns out. I’ll definitely be downloading this when it becomes available on August 30th.

 

UPDATE : Maxconsole dug up the official FAQ direct from Microsoft. This is different than the FAQ on the XNA site. Looks like you’ll have to sign up to get the beta :

 

A beta of XNA Game Studio Express will be released on August 30. To receive a notification on when the Beta is available, please go to http://connect.microsoft.com and select “Available Connections.” Then choose the XNA connection and follow the link to sign up for the XNA Game Studio Express Beta. (Note: A valid Windows Live ID is required, if you do not have one, you will be given the option of creating one.)

 

It looks like the beta will be limited to PC content only. It uses .NET technology on both the 360 and PC to create the games and according to the FAQ, it looks like it will be limited to C# code only.

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