Big news, the XNA team today announced a new product, XNA Game Studio Express, designed to enable hobbyists and students create games that target both Windows and the Xbox 360 using the XNA Framework. 

Why is this Big News?
Well, to quote the official press release:

In the 30 years of video game development, the art of making console games has been reserved for those with big projects, big budgets and the backing of big game labels. Now Microsoft Corp. is bringing this art to the masses with a revolutionary new set of tools, called XNA Game Studio Express, based on the XNA™ platform. XNA Game Studio Express will democratize game development by delivering the necessary tools to hobbyists, students, indie developers and studios alike to help them bring their creative game ideas to life while nurturing game development talent, collaboration and sharing that will benefit the entire industry.

Best Summary Quote
"It's our first step of creating a YouTube for video games" Peter  "It will give you everything you need to bring your game to life on Xbox 360." - Peter Moore, Vice President, Xbox (Washington Post)

Garage Games Engine

In addition, GarageGames, technology provider and developer of one of the most successful Xbox Live® Arcade titles, “Marble Blast Ultra,” has migrated both its Torque Shader Engine and new Torque Game Builder 2-D visual game designer over to the XNA Game Studio Express platform.  

"Creator's Club" Membership
To run games on an Xbox 360, you'll need a "Creator's Club" membership ($99/year). The membership provides you the ability to
 "build, test and share their games on Xbox 360 and access a wealth of materials to help speed the game development progress."

Quick Summary:

  • Price: Free tool and free to develop on Windows. For Xbox, you'll need a "Creators Club" membership which runs $99 a year for developing on Xbox 360 or $49 for four months.
  • Platforms: Windows XP SP2, Windows Vista, Xbox 360.
  • Tools: XNA Game Studio requires Visual C# Express Edition
  • Framework: XNA Framework, a custom implementation of the .NET Compact Framework for game development.
  • Language Support: Since the XNA Framework is a set of managed code libraries, you can use any managed .NET Framework language.
  • Availability: Beta 1 will be on August 30th, the final version "will be available this holiday season".

Coding4Fun and XNA
We're big believers in XNA Game Studio Express and we're working with the XNA team to build out samples, tutorials, and content in the coming months on XNA Game Studio Express. In fact, the XNA team has been working with Coding4Fun contributors like Andy "the Z-man" Dunn who created Space Wars, the showcase game shown at MicrosoftGameFest and Ben N was written by none other than regular Coding4Fun contributor Andy "the Z-man" Dunn and the XNA team is also talking to Benjamin Nitschke to port Rocket Commander to the XNA Framework.

More Info
 
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PS: Did I mention that it's a great time to be a Microsoft Hobbyist?