XNA Game Studio

I was really, really excited about the XNA Game Studio announcements the other day.  But, the more I learn, the less excited I become.  Read the FAQ for more information…

The basics:  When the first beta of XNA Game Studio Express is released in 2 weeks, it will allow for Windows-only development.  Sometime before the end of the year, we’ll see an updated version that allows Xbox 360 development on retail hardware for those willing to spend $99 to join the “club”.

That sounds really exciting.


In Spring ‘07, we’ll see something known as XNA Game Studio Professional which is targetted at professional game developers to write approved titles using managed code for XBLA or commercial projects on a development Xbox 360.


At the end of the day, after spending $99 to join the “club” that allows development on the 360, you’ll be able to run your own code on the 360, and that’s about it.  There is no distribution model.  You cannot give binaries to other members of the club to run.  The only way to distribute apps with this release will be by giving away all of your source code and and assets and pray that a) they can get it to compile, and b) they don’t steal it.

Microsoft claims that this is a temporary problem and they’ll rectify this by creating the “YouTube of gaming,” where people will be able to upload their work for others to download and play.

And that’s cool.

But the next downer:  there is no network support in the first release of XNA Game Studio, and it appears that the Express version of XNA Game Studio likely won’t have network support for a long time, if ever.

Next:  Anything developed for the 360 using the Express version of XNA Game Studio cannot be sold.

So, to develop a commercial game for distribution on XBLA with XNA, you still have to become an approved developer, drop $10,000 on the development hardware, and then an unknown amount of money on XNA Game Studio Professional.

This basically leaves indie developers exactly where they were before this announcement.

When the “YouTube” thing happens, perhaps it’ll be a bit more exciting because there will be a distribution model, but the lockdown on building commercial applications is just as limiting as the current, approval-only dev model.