VIDEO: Microsoft opens up Xbox 360 to indie developers

  • San Francisco (CA) - During Microsoft's Game Developer's Conference keynote this morning, one idea shone through higher than all else - the push to bring Xbox 360 development to everyone.

    The first part of the presentation was pretty much all fluff, but once Microsoft began talking about XNA and its push to bring the platform to virtually everyone, the exciting announcements began.  XNA is the company's software development kit for video game programming.

    GDC 2008 H.264 Video of Microsoft's Community Games announcement 

    Microsoft made the comment that video games are becoming part of the YouTube generation.  In fact, the Xbox 360 is practically competing with YouTube.  One of the more popular features in Halo 3 is the ability to record and save video clips in the game.  According to Microsoft, more than 100,000 pieces of user-generated content are uploaded from Halo 3 every day.  That's 30% more daily uploads than YouTube.  

    Additionally, there is an increasing market for games made by gamers for gamers.  We've seen this with the PS3's Playstation Store, Nintendo's upcoming WiiWare platform, and of course Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade.  To make it on any of these platforms, though, there are still overhead, licensing, and other production costs.  You still "need to know somebody" to get your game on these "indie-friendly" services.

    Last year, Microsoft ran a contest called "Dream, Build, Play," a self-described American Idol for budding Xbox 360 developers.  It was open to every Xbox Live member, allowing them to submit a rough game idea in the hopes of actually appearing on the 360.  Four finalists were given contracts to produce content on the Xbox Live Arcade.

    The game demoed most extensively during today's keynote is called "Dishwasher," created by one of the winners of the "Dream, Build, Play" contest.  It is a 2D hack-and-slash featuring a "crazy undead Samurai" as the main character.  The game played just like any other classic fighting game from the pre-2000 era.

    Today, Microsoft took that initiative one step further.  It announced plans to launch a completely new community feature on Xbox Live that allows users to create their own "Creator's Club" profile, upload games they created, and open them to review from other aspiring game makers.  These titles may then ultimately end up available for all Xbox 360 users.

    GDC 2008 H.264 Video - Microsoft also announces XNA mobile games for Zune

    The software giant says that this initiative, called "Xbox Live Community Games", will eventually count for half of the total number of Xbox 360 games.  Demo versions of a handful of these titles are available now on the Xbox Live Marketplace.

    At GDC there is always talk from the console players about bringing opportunities to independent developers, but this is arguably the biggest such project to date.

    Also today, Nintendo announced a launch date for its WiiWare service, which will open up the console for small-scale development projects.  Additionally, since before the Wii was released, Nintendo has raised its flag the highest when it comes to trying to appeal to independent developers.  It will be interesting to see how XBL Community Games interferes with that.