This morning at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft announced the next step in its Xbox Live and XNA initiative: the Zune will become the third pillar supporting XNA software, with over 1,000 games ready for the device by year end. XNA software developed for the Xbox Live Arcade is now going to be opened to the public.
Microsoft showed off an XNA game running on a Zune during a keynote speech presented by vice president John Schappert. A top-scrolling space shooter was shown running on a PC, an Xbox 360, and, lastly, a Zune. In addition, Zune games will be multiplayer: users will be able to play against each other online. Games for the platform will be arriving this year alongside the launch of Xbox Live Community Games.
The new XNA-oriented service, Xbox Live Community Games, allows select user-created software to be distributed through Xbox Live, effectively opening user-created games to the masses. Titles will be selected through a democratized game distribution system pulling on the Creator’s Club user base. Members will be able to screen and vote on games, with those reaching a certain level of approval cleared and released to the public. A handful of these games are now available as trials on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
Creator’s Club members are paying subscribers who have access to the XNA development platform. Much like the gamercard, a “creator card” will show what games specific creators have built. XNA is a suite of development software which Microsoft introduced in 2006. The suite allows developers to create projects that can easily be translated between the support platforms. Previously only the PC and the Xbox 360 were supported, but the Zune represents Microsoft’s first significant step into the mobile gaming market.
A preview release of XNA Game Studio 3.0 will be available in the Spring 2008 timeframe, with a final release scheduled for the holiday 2008 season.