Microsoft: Build Your Own Xbox Game

Microsoft plans to open up its Xbox 360 game development platform to the masses with the launch of XNA Game Studio Express, due out during the holiday season. The Redmond company says such an offering would benefit the entire gaming industry by nurturing the ideas of new development talent and providing beneficial experience in game creation.

Anyone with a Windows XP computer would be able to use the software, available for an annual $99 fee. This fee would permit users to build, test and share their games on Xbox 360 consoles, as well as gain access to development resources.

Microsoft says this is the first time novice developers would be able to enter the industry without a large initial investment.

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In a keynote address at Gamefest 2006, Microsoft's annual game developer event in Seattle, group general manager Chris Satchell said several schools had already agreed to include the software as part of their curriculum. He also said opening up the platform would benefit all Xbox 360 gamers.

"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," Satchell told the audience. "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."

Microsoft also plans in 2007 to release a similar tool for professionals, which it says would fundamentally change the way games are developed. The move could also give it a leg up on the PlayStation 3, as analysts say Sony's history of closed proprietary systems means a similar offering is fairly unlikely.

"This is a competitive tactic that speaks to Microsoft's strengths as a tools company and positions particularly well against Sony's historic weakness with tools," analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group said. "If it works, and there are a lot of gamers who would like to convert their ideas into games, it could create a whole new generation of game developers."

A beta version of the software will be made available at the end of this month, with the final version slated for release during the holiday shopping season.

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