Microsoft invites the world to create its own Xbox 360 console games

In the 30 years of video game development, the art of making console games has been reserved for those with big projects, big budgets and the backing of big game labels.

Now software major Microsoft is bringing this art to the masses with a new set of tools, called XNA Game Studio Express, based on the XNA platform.

XNA Game Studio Express will democratise game development by delivering the necessary tools to hobbyists, students, indie developers and studios alike to help them bring their creative game ideas to life while nurturing game development talent, collaboration and sharing that will benefit the entire industry.

During his keynote presentation a few days ago at Gamefest 2006, a Microsoft game developer event hosted by Microsoft in Seattle, Microsoft GM game developer group Chris Satchell announced details of the new technology, which will be broadly available this holiday season.

XNA Game Studio Express will be available for free to anyone with a Windows XP-based PC and will provide them with Microsoft’s next-generation platform for game development. 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 and access a wealth of materials to help speed the game development progress. This represents the first significant opportunity for novice developers to make a console game without a significant investment in resources.

During his keynote, Satchell talked about academic institutions that are lining up to include XNA Game Studio Express in their course offerings.

Also showcased was the work of key XNA supporters Autodesk and GarageGames. Through the Microsoft XNA relationship with Autodesk, the leading provider of 3-D authoring software, game developers and enthusiasts can now more easily incorporate content into XNA Game Studio Express via Autodesk’s FBX file exchange format.

Joining Satchell on stage was GarageGames president Mark Frohnmayer who showcased ports of its next-generation Torque tools and technology over to the XNA Game Studio Express platform.

By providing a development environment based on Visual Studio Express and .NET that simplifies the integration and use of game content, XNA Game Studio Express makes game development easier to accomplish for smaller projects, strongly increasing the chance for great game ideas to make it out of the concept stage and into the hands of gamers everywhere.

The XNA Game Studio Express beta will be available from 30 August 2006, as a free download on Windows XP, for development on the Windows XP platform. XNA Game Studio Express will give anyone with a Windows XP-based PC access to a unified development tool that liberates the creation of great Xbox 360 and Windows XP-compatible games, providing a new alternative to the existing multithousand-dollar development kits that many console games require. The final version of XNA Game Studio Express will be available this holiday season.

Satchell said, “XNA Game Studio Express will ignite innovation and accelerate prototyping, forever changing the way games are developed. By unlocking retail Xbox 360 consoles for community-created games, we are ushering in a new era of cross-platform games based on the XNA platform. We are looking forward to the day when all the resulting talent-sharing and creativity transforms into a thriving community of user-created games on Xbox 360.”

Not only will XNA Game Studio Express turn the community into creators, but a second XNA toolset geared toward game development professionals is scheduled to be available next year, fundamentally changing the way commercial games are developed.

From students at colleges, universities and high schools of the future to the proverbial “guys in the garage,” Microsoft XNA Game Studio Express will liberate anyone with a great game idea to create titles for Xbox 360 and Windows XP simultaneously. More than 10 universities and their game development schools — including University of Southern California, Georgia Tech College of Computing and Southern Methodist University Guildhall — have already pledged to integrate console game development and XNA Game Studio Express into their curricula for the first time, and Xbox 360 will be the only console at the center of all coursework.

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