XNA Xbox Game Development CatalystMicrosoft Corp. today announced XNATM, a powerful next-generation software development platform. XNA empowers developers to deliver breakthrough games while combating rising production costs and ever-increasing hardware complexity. Games for future iterations of all Microsoft® game platforms — including Windows®, Xbox® and Windows MobileTM-based devices — will be unleashed by tools and technologies from the XNA development platform. XNA is the catalyst for a new ecosystem of interchangeable, interoperable software tools and technologies from Microsoft, middleware and game development companies. By integrating software innovations across Microsoft platforms and across the industry, XNA forms a common environment that liberates developers from spending too much time writing mundane, repetitive boilerplate code. Instead, XNA frees game creators to spend their time where it matters most —on the creativity that differentiates their games. "Software will be the single most important force in digital entertainment over the next decade," said Bill Gates, founder and chief software architect of Microsoft. "XNA underscores Microsofts commitment to the game industry and our desire to work with partners to take the industry to the next level." The industrywide XNA initiative will be unveiled today in a keynote speech delivered by Microsofts Robbie Bach, senior vice president of the Home and Entertainment Division, and J Allard, corporate vice president, Xbox platform, and chief XNA architect, to hundreds of game developers at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif. In the speech, Bach will outline some of the challenges that game developers will face in the near future. "Silicon advancements and new features like high-definition and pervasive broadband will send game development costs skyrocketing," Bach is expected to tell conference attendees. "The video game industry must band together to find a solution that ensures vitality and sustainability for years to come, while responding to consumer desires for bigger, better games." As part of the XNA unveiling, Microsoft also announced Allards responsibility for overseeing and driving the XNA initiative companywide. "At the heart of XNA is choice. No game today is built with just one tool, and no game tomorrow will be either," Allard said. "By creating an environment where software innovations flourish and work together, XNA will allow game developers to redefine whats possible in games and give gamers the freedom to pursue their own paths. XNA closes the gap between what gamers want and what developers dream." Illustrating the potential of the XNA development platform, Microsoft will make a series of announcements about its own video game tools and technologies in four key areas: online, input, graphics and audio. In response to strong customer demand, Xbox LiveTM development tools for functionality such as billing, security, login, friends and matchmaking will be made available to Windows developers. The tools will make it easier to create the same social, unified online gaming experiences on Windows that game players have come to expect on Xbox. On the input front, as part of XNA, Microsoft will develop a common controller reference design and unify input APIs and button standards across multiple platforms. The result will be a family of common controllers for Windows and Xbox game players. In addition, the move will fuel a whole new wave of compelling, cross-platform input devices from peripheral manufacturers. In graphics and audio, many tools such as PIX (an analysis tool) and XACT (an audio authoring tool) — previously available only to Xbox developers — now will be available on Windows as part of the XNA development platform. Likewise, innovations from Windows such as High-Level Shader Language (HLSL) will come to Xbox. The DirectX® API and the Visual Studio® development system will continue to be the baseline environment for both platforms. Collectively, these tools and technologies will enable movie-quality graphics while forming the impetus for new software that will help developers cope with the looming complexity of high-definition video and audio. "On the PC we have tools like HLSL. On Xbox we have tools like PIX. These are both really powerful, and XNA combines the power of the PC and the power of the console into a best-of-breed platform," said Gabe Newell, founder and managing director of Valve Software LLC. More than 20 game development and middleware companies already have recognized that XNA will drive advancements in the industry. David Lau-Kee, chief executive officer of Criterion Software, said, "We are pleased to see that Microsoft shares our vision of helping developers make better games, faster, through use of their favorite middleware. We look forward to leveraging XNA in the RenderWare tool chain to implement Windows- and Xbox-specific features." "Because its software, we can add new and improved XNA tools consistently, spurring continuous innovation in games. Developers wont have to wait for new silicon to enjoy the latest advances," said Dean Lester, general manager of Windows Graphics and Gaming Technologies at Microsoft. "The benefit to gamers will be dramatic leaps in production quality and gameplay for the next-generation Xbox and the next generation of Windows. And it starts today."