Over at The Pensive Gamer I've put a new article up that takes a closer look at the benefits for Developers and Gamers for Microsoft's XNA approach to indie and homebrew development. Article is also below.
As I was writing the final article for the 'Here Comes Homebrew' series, it become clear how important XNA really is for Microsoft's gaming future. If I were to hazard a guess I would say Microsoft is going to heavily evangelize the next release of XNA and XNA Game Studio Professional as much as possible, particularly to Xbox Live Arcade developers.
Before I go into the details, let me try to give some important technical background.
What is the XNA/.NET Framework CLR?
XNA uses what is called the Common Language Runtime (CLR). The CLR is what is called a virtual machine. Essentially you can think of the CLR as the software equivalent of a CPU. When developers create programs typically they create it for a particular CPU family, like say x86 processors (what Windows PCs and new Macs use) or PowerPC processors (what old Macs used and all current consoles use). Problem is when you create a program for the PowerPC it won't run on the Intel CPUs without some rather impressive feats of software engineering.
Having a 'software-based CPU' changes that. Developers don't have to worry about, say, Windows or Mac. Instead they create a single version which will run on both, assuming the CLR exists for both.
So, as a I was saying, I'm guessing Microsoft is going to try to sell developers on the idea of XNA. There are definitely tangible benefits for all parties.
Multiple Platform Support
This is the obvious one, particularly since XNA targets Windows and Xbox 360. However, this gets interesting when you consider things like Zune or mobile phones. Developers can easily and cheaply target multiple electronic devices and therefore expand their potential market.
For consumers, the idea of buying a single version of a game that works on different devices becomes a possibility. You could even imagine being able to send games between devices, including Windows, 360 and Zune.
Side note: There are even efforts by third parties to get XNA working on platforms such as the Mac and Linux.
Future Microsoft consoles can change hardware and not need to worry about compatibility issues with XNA-based games. Microsoft simply needs to build a CLR to support the new hardware. But this is A LOT easier than having to do software-based emulation like they are doing now for Xbox games on the 360.
Backward compatibility is also great news for XNA homebrew. Presuming XNA homebrew succeeds, there will be a lot more XNA based games and applications than Xbox Live Arcade and disc based games. The homebrew community of games would not be abandoned.
If we are lucky, backward compatibility may also mean XNA-based Xbox Live Arcade titles wouldn't need to be purchased again on a future Microsoft console.
Lowering the Barrier to Entry
The barrier to entry for writing commercial games just dropped through the floor. Microsoft has said there will be an XNA Game Studio Professional. I would hazard a guess that the biggest change is going to be an expanded set of APIs and better tools. But the amazing thing is, if it is the same as XNA Game Studio Express, the only thing you need to build an application for the 360 is a copy of XNA Game Studio Professional and a retail Xbox 360. Development kits would no longer be required. That would be a significant costs savings for developers and tend to draw more developers to the platform.
What does this mean?
Since XNA is a recent development and not yet complete, the benefits need to be proven. But it definitely shows Microsoft is thinking very strategically and it underscores their statements that their gaming and console plans are for the long haul. As a customer I find the backward compatibility and multiple platform ideas compelling.
Selling Live Arcade developers on XNA shouldn't be too hard particularly as developers consider costs, the risks of backward compatibility and the ability to expand their own market. Shortly after XNA Game Studio Professional is released I expect to see a growing list of XNA games.
Given the number of fronts being attacked by XNA, if I was Nintendo or Sony I would certainly be at least a little concerned even if the impact isn't immediate.
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)