Microsoft is announcing new tools today that it says will allow people with little technical background to create video games for Windows and the Xbox 360 gaming system.
Dubbed XNA Game Studio Express, the free software is expected to be available in beta form by the end of the month, with a final product available sometime this holiday season.
With this release, the software giant is hoping to lay the groundwork for what one day will be a thriving network of enthusiasts developing for one another, something akin to a YouTube for games.
The idea is to bring new blood into the video-game business, which has struggled to retain talent and recruit new developers, said Scott Henson, director of platform strategy for Microsoft’s game-developer group.
In the first incarnation, games developed using the free tools will be available only to like-minded hobbyists, not the Xbox community as a whole. By the end of the year, Microsoft will debut a $99 annual subscription service that allows developers to target their games to the Xbox 360.
Next spring, Microsoft hopes to have a broader set of tools that will allow for games to be created that can then be sold online through Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade.
I think this is a good and smart move by Microsoft to lure new and potentially creative people into the game design business. I also think that opening up the Xbox to become an accessible game platform that anyone can develop for will help build a better following for it and some sort of sense of community around it, which can only be good for the company.