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XNA Game Studio Express

Gamefest, Microsoft’s yearly show for game developers, kicks off today. The event should prove particularly exciting to many more than the hardcore professional development clique, as Microsoft is announcing a new community based game development initiative, dubbed the XNA Game Studio Express.The Studio Express software is based upon the XNA tools Microsoft provides to professional developers, yet lowers the expertise-barrier to entry so as to allow for a much broader range of programmers to develop games for the 360.

Microsoft intends to offer the completed version of XNA Game Studio Express by the end of the year as a $99 a year subscription service. Subscribers will have access to the software package as well as a community of other junior-developers. Subscribers will be able to offer up their work for others to download, but only other subscribers will be able to play it. Microsoft has hopes of developing a large-scale system down the road that will allow amateur-developers to offer up their creations for purchase via Xbox Live Arcade, and later a veritable YouTube-style community-judged submission system.

Dev-kits for recent consoles have been prohibitively expensive for all but the most committed amateur developer. PS2 dev-kits cost $20,000 at launch, and full dev-kits for the older PSOne were $4,000. Nintendo broke the trend recently by reportedly selling Wii dev-kits for only $2,000. Perhaps in fear of Nintendo snapping up the mass of pent-up creativity and innovation that exists among independent and enthusiastic amateur developers, Microsoft’s value-leading initiative will be the most accessible console development program in history.

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