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XNA: Games for Gamers by Gamers

For those who follow the gaming industry, it should come as no surprise when you hear a budget for a certain game spans millions of dollars. For those who don’t really follow the industry, the amount poured into the game should be evident in the quality that you get once you are actually playing it.

Many analysts are proclaiming to high heavens that gaming is the next big thing in entertainment. And I agree. Hollywood represents what I believe is passive entertainment which require little to no interaction with the viewer. You sit on your couch and watch as the next episode of ‘Heroes’ airs on your TV screen. While television networks are beginning to utilize modern communication mediums such as e-mail, internet chat and SMS messaging , the level of user interaction is still low. But what analysts fail to consider is, with gaming becoming the next big thing, greater problems in actual game development surface. Being a game developer is no easy task. It’s not the regular 9 to 5 job and it requires the developer to be flexible in every sense of the word.

And this is where Microsoft comes in.

I have always felt that among the 3 console companies today, Microsoft has the strongest competitive edge because of their strong software expertise. Game development is not only about having cute characters doing bunny hops on your screen but it requires an adhesive to bring together your sweet music, annoying AI and fantastic physics...it requires software to get all these things to work together and run as a cohesive game.

Ever since the conception of the XBOX 360, Microsoft has been hard at work in helping game developers deliver games without having to tear their hair out in frustration every single day or worry about their significant others filling divorce papers. The challenge is not to get as many console exclusives but to get as many games a possible to run your platform as painless as possible for developers. And one of the ways to do that is to focus on helping game developers actually make games for your system rather than waiting for them to do so because your platform has a brand name.

That focus has steadily helped Microsoft gain market share for the XBOX 360. Now Microsoft extends the same set of tools to ANYONE who is actually interested in game development.

Let’s face it; it doesn’t matter if you’re talented or not if there is actually no game industry to hire you in your own country. The Philippines has the beginnings of a game industry but certainly too small to even rival our neighbouring Asian countries. If you’re an aspiring game developer in a third world country, its either you immigrate to another country, or you’re simply out of luck.

Not anymore!

If you have the talent, the skill, the dedication to begin your career in Game Development, Microsoft offers that opportunity to you through XNA. For us following XNA, this is nothing new but I’m glad that Microsoft has finally finalized the details on how indie developers can offer their games in XBOX Live and how they can profit from it. Oh how I wish I can see the look on the faces of those game journalists who laughed at the whole concept of user generated content for the 360 back in E3 2005.

If you would like to read the Official Press Release with the additional details and revenue scheme for XNA click HERE.

There are two big winners with XNA:

First, the more obvious winners are the independent developers.

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest advantage that Microsoft has over its competitors in the console biz is its software development tools. Without a doubt, Visual Studio (.NET Platform) is one of the most popular development tools today. However, most people think that Visual Studio is expensive. But what most people don’t know is that all these things are for FREE!!!
Yup!!! Open source isn’t just the only thing that gives you free stuff. Visual Studio Express Edition and XNA Game Studio is absolutely FREE to anyone who wishes to download it. Now, I’m not going to argue about the nitty-gritty of Visual Studio Express Edition and Enterprise Edition. Me and my husband have used both and all I can say is that the FREE Express Edition is powerful enough (and feature filled) for XNA Game Studio. Want to make money? The tools are free!

The revenue model is quite attractive, coupled with the fact that Microsoft will take care of the actual hosting and bandwidth required for the download of your games. If me and my husband had enough time these days, we’d get started on our own JRPG right now!

Second, the XBOX 360 gamers win because of this announcement.

By providing an incentive to develop games using XNA, Microsoft is opening the floodgates for games on their platform. Now, while a good game idea is ‘one in a million’, you’ll never really know where a good idea might come from. Not all big game studios can churn out the best ideas. Sometimes , a good idea comes in the form of a simple game like Diner Dash or Zuma. With XNA Game Studio, the doors are wide open for ideas and the odds are one of them is bound to be good.

It also increases the game selection and game diversity in the XBOX platform. The sky’s the limit with XNA. Everything from FPS, shumps, RPGs , and platformers can be made! And the price range is actually quite decent...from 200 to 800 MS points per game.

Microsoft has stated that it wants to create an avenue for the 360 to become the YouTube of games. With XNA Game Studio together with Visual Studio, this is now possible. There is no doubt that with this new talents will be found. And if we’re lucky we will be able to meet the next Hironobu Sakaguchi or have a guy who can direct a good story (sans the frequent pontificating) like Hideo Kojima.

Rejoice! Today marks a new page in the history of the game industry!

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