Fancy yourself as the next Tetsuya Mizuguchi
? A successful, rich, creatively fulfilled game developer wowing the masses (and the ladies!) with your latest genius game concepts.
If you are a gamer then the chances are, like many of us, somewhere in your brain you have a special list of amazing game concepts. You daydream about pitching them to a cash-rich publisher someday and thus magically hitting it big, lucking out early on in life. You could then spend the rest of your days idly playing Mario Kart with friends by the side of the olympic-sized swimming pool at your golden-paved villa in the Bahamas.
Then the daydream suddenly fades and you realise that there is one key problem with even getting over the first hurdle. You donít know how to make games.
That, dear reader, is no longer a problem. if Microsoft is to be believed. At Gamefest 2006 yesterday the company unveiled a new software suite called XNA Game Studio Express, which will be free to all Windows XP users. Whilst the software itself is free, users can pay a US$99 annual subscription fee to join a "Creators' Club" developers group where they can access loads of useful content, plus test out theirs and other member's games.
According to the Microsoft release we received earlier, 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."
Creators will not be able to sell games made with XNA Game Studio Express, but they may well appear on Xbox Live Arcade, so you might get some glory from the large and growing Xbox Live community for your efforts.
Peter Moore, that master of the PR soundbite commented on the initiative: "It's our first step to creating a YouTube for videogames".
The YouTube analogy is far from a casual one. YouTube users currently view around 100 million videos daily. If casual PC and Xbox 360 users can create half-decent games that they can share online via Xbox Live Anywhere, then Microsoft could well be onto something. However, it's much easier to rip off someone else's video or a bunch of old TV ads than it is to code up your own game, no matter how small.
Chris Satchell, general manager of Microsoft's game developer group, said: "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."
Microsoft is also planning on releasing a toolkit aimed more at the professional level, called XNA Game Studio Professional, for those who wish to make games they can flog for real money. The beta of XNA Game Studio Express launches at the end of August, with the final version planned for Christmas. XNA Game Studio Professional should be releasing sometime around Spring 2007.