In a bid to let game players, students, and other programming amateurs create their own video games for the Xbox 360 and Windows-based PCs, Microsoft today unveiled XNA Game Studio Express, a basic game-authoring tool. Set for release in late 2006, XNA Game Studio Express will be free but will require a $99 yearly subscription fee to translate code into a format that the Xbox 360 understands. Microsoft will officially announce XNA Game Studio Express during Microsoft General Manager Chris Satchell's keynote address at Gamefest 2006, the Microsoft Game Technology Conference in Seattle. The company said the tool will "democratize" game development by giving powerful console-game-creation capabilities to anyone that wants them, a move that will ultimately benefit the entire industry. "XNA Game Studio Express will ignite innovation and accelerate prototyping, forever changing the way games are developed," Satchell said. "By unlocking retail Xbox 360 consoles for community-created games, we're ushering in a new era of cross-platform games based on the XNA platform. We're looking forward to the day when all the resulting talent sharing and creativity transforms into a thriving community of user-created games on Xbox 360." A beta version of XNA Game Studio Express will ship on August 30, Microsoft said. This version will require Windows XP and will target XP game development. The company will ship the final version of XNA Game Studio Express by the end of the year. In early 2007, Microsoft will ship a more full-featured version of the tool, dubbed XNA Game Studio, for professional developers. Microsoft likens XNA Game Studio to a Visual Studio product targeted specifically at game developers. Indeed, both XNA Game Studio and XNA Game Studio Express are based on Visual Studio.