NEWS - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

XNA Express Will Start YouTube For Games

Chris Satchell, general manager of Microsoft’s game developer group, has revealed the company’s ambitions to found a YouTube-style content-sharing community for videogames. Speaking this morning at a launch event for the XNA Game Studio Express development platform, Satchell said, "Where our vision’s really heading is taking that YouTube concept and bringing it into games. Think about a Community Arcade, being able to share your own games with the whole community on Xbox Live." XNA Express, which launched earlier this week, is a free download which makes it as simple as possible to code games and move them between Windows and Xbox 360. It’s entirely free on Windows, while the ability to share games and code with other 360 creators is possible via the XNA Creators’ Club subscription service. It’s also possible to move games directly from Xbox to Xbox. But Satchell outlined future plans that would take user-created games into the public realm, stating Microsoft’s intention to avoid the mistakes made by the music and film industries in the face of content-sharing sites like MySpace and YouTube. "The reaction from these other media was, to my mind, sad. They decided they were losing control, their business models were being threatened, and instead of embracing the community they fought against it," he told the audience. "We believe that when you take a community en masse they are super smart and they’re super persistent, and they will absolutely find a way round anything that you want to do." Satchell went on to claim that a vibrant amateur development community would help head off the recruitment crisis threatening the videogame industry, citing "disturbing" admissions figures for computer science courses in the US - which are falling by 30 per cent year on year. "If you can give people a way to communicate, to talk about content, to rate it and express what’s cool, then you start a virtuous cycle, because more people want to get involved, more people create content and more people comment on it," he said. "I absolutely believe we will find new stars in this industry from that community. I know publishers will be watching for what’s cool and who’s doing it." According to Satchell, users will be free to create edgy videogame content that professionals couldn’t because it would be "too risky". "If it’s really easy to create you can have simpler experience that are socially relevant. They don’t have to be full games, they can be commentary on what’s going on in the news. Shoot-em-ups with political characters." But he hinted that such a service would not be entirely free to access, as MySpace and YouTube are, by mentioning plans to automatically feed "royalties" back to creators of the games. Commenting on the decision to use C#’s managed code, as opposed to the native code used by most professional developers, Satchell noted that with ballooning budgets and team sizes, priorities in game development were changing. "We’re all concerned about performance in gaming, but in the future, in five to ten years’ time, productivity is going to be more important than performance," he observed. "To me it feels like some of the passion and some of the interest has gone out of the industry, with the scale and budget of games now, creativity’s been a little bit stifled, and that dream that I had growing up - if I have a great idea I can make it, and if I can make it I can get it out to people and get into the industry - is missing. That’s something we can bring back with XNA."


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