Microsoft Opens Xbox 360 Game Development to Everyone 

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.

Microsoft Releases Blogging Application Beta

On Sunday, Microsoft quietly released a beta version of a blogging application called Windows Live Writer which lets users publish posts to blogs based on Windows Live Spaces based blogs and to many other non Microsoft blogs including, Blogger TypePad and WordPress.

"Windows Live Writer is a desktop application that makes it easier to compose compelling blog posts using Windows Live Spaces or your current blog service," wrote J J Allaire, the Microsoft employee who created the tool in a blog posting. "Blogging has turned the Web into a two-way communications medium. Our goal in creating Writer is to help make blogging more powerful intuitive and fun for everyone."

Windows Live Writer includes WYSIWYG editing, simple photo and map publishing, and a software development kit SDK that will let developers extend the capabilities of the product as they see fit. "It's compatible with many blog services thanks to its support of Really Simple Discoverability (RSD), the MetaWeblog API programming interface, and the Movable Type API," Allaire said

You can find out more and grab the free Windows Live Writer beta download from the Windows Live Writer blog on the Microsoft Web site blog.