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 Microsoft Corp. is bringing this art to the masses with a revolutionary new set of tools, called XNA Game Studio Express, based on the XNA™ platform. XNA Game Studio Express will democratize 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 today at Gamefest 2006, a Microsoft® game developer event hosted by Microsoft in Seattle, Chris Satchell, general manager of the Game Developer Group at Microsoft, 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 (U.S.), 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.
The XNA Game Studio Express beta will be available Aug. 30, 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.
Microsoft also said that more than 10 universities, including the University of Southern California and Southern Methodist University, will include XNA Game Studio Express and Xbox 360 development in their fall curricula.
I must confess to having developed some “hobbyist” games in the past, but that was in a much simpler time and that’s the likely problem here. The reason that modern games are developed by teams with massive budgets is that the standards are quite high and you need a team of specialists to handle all the aspects. That being said, there’s no reason that an individual or small group couldn’t successfully develop a so-called “casual game” and this is a good way to pull them on to the Microsoft platforms. Of course, this is the same approach as the free Visual Studio Express editions for regular programming.