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XNA In-Depth: Microsoft's Dave Mitchell Answers Our Questions


December 15, 2006 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next
 

On December 11, Microsoft launched both XNA Studio Express and the XNA Creators Club, allowing consumers to create Xbox 360 games in a managed code environment and share them with other Creators Club members. Following the announcement, Gamasutra spoke with Dave Mitchell, Director of Marketing for Microsoft's Game Developer Group, who gave us extensive details on the particulars of this unique service.

Gamasutra: First of all, brief us on yesterday's announcement.

Dave Mitchell: This really marks a very significant milestone for us. It's a major milestone and delivery of a vision that we started articulating back in August at our Gamefest conference, and one in which we're really looking to empower consumers as creators. If you look to other parallel industries, say music or movies, and take YouTube even, although it's been in the news for quite some time now, you take a look at the phenomenon as it has sort of unfolded there and you see the power and capability of consumers once they get access and means to create videos on their own, and have a place to really upload that to a widespread audience and the type of mechanism that really starts to unfold there. You get great content sort of bubbling to the top; the top piece of video that's on the site has something like 34-35 million views on it, and stuff that's really not that good tends to fall off by the wayside. This is something that we're really looking to do through XNA Game Studio Express and the Creators Club in particular, but that's sort of longer term.

Actually that's the third installment of the vision that we're looking to bring about. The first one certainly is, in looking at YouTube, how was that really enabled? The answer there lies in ease to use, and affordable and accessible tools and technology. The measure of a lot of users creating content today would have that capability if a camcorder or a webcam or even the software to edit that were costing thousands of dollars as it was not that too long ago. We are taking the technology in the same direction for gaming, and the first pillar that we're focusing on in delivery through XNA Game Studio and XNA Creators Club is focused on tools and technology. Starting yesterday we shipped the full release of a product that allows easy game development for both Windows and now for the first time in the history of video game consoles; you get to do it on the retail Xbox 360 console as well. We've been excited and the community has been excited with the release, and it's just been fun watching the community sort of take that and see all of the people talking about their projects being moved over that were originally built over on Windows using the beta, and now working on an Xbox 360.

And the second part of the vision really is all about content. It's great that we've got the tools, and we feel really good about what we're providing here, but the next piece of it really is how do we arm and equip all of the creators in order for them to really be successful with content. This comes in the form of the value added to the rolling momentum that we're going to be instilling in terms of value into the XNA Creators Club, and will come in the form of an online community with access for the members to thousands upon thousands of pieces of content of Microsoft, as well as third party content partners that we're establishing with; Turbosquid being one of the first ones that we announced as part of the press release yesterday.

It's also about the partnership enabling your success, so lots of tutorials, lots of white papers, lots of videos and how-to's in terms of techniques, samples, starter kits including source code as well as game assets, as well as different ideas that are thought provoking as far as ways to take a simple gameplay concept and take it into multiple directions. These are the types of things that we really feel are a necessary investment that we as a company need to make in the community of creators before they are able to contribute the content so that the broader consumer community are going to be able to enjoy and play some really great content.

This brings me to the third component of the vision, which is that end-user community. How do we build out what we sort of referred to back at Gamefest as the “YouTube for Games,” so that we can create this massive gathering place and venue where game developers using XNA Game Studio Express can put their game up, and millions upon millions of people can have an opportunity to play that game, to rate that game, and be able to add it to their favorites or bring it down onto their Xbox 360 or even play it on Windows. It really doesn't matter, but having access to the games that are created by the community...that's our long term vision, in a nutshell, where starting off with tools and technology enabling and empowering the consumers to become the creators, then partnering on the content side in terms of enabling greater success by helping them, educating them how to make the games, and then ultimately provide them a mechanism where the broad sharing can really take place.

A component of that last element of the strategy we would also want to bake in a business model that allows the community of game developers to realize some revenue. If your game is able to garner millions of people downloading and playing it and enjoying the game, our fundamental belief and design philosophy of “YouTube for Games” is going to be building out a revenue share type of model where if millions of people are playing, you should be able to drive into work or school or wherever you might be going in a brand new shiny Ferrari, or getting enough funds to invest in paying back college tuition, or setting up college tuition for your children, if that's the case. But we really want to build it in such a way where there is a revenue payout scheme that's taken into consideration, and we make it more inclusive of the creators who are adding value back into that community.

This brings me to also a competition that we announced yesterday. The official launch of it is in early January. The contest is really about the notion of “Dream-Build-Play.” There are a lot of dream games floating around in peoples' minds, and we really want them to act on it using the XNA Game Studio Express. The competition is really designed to bring that out. The winner of that is going to have a remarkable chance to get their game published on Xbox Live Arcade. And this is going to be a partnership that we are going to enter into with them, where we will work with them to finish the game, get it to the point where it's ready to get up on Xbox Live Arcade, and then have the opportunity to share in the revenue that it's generated from sales that result from there. So we're really excited about being able to bring this full circle, being able to provide those tools like I said, helping with the content, and helping to build the community and the outlets so these great games can really be shared. As a result, looking for great innovations, and sparks of creativity that we know and have already seen examples of waiting to come out from the community. So we're very excited about being able to make that happen, and it's started as of yesterday.

The last thing is, right now given the time zone difference in the UK, we actually have a launch event taking place, and we've had a number of things happening throughout this whole week to commemorate our launch. The UK event is particularly interesting given that we have Peter Molyneux delivering a keynote addressing the needs and the health of the talent pipeline entering into the industry, as well as the type of creativity and how do we get more creativity into the industry so we're not dealing so much with 'sequelitis' or proven formulas and recipes for success and instead try to break the mold and create new molds. So he'll be addressing that, as well as Rare UK Studios is contributing a number of workshops this week, inviting the community and walking them through XNA Game Studio Express. They've created a bunch of samples, and they're letting the people walk away with those samples as great foundations and starting points for creating their own great games for creating using XNA Game Studio Express and the XNA Creators Club.

That's a really quick round trip of all of the things that we're doing, and it brings you hopefully up to date, and hopefully you can see we've got a lot of exciting things. We haven't been idle, and have been very busy, and we feel that we're bringing just a tremendous revolutionary product technology and capability that is absolutely going to result in a change in the industry where we look to consumers more as partners rather than just pure consumers.


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