When Microsoft announced it’s first version of it’s XNA game development engine, I was impressed. It ran well, and it allowed me to make some cool demos with C#. And the fact that it could run on Xbox 360 natively gave it a bit of a wow factor. But I wasn’t rooting for it 100%, due to the fact that in order to play your creation on Xbox 360, you had to have a 100 dollar a year subscription to the XNA Creators Club. Not only that, if you wanted to share your game to other Xbox players, they had to have the same subscription. So I ran through a few tutorials, made a couple demos, and shelved it.
Fast forward to about two months ago, Microsoft announced it’s sophomore version of XNA, this time opening the development platform to*any* .NET compliant language (let’s see, that’s C#, VB, JScript, Python, Cobol, Pascal, etc). Nice. And they allowed for multiplayer support via Xbox Live. Nice again, however now my friends have to have both a Creator’s Club $100 license *AND* a Xbox Live Gold account. Not impressed at all. So once again, fell on deaf ears.
Now, just a few days ago, Microsoft just announced it’s Community Games initiative. When the service goes out of beta (hopefully sometime this spring), a developer with a Creator’s Club license can publish a game for peer-review by other Creator’s Club members. If a peer reviews the game and passes it (no bugs or inappropriate/copyright infringing content), the developer can publish his own game on Xbox Live Arcade for *anyone* to download and play, for free or pay($$$). Anyone as in anyone who has an Xbox 360, an internet connection, and a pulse. No Creator’s Club license required. And did I mention, you can sell your game for money????? This is huge. Microsoft is changing its policy on game distribution from an iron fist to loose hands. It’s like every .NET developer will be handed an Xbox Live Arcade publishing contract (well for $100/yr, and a peer test). This is the day and age ladies and gentlemen. No longer do you have to either try to woo over a game publisher that usually doesn’t give a damn about you, your game or your well-being. Microsoft has opened the flood gates for developers everywhere to start profiting from their creations, without all the red tape of trying to get a contract, or trying to sell their game off their website. This is *HUGE*.
All I know is, I’m dusting off my XNA Unleashed book I bought a few months back. Several years back I was part of a group of people that shared my passion for video games, and we always dreamed of the idea of creating a compelling game, or an array of games actually, and achieving commercial success. Unfortunately due to the our naiveness (for the most part because we were so young), and the lack of a chance by the video game industry, we got discouraged after a few years, went our separate ways, and haven’t spoken of it since. But this….now, this is the chance that I wish we had back then. This is what is going to do to the game industry what Mp3/iTunes did for the music industry. .NET taught us that we can write compelling software w/o the woes of unmanaged languages like C++ (shudders at the thought of pointers), XNA taught us that a small group of 1-5 developers can make games that can rival the efforts of multi-million dollar software development houses, and now Xbox Live Arcade is going to teach us that anyone with a great idea, some code know how, and some modeling software and expertise, $100, and some serious fuckin passion can make a game and publish it to the world, and potentially sell millions.
So with that being said, I’ll be off to refresh my knowledge of XNA. I think I want to make an RPG. Sound good to you? Feel free to comment below.
P.S. In case you are interested in what XNA can do (on both PC and XB360), check out this video. And trust me, compared to the way games were made in the past, making games like this is incredibly easy.