Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More on XNA Game Studio Express

DQ reader Steve sent in this about the XNA Game Studio Express post yesterday:
About XNA, you said: "Anything that lets more people make more games and lets more people financially support themselves making games will result in more great games."

You can't create commercial products with XNA Express so there will be no "financially supporting" oneself.

You also said: "Absolutely not--because we won't be playing them. Instead, we'll be playing the 10 great games that did emerge."

We also won't be playing those games unless we're ponying up the $99 and are willing/able to download the code and compile them for our own Xbox. There's no way to share the games via the 360. Yet.

XNA Express is basically Visual Studio Express (which has been available for a while) with some game-specific projects or libraries or something, and the ability to compile for and run on your Xbox 360 if you pony up the $99/year fee. Without it, you can still compile for Windows, which is what everyone has been able to do for years with various free tools.

It's primarily for kids and students to get started in console programming, which is what makes it important. Until those games can be made available in some sort of Xbox Live Marketplace-style setting, the idea that we'll get a bunch of great games out of it is a bit of a leap because the only people who will be able to play and see those games are other programmers, or the technically-savvy curious types.

That's fair. What I was basing the "lets more people financially support themselves making games" comment on was this section of the press release:
The games created with XNA Game Studio Express will not initially be available to regular Xbox 360 users, but a longer-term goal is to create a less restricted distribution market using Xbox Live - the company has commented that "Eventually, you’ll be able to distribute that code to other Xbox 360s, opening up a unique publishing avenue which will democratize game development on consoles."

Still, though, that doesn't exist yet, and until it does, there's no distribution or marketplace turnkey. And right now, based on another press release that Microsoft put out yesterday (to help clarify the first one, apparently), not only is there no Marketplace available, commercial distribution is actually prohibited:
"XNA Game Studio Express will enable you to create Windows and now Xbox 360 console games much more easily. These games are limited to non-commercial scenarios for 360 titles created with XNA Game Studio Express. However, XNA Game Studio Express may be used to create commercial games which target Windows. We will be releasing XNA Game Studio Professional next spring which will allow developers to create commercial games for Xbox 360 in addition to Windows."

"Game Studio Professional" (which will cost more, guaranteed) is the tool that people really need if they want to go commercial. And the "target" date for that is next spring, which is quite a ways away.

So the model I spoke of yesterday doesn't exist yet. It might next year, but it doesn't now.

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